The political-economy debate-du-jour is whether Texas under Rick Perry is a job-creating powerhouse, or a dystopian charnel house where low-skilled workers go to be chewed into spiritual mulch on an endless low-wage conveyor belt that only ever leads to another McJob.
A post at the Political Math Blog does probably the best job of sorting out the competing claims. You really need to read the whole thing, but to pull out some of the more notable findings: Texas has created a lot of jobs, and its unemployment rate has risen largely because those jobs are attracting lots of people to move into the state. The jobs aren't particularly low-wage, and they aren't all in the energy sector. Democrats trying to push the line that the Texas economy isn't that great aren't going to get very far. It's pretty great (relative to the suckage in the rest of the country). That's why people are moving there.
The question remains, however: can we really credit Perry? I'm skeptical, for a few reasons:
High oil prices mean high living in Texas. The state is no longer as dominated by the energy sector as it was before the collapse in the 1980s, but it's still got a lot of energy firms, and skilled energy workers. Unless Rick Perry has been sneaking out at night to sabotage Iraqi oil pipelines, or sell automobiles and diesel generators to Chinese families, he can't really take credit for this.
The state's housing sector didn't boom or bust along with the rest of the country's. There have been a lot of posts over the past few days attributing this to a peculiar quirk of Texas mortgage law: unlike the rest of the country, Texans essentially cannot do cash-out refinancings for more than 80% of the value of the home. The law, enacted in the wake of the 1980s oil bust and the S&L crisis, undoubtedly helped keep things sane, but it's not necessarily the whole story. Nearby Oklahoma City also largely escaped the housing bubble, so this may be more of a regional story than a regulatory story. But either way, Rick Perry didn't personally pass Texan mortgage regulations, and he did not choose to locate Texas next to Oklahoma.
The governor of Texas isn't that powerful. In general, Texas has a weak state government, and my understanding is that the power of the executive is further diluted because powers that are normally concentrated in the office of the governor are actually spread out over a handful of elected officials. So even if awesome policy was responsible for how well Texas is doing, you couldn't give all the credit to Perry.
No governor is really that powerful. Economic growth is complicated. Sure, tax and regulatory policy help--and you'll be unsurprised to learn that I think Texas has about the right take on these things. But low taxes and a light regulatory touch do not, by themselves, produce economic growth. (Witness Texas in the 1980s.) And even if it were that simple, the governor of a state is not Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the USS Enterprise--he does not simply point his hand at his underlings and say "Make it so!" Institutional inertia is a force more powerful than even the steely will of your favorite politician. A governor can make a difference, even a sizable one, at the margins. But he cannot single-handedly turn a state government around, much less the rest of the state.
I think that the Texan policies conservatives tout are probably contributing to growth, and not just in the form of beggar-thy-neighbor competition. Anyone who thinks that that's all there is to state-level tax policy needs to acquaint themselves with the concept of deadweight loss. Nor am I impressed with the much cited evidence that an unusually high percentage of Texans are uninsured: Hispanics and young workers are much more likely than other groups to lack insurance, and even most legal immigrants cannot qualify for Medicaid within five years of their arrival in this country, while with limited exceptions, illegal immigrants generally can't qualify at all (Obamacare doesn't much change this). Texas isn't really to my taste, but from the evidence of all the people voting with their feet, it seems to be a pretty good place to live.
But though I think the state has a pretty good policy environment, that's the beginning of the story, not the end of it. There are a lot of reasons for Texan growth, and very few of them can be laid at the feet of the governor. For which we should really thank God. If states really could be boosted into the stratosphere, or driven into the ground, merely by changing the occupant of the governor's office, we'd have to live with the constant risk that our fellow voters would elect an idiot, and destroy our lives. Thankfully, the government isn't quite that powerful.
They weren’t the first victims of a mass shooting the Florida radiologist had seen—but their wounds were radically different.
As I opened the CT scan last week to read the next case, I was baffled. The history simply read “gunshot wound.” I have been a radiologist in one of the busiest trauma centers in the nation for 13 years, and have diagnosed thousands of handgun injuries to the brain, lung, liver, spleen, bowel, and other vital organs. I thought that I knew all that I needed to know about gunshot wounds, but the specific pattern of injury on my computer screen was one that I had seen only once before.
In a typical handgun injury that I diagnose almost daily, a bullet leaves a laceration through an organ like the liver. To a radiologist, it appears as a linear, thin, grey bullet track through the organ. There may be bleeding and some bullet fragments.
The NRA executive vice president’s pugnacious speech on Thursday provoked an indignant response—exactly as he’d aimed to do.
It’s been a strange few days in the American gun debate—with teenagers shaking an otherwise moribund discourse into new territory, senators being cowed on national television, and President Trump edging toward minor gun regulations. In the wake of the shooting, the Conservative Political Action Conference decided not to put National Rife Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre on its list of speakers.*
But LaPierre spoke, and it was a stemwinder. Over the course of 35 minutes, LaPierre was combative and provocative. At a moment when students and others are challenging the gun consensus, he opted to escalate rather than conciliate.
“As usual, the opportunists wasted not one second to exploit tragedy for political gain,” LaPierre said of last week’s massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. “The elites do not care one whit about America’s school system and schoolchildren. If they truly cared, what they would do is they would protect them. For them it is not a safety issue, it is a political issue.”
The CNN-hosted event highlighted the voices of student activists, and showed why the gun debate might actually be different this time around.
I was 10 years old when, in 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold murdered 12 students at Columbine High School, in what was then the most-deadly school shooting in American history. What I can recall most from my childhood mind from the time aren’t the gruesome details in the news reports or even the sense of dread that gripped students and teachers across the country, but the feeling that something central about the country had changed. Something about America had shifted, and it was significant enough that even a child’s understanding could grasp it.
Almost two decades later, after multiple mass shootings and dozens of slain children, it’s clear that what changed wasn’t the mobilization of a country to stop events like Columbine, but the beginning of the normalization of those events. Now, even the fervor of post-massacre gun debates has been fraught with fatalism. Every debate is the same, without any denouement. Advocates cry out for common-sense reforms, NRA-backed politicians decry those measures, donor lists are released, and people complain about the politicization of tragedy. But nothing ever really happens. The gun debate has become a moribund ritual.
The Canadian prime minister’s trip could nonetheless help him with a voting bloc he covets.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hasn’t hidden his fondness for foreign leaders. He has embraced them, tweeted at them, and sent them birthday wishes—all in an effort to make India a global player in international affairs. So when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, he of the perfect coiffure, high-voltage smile, and beautiful family arrived in New Delhi this week for a state visit, it should have been a perfect photo-op. Instead, neither Modi nor any of his senior ministers showed up to receive the Trudeaus.
Trudeau has smiled his way through India, however, meeting with business executives, signing billions of dollars worth of business deals, posing for photographs with Bollywood actors, and donning Indian attire befitting his own Indian wedding reception. The Indians, for their part, have denied the Canadian prime minister is being snubbed (one unnamed official went as far as to call it “protocol”). But a snub it is—and the diplomatic brush-off has its roots in an Indian separatist movement from the 1980s and present-day Canadian domestic politics.
The revolutionary ideals of Black Panther’s profound and complex villain have been twisted into a desire for hegemony.
The following article contains major spoilers.
Black Panther is a love letter to people of African descent all over the world. Its actors, its costume design, its music, and countless other facets of the film are drawn from all over the continent and its diaspora, in a science-fiction celebration of the imaginary country of Wakanda, a high-tech utopia that is a fictive manifestation of African potential unfettered by slavery and colonialism.
But it is first and foremost an African American love letter, and as such it is consumed with The Void, the psychic and cultural wound caused by the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, the loss of life, culture, language, and history that could never be restored. It is the attempt to penetrate The Void that brought us Alex Haley’s Roots, that draws thousands of African Americans across the ocean to visit West Africa every year, that left me crumpled on the rocks outside the Door of No Return at Gorée Island’s slave house as I stared out over a horizon that my ancestors might have traversed once and forever. Because all they have was lost to The Void, I can never know who they were, and neither can anyone else.
The predicament of many seniors is a worrying preview of what could befall millions in the coming decades.
CORONA, Calif.—Roberta Gordon never thought she’d still be alive at age 76. She definitely didn’t think she’d still be working. But every Saturday, she goes down to the local grocery store and hands out samples, earning $50 a day, because she needs the money.
“I’m a working woman again,” she told me, in the common room of the senior apartment complex where she now lives, here in California’s Inland Empire. Gordon has worked dozens of odd jobs throughout her life—as a house cleaner, a home health aide, a telemarketer, a librarian, a fundraiser—but at many times in her life, she didn’t have a steady job that paid into Social Security. She didn’t receive a pension. And she definitely wasn’t making enough to put aside money for retirement.
“There are some who believe being relevant means throwing a hand grenade in the middle of the conference.”
On July 28, 2015, Representative Mark Meadows, a Republican from North Carolina virtually unknown outside his district, quietly catalyzed a coup against then-Speaker John Boehner. By filing a motion to vacate the chair—a parliamentary maneuver that hadn’t been used since 1910—Meadows triggered a process to put Boehner’s speakership up for a vote, rallying many of his fellow conservatives behind the cause.
That vote never happened. Sensing an uncertain outcome, Boehner accelerated his already existent plans to retire from Congress. Regardless of whether Meadows’s motion was an act of pure showmanship or a principled stand—or something else—one thing seemed certain in the aftermath: The Freedom Caucus member had acted deliberately and even cautiously. Meadows “spent months weighing whether to launch the attack,” The New Yorker reported in 2015. “It was probably one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done,” Meadows told the magazine. “It was a lonely period of time here on Capitol Hill. Even my closest friends didn’t necessarily think it was the right move.”
The justice’s consistent pro-gun arguments fail to reconcile rights with their lived consequences.
Never let it be said that Justice Clarence Thomas is overly concerned with appearances. Witness his release of a passionately pro-gun opinion, less than a week after a school shooting took 17 lives at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
As near as I can tell, only two subjects excite this most phlegmatic of justices: the death penalty and the Second Amendment’s “right to bear arms.” I was present in Court two years ago when Thomas broke his 11-year silence on the bench—to ask Assistant U.S. Solicitor General Ilana Eisenstein why a misdemeanor conviction for domestic abuse should deprive the abuser of the right to possess firearms: “Can you think of another constitutional right that can be suspended based upon a misdemeanor violation of a state law?”
The microscopic kind, not the scary, slimy monster type
On the night before Halloween in 1938, a strange story crackled over radios across the United States. An announcer interrupted the evening’s regular programming for a “special bulletin,” which went on to describe an alien invasion in a field in New Jersey, complete with panicked eyewitness accounts and sounds of gunfire. The story was, of course, fake, a dramatization of The War of The Worlds, the science-fiction novel published by H. G. Wells in 1898. But not all listeners knew that. The intro to the segment was quite vague, and those who tuned in a few minutes into the show found no suggestion that what they were hearing wasn’t true.
The exact nature of the reaction of these unlucky listeners has been debated in the decades since the broadcast. Some say thousands of people dashed out of their homes and into the streets in terror, convinced the country was under attack by Martians. Others say there was no such mass panic. Regardless of the actual scale of the reaction, the event helped cement an understanding that would later be perpetuated in science-fiction television shows and films: Humans, if and when they encounter aliens, probably aren’t going to react well.
The rapper’s charming “God’s Plan” video shows him donating a million dollars around Miami—and earning something for himself.
Dip into the strangely hypnotic filmgenre thatdocumentsthe Publishers Clearing House delivering jumbo checks to people, andyou begin to notice a pattern. When the “Prize Patrol” first knocks on a door, the sweepstakes winner might gasp and hesitantly smile at the cameras and the balloons, recognizing the familiarscript they’ve suddenly been inserted into. But it’s when the money is actually presented, and the amount of the prize revealed, that the crying begins. As a viewer, you feel happy for the winner. You feel gratitude for the Clearing House. And you start wondering what that jumbo check could do for you.
Drake’s new video for “God’s Plan,” the No. 1 song in the country, bottles and elevates that Publishers Clearing House feeling. In it, the Toronto superstar distributes his million-dollar production budget to people around Miami—by telling all the shoppers in a Sabor Tropical Supermarket that everything on the shelves are free, by presenting a scholarship check to an unsuspecting student, by giving gift cards to women at a shelter, and more. The double-takes are the best parts. In one moment, Drake sidles up to a family who’s sitting on a ledge. One of the kids notices the rapper sitting next to her, and shrieks. Drake smiles and hands the family a wad of cash. Star-struck thrill melts into a more tender emotion. The family members cover their eyes, and they hug.