I found a list of sci-fi/fantasy books -- the top 100 according to NPR listeners -- and my son and I have decided to read or at least start all of them. There's also a list of Heady, Not Heavy: 5 Smart, Playful Summer Books, some of which look like possibles.
Plus, wow! I actually managed the question mark!
Which is great, because lately I have been having a terrible time finding stuff to read that holds my interest. Having a goal, a list, a starting block, is a very good thing.
So. Question. Questions actually, answer whichever floats your boat.
*How do you find new stuff to read? Do you trust your friends and family? (I have a very dear friend, who is guaranteed to hate any book I love, and adore the books I hate. Fiction, anyway. I just ordered Murder in Amsterdam, about the murder of Theodore Van Gogh and Islam in Europe, because she suggested it.)
*What's your genre, and what are your favorite titles in that genre?
*What the hell...quite a lot of the books on the NPR list are books I read as a teenager...so what was your teenage reading list like?
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The whole cartoon is worth the click.
Open thread below...
On Thursday, President Obama will give a speech about job creation in front of Congress. The emphasis should, hopefully, be on job creation, as opposed to the lovely new talking point of job creators, which is the most current Republican phrase for people who are richer than you, and therefore better than you. I am not sure if anyone has yet undertaken a study of "job creators," defined apparently as "any wealthy person," to see if they actually have been creating jobs, but it might be interesting to find out.
It seems that no matter how bad the economy gets, the prescription on the Republican side is going to remain the same: cut aid to the poor and the sick, cut taxes on the wealthy, and cut both taxes and pesky regulations on large businesses. Their obsession is with feeding the rich, and taking from the poor, and whether or not that has any larger effects?say, crippling the middle class, or making it more and more difficult for the vast majority of the American public to buy any of the products the "job creators" want to sell them?is entirely ignored. It is perhaps short-sighted, but that is how American business has been taught to run itself, over the last decades; an emphasis on near-term gains, no matter what the eventual costs. We're just treating the government like a business, I suppose.
What is less clear is what the Democratic plan for fixing the economy might be. There are many different ideas, and heaven knows center and left-of-center economists (translation: anyone who still remembers their basic Keynes, back before the bastard was branded as evil incarnate, the devil child of Robin Hood and Karl Marx) continue to point out that there are very basic steps that can be taken, in an economy suffering from a lack of jobs and, therefore, a lack of consumer demand. If the Democratic party has coalesced around a single economic platform based on that, however, they have done a dismal job of conveying it.
Instead, we've been firmly hooked onto the austerity bandwagon, and at the expense of everything else. We're dropping ozone rules because of the "business uncertainty" they might create. We've agreed to an assortment of tax cuts that have nothing much to do with creating jobs, and are contemplating others. The stimulus did a decent job at stopping the bleeding, but the patient is still nowhere near recovery, and not much since then has been focused on actually fixing anything.
A Republican plan for "repairing the economy" would consist of cutting taxes, weakening regulations, more free trade agreements, and (for some reason) cutting the deficit right the heck now. What Obama's speech on Thursday will bring is known only to Obama and his advisors, but hopefully it will draw a clear distinction between those things, which are ancillary to the economy at best, and a true jobs and recovery program. Will we get a new New Deal? Not likely. But investing in the future, via infrastructure improvements in transportation, clean energy and the like would set America back on the path to sustained competitiveness, and given the current bond and job markets, would be both cheap to finance and very, very effective.
It used to be that both our businesses and our government knew the long-term value of investing in infrastructure, in training, and in science?all those irritating things that have no immediate payoff, but set the company or nation in prime position for growth over the long term. Our greatest economic challenge may simply be in remembering those lessons.
Top Comments for today are here.
I took a break to enjoy the holiday, as I'm sure many of you did, but my inbox kept busy, and on Friday came a doozy, courtesy of the Washington Post.You remember that little bit of a banking crisis we had a couple of years back, where banks around the[...]
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My stepfather, Fred Karger was a film composer and musical supervisor at Columbia, MGM, for Elvis Presley's goofball oeuvres (Harum Scarum, Kissin' Cousins, Frankie and Johnny, etc.) and later for a series of campy independent films like Riot on Sunset[...]
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This isn't an "email takes over story," as the Times falsely (in my opinion) is claiming. It's a "privitize government services" story ? and a horrible one.
Short version: The government is conspiring to kill either the Post Office, or postal unions, or both.
First, the NY Times version (my emphasis):
Postal Service Is Nearing Default as Losses MountThat $5.5 billion payment that's due on Sept. 30 is meant to finance future health care costs for retirees. Here's the Times on the cause of the Post Office's financial woes:
The United States Postal Service has long lived on the financial edge, but it has never been as close to the precipice as it is today: the agency is so low on cash that it will not be able to make a $5.5 billion payment due this month and may have to shut down entirely this winter unless Congress takes emergency action to stabilize its finances.
?Our situation is extremely serious,? the postmaster general, Patrick R. Donahoe, said in an interview. ?If Congress doesn?t act, we will default.?
In recent weeks, Mr. Donahoe has been pushing a series of painful cost-cutting measures to erase the agency?s deficit, which will reach $9.2 billion this fiscal year. They include eliminating Saturday mail delivery, closing up to 3,700 postal locations and laying off 120,000 workers ? nearly one-fifth of the agency?s work force ? despite a no-layoffs clause in the unions? contracts.
The post office?s problems stem from one hard reality: it is being squeezed on both revenue and costs.
Mail volume has plummeted with the rise of e-mail, electronic bill-paying and a Web that makes everything from fashion catalogs to news instantly available.Wrong. The Post Office is being killed by the Obama-appointed Postmaster General. Here's Kenneth Quinnell at Crooks & Liars to explain:
United States Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe is on record as also proposing cuts to postal employees' health and pension benefits. National Association of Letter Carriers President Fredric Rolando sees clear signs that Donahoe is intent on attacking the collective bargaining rights of postal workers and that he wants to "override lay-off protection provisions in the postal unions? contracts." In a recent white paper titled "Workforce Optimization," the Postal Service directly asked Congress to void lay-off protection provisions. The USPS developed its proposals without any input from NALC or any other unions.That's the proximate cause. But there's a more basic reason. Quinnell notes:
Rolando lays out the real root of the problem: "The problem lies elsewhere: the 2006 congressional mandate that the USPS pre-fund future retiree health benefits for the next 75 years, and do so within a decade, an obligation no other public agency or private firm faces. The roughly $5.5 billion annual payments since 2007 ? $21 billion total ? are the difference between a positive and negative ledger."
The Postal Service hasn't used any taxpayer funding for more than twenty-five years. It pays for it's operations through the sale of it's services and products. In the past four years, operational revenues at the USPS have exceeded costs by $611 million. Customer satisfaction and delivery of the mail on time are at record highs.Wonder what happened 25 years ago. Did some government-killing privatize-freak become president, or something?
Lawmakers return to Washington to deal with deficits and unemployment, bringing with them little personal experience of either as House Tea Party freshmen make up one-fifth of this year?s list of Congress? 50 Richest Members.
Among those considering the President?s proposals for job creation will be multi-millionaire car dealers and other entrepreneurs swept into office last year by voters angry over how government bureaucrats were spending their tax money.
As each party ?desperately searches for the political high ground on spending and jobs,? decisions will be driven by the return of a plutocracy unseen since the Gilded Age of the late nineteenth century when wealth openly controlled American politics.
Ironically, the new drive to geld government will collide with the kind of spending most economists believe is needed to stimulate an economy that now is producing ?negative surprises? in job creation and driving public pessimism to new depths.
The tone of the new Congress is suggested by Tea Party icon Sen. Jim DeMint, who tells a reporter he is ?so frustrated I don?t think I?m going to go? to the President?s speech before a joint session of Congress Thursday night.
As Washington gets back to work, the Dialogue of the Deaf is ready to resume.
Update: The latest polls reflect voter confusion about who can do what to improve the economy, with the President and Congress sharing the blame for not alleviating unemployment and uncertainty.
As advance word from the White House is that he will advocate $300 billion for job creation to be matched by the same amount in budget cuts, it sounds like the same old game of playing on Tea Party grounds by their rules.
The President badly needs a game changer.
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Title: Killer QueenArtist: Queen
Today would have been Freddie Mercury's 65th birthday. What's your favorite Queen song?
I detect a bit of hagiography going on with "Big Time," as noted here, so I believe it's necessary for the reality point of view (and after all this time, why exactly would Deadeye Dick admit any wrongdoing?)...
...and here's a little "back to school" rock n' roll.
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Above is a picture of a cave girl and dinosaur. I took this picture last week at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. Petersburg is not far from Cincinnati. This was a very elaborate and professionally done museum. There were a number of families in this museum. Parents were pointing out the exhibits to children. [...]
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