Posts Tagged ‘New York’

tommy gThis is a fun little post about a movie I have yet to see.  I hope to change that soon.


Over Independence Day weekend Michael Mann, acclaimed director of such films as “Heat”, “The Insider” and “Collateral”, released another beautiful crime drama about an infamous Midwestern bank robber, John Dillinger. Over the course of a 14-month crime spree during the Great Depression, Dillinger came to be viewed by much of the press and public as a modern-day Robin Hood. “Public Enemies“, based on the book of the same name by Bryan Burrough, a Vanity Fair correspondent, is the seventh film to be made about the short-lived bandit turned folk hero. By many accounts, it is also the most elegant. Aided by Johnny Depp’s star power, the film has raked in over $66.5m thus far at the domestic box office.

While the film is not a diatribe against the banking excesses that lead to both the Great Depression and what is now being referred to (perhaps optimistically) as our “Great Recession”, banks and their guardians have not taken its release lightly.

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Photo credit: Aaron Landry (via Flickr)

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oil planetOriginally this was a screed against the complacent US political class with “Politicians” in the place of “Politics” in the title.  My editor sent the heavily redacted piece with the comment “your time at the Nation is certainly showing. I reined you in a bit.”

Really, it wasn’t The Nation or any magazine in particular.  The vitriol was the cumulative result of watching supposedly progressive politicians negotiate the cap-and-trade bill into near uselessness while everyone wrings their hands over health care reform.  Global warming is the main event, health care is the undercard regardless of what the media or any opinion polls suggest.

For more of that (with a dash of New York news), see blow:

nyc rainOn June 18th New York inaugurated the latest signpost on the road to our demise: Deutsche Bank’s massive Carbon Counter. Like the ever-escalating National Debt Clock, it is a macabre monument to our collective failure to address a serious problem.

Across the street from Madison Square Garden, the carbon clock is a 70-foot-tall real-time digital tally of the greenhouse gases (GHGs) that are altering the earth’s average surface temperatures. For calculation purposes, potent GHGs, such as methane, nitrous dioxide and halocarbons—all of which are would be comprehensively regulated for the first time by the enfeebled Waxman-Markey bill—are converted into their equivalent metric tonnage of carbon dioxide (CO2), the most common GHG. The science behind the numbers came from mathematicians at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Deutsche Bank is offsetting the emissions from the counter’s energy-efficient LED technology.

To read the rest of the blog post or to vent your own rage, click here.

Picture credits: Roberto Rizzato, _Massimo_ (via Flickr)

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Although The Nation is legally registered as a for-profit company, it has lost money for nearly all of the magazine’s 144 year history and has only survived through the unwavering support of what are now some 30,000 Nation Associates. This profile was written for The Associate, the quarterly newsletter that goes out to all those rabid Nationistas.   Click here if you’d like to learn more about the Associates.

As one might expect of someone who donates to a for-profit corporation without the benefits of a tax deduction or voting shares, the Nation Associates are very passionate about the magazine so the content of each newsletter (the full PDF version of which can be downloaded here) is very Nation-centric.  The topic I wrote on, a profile of a Pulitzer Prize-winning contributing editor now living in Nepal, was already formulated when I agreed to write it up.  Although it was time consuming and uncompensated (!), I really, really enjoyed the experience–this is perhaps the first piece I’ve written since my “Green.view” articles where I was almost entirely removed from the frame of the article.  Kai Bird is the focus feature and he’s a fascinating subject.



 “George Orwell once pointed out that political chaos may be both a cause and an effect of the decay of language, adding, ‘A man may take a drink because he feels himself a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks.’ Nowhere is this semantic vicious cycle more apparent than in the American vocabulary of Middle East politics.”

This analysis could easily apply to the Israel lobby’s character assassination of Charles Freeman, the failed nominee for National Intelligence Council Chairman, or the Obama administration’s urge to double down the troop count in the failing war in Afghanistan, yet it first appeared in the opening article of a special issue, Myths of the Middle East, which was published on December 5, 1981. That unsigned editorial, like many written between 1978 and 1987, was authored by Kai Bird. During those nine years, first as associate editor in the New York office and four years later as a Washington editor, Bird played a major role in both the weekly production of The Nation as well as the broader progressive discussion about the focus of American foreign policy.


This was a role for which Kai was uniquely well suited. Bird was born in Eugene, Oregon, but at age four he moved to East Jerusalem in what was then Jordan and, with the exception of two years spent in Washington, DC, lived abroad until he returned to the US for college. The experience of growing up as the son of a Foreign Service officer sparked Bird’s interest in American foreign policy and led him to major in South Asian and Middle Eastern history at Carleton College. Before graduating he managed to get arrested protesting the Vietnam War with a young professor named Paul Wellstone and to do an independent study in India and Bangladesh during the tumultuous months that followed the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War. His experience abroad helped him win a prestigious Thomas J. Watson Fellowship to return to the Middle East and Southeast Asia. After completing a one year master’s in journalism at Northwestern, Bird married his wife, Susan, who had also recently graduated from Carleton and been awarded a Watson Fellowship. The couple—who now live with their 16-year-old son in Nepal, where Susan is the country director for the World Bank—took their first trip abroad together using her Watson money to travel by land from Europe to Bangladesh for 15 months.


Throughout his time with The Nation, Bird, regardless of what it said on the masthead, was thought of as the “foreign editor,” as senior editor Richard Lingeman referred to him in an interview for this profile. Along with Max Holland, Bird wrote the “Dispatches” column from Washington about American foreign policy and even managed to string together a couple of trips abroad. (more…)

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“…Who Needs Jobs?” was the full suggested title of my April Fools’ piece.


Last week, Britain’s health minister made some ill-considered comments about men’s health during a recession. He explained that while men are ordinarily reluctant to seek healthcare and advice, they are suddenly more likely to see a doctor once they are unemployed, if precedent “in this country and abroad” is anything to go by.

The “abroad” Ben Bradshaw was referring to must have excluded America, land of the free and home of the uninsured. In the only industrialised nation without some form of national health care, the unemployed must find other ways to maintain good health and spirits. This may help to explain the Unemployment Olympics, which took place in New York yesterday.


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Photo credit: clementine gallot (via Flickr)

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cc1Rejected titles included “Postcard From the New New York” and “The Good Old Bad Days Are Here Again”

When I moved to New York, one of the first tasks I set out for myself was to find a few good novels to augment the limited knowledge I had of my new metropolis. The first book I picked up happened to be Salman Rushdie’s “Fury”, set in Manhattan a financial bubble or two ago (2000). He describes a city that “boiled with money. Rents and property values had never been higher, and in the garment industry it was widely held that fashion had never been more fashionable.”

I was sheltered in academia when the excesses of that dotcom-inflated era went pop, but by the time I had arrived, life in New York had once again begun to imitate Rushdie’s art. In 2006, the booming real-estate market deluded city leaders into approving a municipal bond-backed boondoggle, the controversial Atlantic Yards stadium/office tower/luxury condos complex. And in 2007, punk couture became more fashionable than actual punk rock: CBGB, the legendary concert venue and birthplace of punk in America, was bought by designer John Varvatos.

James Murphy, a New York native and the frontman for LCD Soundsystem, expressed his dissatisfaction with the city’s debt-driven frenzy on the band’s second album, “Sound of Sliver”. Released in spring 2007, the album concluded with a wallop: the bitterly heartfelt track “New York I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down“. The song expressed Murphy’s sense of alienation from the culture of fast money that had taken over:

And so the boring collect—I mean all disrespect
In the neighbourhood bars I’d once dreamt I would drink
New York, I love you but you’re freaking me out

It wasn’t until the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy that I, like many other New Yorkers, realised that “the boring” people—the overleveraged real-estate developers and fashionistas and the derivatives traders—were poisoning more than just the local bar scene.

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Picture credit: SliceofNYC (via Flickr)

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