Happy May Day: Here’s a selection of photos from the May 1st general strike, pushed by the Occupy movement, along with labor activists worldwide. As many as six have been arrested in New York City alone in the protests, intended to show the “1 percent” what life without the “99 percent” would be like. (From top left, via Photo Gallery, Swanksalot, Lennon Ying-Dah Wong, Takver, Petteri Sulonen, Hossam el-Hamalawy, Barbro Uppsala, Amine Ghrabi, and Trowbridge Estate.)
Should Obama run as a populist?
"Obama is nobody’s idea of “just folks.” He’s too cosmopolitan, multiracial, professorial, self-controlled, and physically fit to present himself as an incarnation of the American common man. His otherness has always inclined him toward an E Pluribus Unum approach rather than Us Against Them."
- Geoffrey Kabaservice, Should Obama Run as a Populist? Part One of a TNR Symposium
Photo courtesy of The Moderate Voice
Will the Supreme Court do the right thing?
"The policy consequences of overturning the Affordable Care Act, even in part, would be severe: Many millions of Americans would lose access to health insurance while many more would lose crucial consumer and financial protections. For some, it might literally be the difference between life and death."
- The Editors, Judgment Day
Photo courtesy of Scene-Stealers
"In pop music, normalcy is a commodity of fluctuating value, and its scarcity, like the gold that is electro-sprayed onto million-selling records, is manufactured—controlled and varied to suit the conditions of the market. Every phase in popular music calls for its own measure of apparent ordinariness: hayloads of it during the folk-music craze, considerably less of it in the disco era, more in the days of punk and grunge, and not so much in the extravagant luxury hip-hop of Kanye and Jay-Z, or in the high pop theater of Lady Gaga. This year the biggest star on the music charts is the English singer Adele, whose staggering popularity is rooted squarely in her image as both an extraordinary musician and the world’s most ordinary person. “In England I’m thought of as common as muck,” she said in an interview with The Sun, and she has nurtured that mode of thought successfully, flawlessly, while rising to the most rarefied strata of musical stardom. Adele has brought into line the fine-weight prices of muck and gold.”
Photo courtesy of Reuters
"In August 2011, my older brother Yassein—a businessman who is in no way politically involved—was praying inside the Mustafa Mosque in Daraya, southwest of Damascus, while a protest was happening outside. Security forces moved in to disperse the demonstration, arresting Yassein, who had not been participating. After his arrest, he was taken to the headquarters of Syrian Airforce Security. (Airforce Security is known for brutally torturing dissidents; it was responsible for the mutilation and killing of 13-year-old Hamza al-Khateeb at the outset of the uprising last year.) My brother has been held incommunicado ever since.
That I have been spared Yassein’s fate—indeed, a fate perhaps even worse than his—is only because I left Syria years ago, after years of active political opposition. My current distance from my country has undoubtedly preserved my safety. But it has not at all changed my assessment of the Assad regime’s terrors: Instead, it has only made me more determined in my opposition to Assad’s rule, and more hopeful that its end is near. Indeed, I am confident that my difficult personal journey—from domestic political reformer to leader of a government-in-exile—will one day tell a tale of redemption.”
- Radwan Ziadeh, The Making of a Syrian Dissident: A Personal Journey
Photo of Yassein Ziadeh courtesy of Flickr
"What Romney would do: Cut taxes and regulations, shrink government, undo pretty much the entire Obama agenda, and stick it to labor.
The Good: Using independent boards of experts to assign federal research dollars. Allowing more highly skilled immigrants to work and stay in the country. Getting tough with China, assuming it’s done right.
The Bad: Requiring congressional approval of all “major” regulations, apparent reductions in funding of productive investments like education and infrastructure.
The Ugly: Capping total federal spending at 20 percent of GDP, with 4 percent reserved for defense—a potentially devastating reduction in government services that, if implemented swiftly, could also deal a serious economic blow. Then again, his numbers don’t really add up, so who knows what he’d really do?
The Verdict: The focus on lower taxes and regulation will appeal to conservatives who see those as major impediments to long-term growth. The lack of investment in education, infrastructure, and technology will worry everybody else. In some ways, the real story is what’s not here: Proposals designed specifically to boost growth in the short run, despite still-high unemployment.
They Said It: “Our best hope—and not an entirely implausible one—is that presumptive-nominee Romney has a secret plan for the economy. If he doesn’t, we may be in for years’ more stagnation.” - Josh Barro, in the Guardian”
- Jonathan Cohn, The Blind Spot in Romney’s Economic Plan
Photo courtesy of Business Insider
What do you think about the New York Public Library’s renovation plan?
"Many objectors raise valid concerns: the introduction of wait-periods for newly off-site books, the prioritization of renovation over investment in library staff, the potential harm to the architectural integrity of the building. But some do not raise valid worries: among them, those who fret that the scholars stand to lose even if the masses stand to gain—that creating a circulating library within the research library will diminish the place of scholarship. “[S]cholars are people, too,” wrote historian Edmund Morris in the Timeslast Sunday, “and we are beginning to feel, well, if not threatened, increasingly crowded out.” University of Chicago historian Joan Scott, author of the letter circulated to intellectuals and academics, writes that she fears the NYPL will cease to be “a destination for international as well as American scholars” and instead will become “a busy social center where focused research is no longer the primary goal.”
My main complaint with such concerns is the presumptuous distinction that they draw: the scholars and the others. Libraries—the NYPL in particular—are where people go tobecome scholars. Isn’t a studious thirteen-year-old a scholar? A journalist, who visits the library to immerse herself in some arcane matter? How about a lawyer, chef, or dancer investigating a kink in history that forever altered her profession? Or, for a specific example, consider Alfred Kazin, who composed On Native Ground at the NYPL far before he was established. “[T]he spacious twin reading rooms,” he later wrote, “gave me a sense of the powerful amenity that I craved for my own life, a world of power in which my own people had moved about as strangers.””
Photo courtesy of Flickr
"Nothing quite captures the myth of the vinyl-era music industry as a benevolent autocracy like the narrative of the career-making audition. A scruffy young unknown hitchhikes from the mine country of Minnesota to midtown Manhattan, where a white-haired and golden-eared man in a suit hears something in the boy that no one else has noticed and signs him to a record contract, through which fame and glory ensue. So goes the tale of Bob Dylan’s audition with John Hammond, the Columbia records executive renowned before Dylan’s time for having given starts to the likes of Pete Seeger, Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, and Aretha Franklin. It is 50 years since the product of Dylan’s audition, his eponymous first album for Columbia, was released—to a public so little impressed, at first, that Dylan became known as “Hammond’s folly.”"
- David Hajdu, John Hammond and the Myth of the Musical King-Maker
Photo courtesy of The Guardian