Political Animal


November 18, 2012 8:21 AM Recommended reading

By Kathleen Geier

Here are some of the more interesting articles and posts I’ve run across on the internets lately:

— An poignant interview with Philip Roth in the New York Times, on his decision to stop writing. He says, “I know I’m not going to write as well as I used to. I no longer have the stamina to endure the frustration. Writing is frustration — it’s daily frustration, not to mention humiliation. It’s just like baseball: you fail two-thirds of the time. [Snip] I can’t face any more days when I write five pages and throw them away. I can’t do that anymore.”

— Lucian K. Truscott IV’s takedown of General Petraeus and the Petraeus cult, “A Phony Hero for a Phony War,” in the New York Times. Brutal, and satisfying!

— Mark Thoma on the all-important economic appointments for Obama’s next term. He suggests Sheila Bair for Treasury Secretary and Janet Yellen for Fed chair. I approve this message! Realistically, we are not likely to do any better than that.

— Maggie Freleng in Women’s Enews, on retail workers fighting just-in-time scheduling. Just-in-time scheduling is the employer practice of setting employees’ schedules and hours at the last minute and varying them from week to week, which can wreak havoc with employees’ health and family lives.

— Scott Lemieux in The American Prospect on countermobilization myths. The takeaway: using litigation to bring about social change can be a useful tool: “politics is about conflict and that while it’s important to be mindful of backlash, it’s also a mistake to let it discourage any potentially successful strategy (including litigation). There’s no painless way of altering a status quo that many people are committed to, and short-term countermobilization does not ensure defeat in the long run.”

— Jason Zengerle’s excellent recent New York magazine profile of the fall from grace of Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., which is nothing less than heartbreaking. In case you haven’t been following, Jackson has been on a leave of absence from Congress since June, due to severe bipolar disorder. He’s spent much of that time in treatment at the Mayo Clinic. Recent reports say that he is negotiating a plea deal with prosecutors for misuse of campaign funds. The deal will reportedly result in him resigning from Congress and serving a prison sentence.

— James Wolcott on the zombie lie about the great film critic Pauline Kael allegedly saying she couldn’t understand why Nixon won, because she didn’t know anyone who voted for him. She never said it! Yet despite the debunking by Wolcott and others, the myth refuses to die; within days of his post, Politico busted it out yet again.

— And finally, Lauren Kelley in Salon on 5 signs the right is losing it. Fun!

Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She blogs at Inequality Matters. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee


  • Bruce S on November 18, 2012 9:56 AM:

    I like Sheila Bair for her criticisms during the bailout, but I think she's way too much of an inflation and deficit hawk - which is a bizarre position right now - to make a credible Treasury Secretary. Nearly nonexistent inflation and deficits - when spending is low during a lingering recession - are the least of our fears.


  • c u n d gulag on November 18, 2012 10:26 AM:

    Roth, like Updike, had a long and distinguished career. Updike gave us the WASP perspective of American life from the 50's on, and Roth have us that same persepctive from someone who has a Jewish heritage.

    He was a bit uneven of late - but what can one expect of a man in his 70's?

    His (2004?) novel about Lindbergh, a Nazi sympathizer, beating FDR, and what happened after that, was chilling.
    It was written during the Bush administration, and I remember how chilled I was when the father in the novel asks, "How could something like this happen in America?" And, as I looked at the trumped-up wars and occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq, at the torture, at the intrusion into privacy, the outing of a CIA agent, and at all of they myriad civil and human rights violations, and absolute fuster-clucks, and realized that I had been asking myself the same question since 9/11.

    Roth's been called a misogynistic writer, and I can see how some may come to that conclusion.

    But then, isn't one of the purposes of our greatest writers, and other artists, to hold a mirror up to our society?
    Roth did.

    I'm sorry that he won't be writing anymore. But, he's left a great legacy. He is/was one of the most elegant writers in our history.

  • karen marie on November 18, 2012 10:46 AM:

    Your Wolcott link is bad (404). Here it is for those interested and who haven't read Kael's wiki (which makes what Wolcott says -- really, Stephen Silver -- obvious).

  • J on November 18, 2012 11:06 AM:

    Just shows how insular I am, but I don't know what would have been wrong with Pauline Kael saying what she's alleged to have said, or how what she did say would be any less offensive to those determined to take offense.

    I found the piece on Petraeus disappointing. Agreed that Petraeus' reputation was blown up to a ludicrous extent by our cretinous media-culture, but Truscott admits there was no place in Iraq or Afghanistan for the kind of general whose passing he laments. It may be that Petraeus made a relatively good job of the absurd tasks set for him and the military by Bush's ridiculous war of vanity. It may be that he didn't, but the sheer volume of lies, bad-faith, sycophancy, and cultivated stupidity that surrounds everything to do with the Iraq catastrophe makes it hard to assess people like Petraeus whose job it was to cope with the mess.

  • schtick on November 18, 2012 11:46 AM:

    If tepub Rep O'Neil wants to be paid in coin, give it to him!! It would be a joy to see him lug all that weight in coin for a couple weeks. I don't think he would do it more than a couple times.

  • Steve P on November 18, 2012 2:25 PM:

    Unfortunately for Kael's reputation, no one has as yet refuted her authorship of "Raising Kane".

  • buddy66 on November 18, 2012 3:17 PM:

    I first heard it attributed to a New York socialite referring to FDR: "I don't know anyone who voted for that awful Franklin Roosevelt/"