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The Dark Side of the Midwest

I very much enjoyed Craig Fehrman's literature review at The American Prospect of a pair of books about the midwest. You might as well:

Some of the region’s stronger communal traits still hold. I grew up in the same sprawling gray farmhouse my grandfather was born in, for instance—his mother gave birth to him in the front room, where we kept my sister’s piano—and while that kind of rootedness has become rarer in other parts of the country, it’s still pretty standard in Southern Indiana.

Still, plenty has changed, for economic but also other reasons. After World War II, interstate highways opened, and new bypasses rerouted life away from cloistered downtowns. Later, manufacturing began to dry up, and local farms became attached to corporate monoliths. Kids who went to college never came back; those who stayed watched their self-reliant communities turn into commuter towns or unemployment zones. I’ve always felt these shifts brought some good with the bad. It’s sad to see boarded-up movie theaters in Sunman-size locales, but a multiplex offers ten times the choice, even if it’s an hour-long drive to the city.

At the Atlantic, David Graham explains that the Montana Democratic primary to replace Sen. Max Baucus may be the first major display of progressive efforts to challenge Democrats with heterodox positions on guns.

In the more militant corners of the left, there have been calls for a liberal Tea Party to enforce more ideological purity, forsaking the likes of Baucus and Senators Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mark Begich of Alaska, and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, all of whom voted against the gun bill.

(It's worth noting that even a unified Democratic caucus would have fallen short of the 60 votes required to pass the measure.)

The UK may be entering a ‘triple dip’ recession. The official first quarter numbers, to be released tomorrow, could spell disaster for the government’s largely detested austerity program. 

Although economists on average expect growth of 0.1 percent on the quarter, they warn it would take the smallest statistical variation to put the figure in negative territory. That would place the country in recession, typically defined as two consecutive quarters of economic contraction...

The government desperately wants a strong number to justify its increasingly criticized policy of painful spending cuts. But recent indicators on Britain's economy, the third-largest in the 27-country EU after Germany and France, have been disappointing.

Inflation is rising faster than wages, cutting into people's standard of living. Unemployment is up at 7.9 percent. Two international ratings agencies have downgraded the country's credit grade from the top level AAA, warning about the government's fiscal policies.

cool artifacts

A Glimpse into the Oklahoma City of 1913

The First Lutheran Church of Oklahoma City dug up a time capsule chest that had been buried in double concrete walls and under 12 inches of concrete exactly 100 years ago.

The Ladies Aide Society, the church group responsible for the project, buried the chest on April 22, 1913 and left detailed instruction on how to exhume it. Inside were items such as a man’s suit; a woman’s dress, hat, and shoes (which were still shining); a copy of the daily newspaper from April 22, 1913; a telephone; an original Oklahoma state flag; and a pen used by President William McKinley.

The contents of the time capsule will be displayed at the Oklahoma Historical Society.

Venture Capitalist

Fisker: Another Government-Backed Company Set to Fail

Government makes a lousy venture capitalist, a continuing series.

From the Wall Street Journal:

At its peak, tiny Fisker [Automotive] was one of the largest U.S. venture capital backed companies ever. Its founders raised more than $1 billion from highly regarded Silicon Valley venture funds. …

When we talk about the economy, we hear it said over and over: things have radically changed since the days of the mass-production economy. Upward mobility is more difficult, wages of people with ordinary middle-class qualifications are in decline.

But when we talk about immigration, we are supposed to forget all those things, and to believe that patterns that held true between 1913 and 1963 will hold equally true over the next half century.

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Immigrants walking across pier from bridge on Ellis Island. ca.1909-1932 (Library of Congress)

David Leonhardt in the New York Times on Sunday:

Boston mosque refuses to give Tamerlan Tsarnaev an Islamic funeral, NBC reports.

A Boston-area mosque has refused to hold a funeral for Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the dead suspect in the attack on the Boston Marathon, his aunt said Wednesday.

American authorities have told the family that they can have Tsarnaev’s body, and an uncle approached the mosque to request a burial and funeral but was declined, said the aunt, Patimat Suleimanova. … A spokesman for the mosque, run by the Islamic Society of Boston, has said that congregants have been questioned by the FBI. The mosque did not immediately return a request for comment Wednesday from NBC News.

Click Through for Video

TV Comedy Turns to Economics

Is this first time in history an economic study has been ridiculed on a television comedy program? (H/T Business Insider)

In ads like this, Marco Rubio is betting his career on the immigration bill. 

According to POLITICO, this particular ad is financed by Mark Zuckerberg and others in the technology industry.

FWD.us, the organization formed to push Silicon Valley’s priorities in Washington, will advocate for a new immigration law through a subsidiary group created specifically to court conservatives. Americans for a Conservative Direction will spend seven figures to run ads in more than half a dozen states, according to strategists who sketched out the organization’s plans.

About that "90 percent of Americans favor background checks" line... well, it seems support only runs so deep.

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Quote of the day

'Stop Thinking We're Violent,' the Terrorist Thought

Quote of the day.

"[H]e was angry that the world pictures Islam as a violent religion.”

From an e-mail to a New York Times reporter by the former brother-in-law of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, explaining the Boston bomber's motives.

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Doctor blogger Aaron Carroll highlights an interesting study that suggests there's a better way than a mere calorie count to get people to reduce the calorie count of their meals:

Using a web-based survey, participants were randomly assigned to one of four menus which differed only in their labeling schemes...

(1) a menu with no nutritional information, (2) a menu with calorie information, (3) a menu with calorie information and minutes to walk to burn those calories, or (4) a menu with calorie information and miles to walk to burn those calories.

There was a significant difference in the mean number of calories ordered based on menu type..., with an average of 1020 calories ordered from a menu with no nutritional information, 927 calories ordered from a menu with only calorie information, 916 calories ordered from a menu with both calorie information and minutes to walk to burn those calories, and 826 calories ordered from the menu with calorie information and the number of miles to walk to burn those calories.

Noah!

Can 'Abenomics' Revitalize Japan?

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KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images

Noah Kristula-Green lauds the efforts of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abo to stimulate the economy now, while restoring Japan to a pattern of higher growth in the long term. (Also, he explains what "Abenomics" means, which you may find quite helpful).

The hope is that a cheaper Yen will make exports more valuable, loans more appealing, and encourage domestic spending. So far the market has shown signs of confidence in the policy. The value of the yen is falling exactly as planned, and Japanese stocks on the Nikkei are doing very well. As a result, Abe and his government are now remarkably popular; the Japanese population is usually apathetic but it is giving a stunning 76 percent approval rating to Abe's government.

There are potential pitfalls ahead: Changes in monetary policy might ultimately be easier to achieve than changes in Japan's bigger structural problems, and Abe's nationalism does risk antagonizing nearby nations.

But if Abenomics succeed then the lesson for Americans will be that the aggressive monetary policy can work if it is bold and if it given space to operate. The U.S. Federal Reserve has conducted its own quantitative easing policies, but they are not strongly supported by many U.S. politicians. There is a pathological fear that anything which weakens the value of a currency or which might be inflationary can't have any positive outcomes. Japan might just prove that this is not the case.

The Jewish Journal asks, "Did Tamarlan Tsarnaev kill his Jewish friends?"

The Boston Globe is reporting that the former friends of the man assumed responsible for the Boston marathon bombings now wonder if Tamarlan Tsarnaev, who died after the bombings in a shootout with police, was the perpetrator in a grisly unsolved murder that took place in 2011.

On September 12, 2011, Brendan Mess, Raphael Teken, 37, and Erik Weissman, 31 were found stabbed to death in an apartment in nearby Waltham. The men had deep wounds to their necks, their bodies were strewn with thousands of dollars worth of marijuana, and police recovered $5,000 in cash at the scene. There was no sign of forced entry. Police said they believe the murders were "targeted and not a random act of violence."

Mess, who was Jewish, was a close friend of Tsarnaev. So friends thought it was especially strange when Tsarnaev did not show up at Mess's funeral.

Below is a guest post from Robert W. Patterson on how contemporary conservatives incorrectly remember the legacy of the Republican Party of the 1950s-1980s.

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When reminiscing about the “good-old days,” Republicans often recall the 1980s, when the Reagan coalition won three presidential landslides. But to get back in the game, party leaders may need to look farther back — to a deeper GOP magic of which the Gipper and George H. W. Bush were the last acts.

GOP dominance in national elections after World War II did not start with Dutch Reagan but actually peaked with him. In the presidential elections from 1952 through 1988, Republican candidates went 7 for 10, and averaged 367 electoral votes. Since 1992, Republicans have gone 2 for 6 — 1 for 6 in the popular vote — and their electoral-vote average has plummeted to 211.

About the Author

Author headshot

David Frum

David Frum is a contributing editor at The Daily Beast and a CNN contributor. He is the author of eight books, including most recently the e-book WHY ROMNEY LOST and his first novel Patriots, published in April 2012.

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