David Denby has a dead-eye profile of the career of Clint Eastwood. A must read for movie fans. A wide ranging essay that discusses America, the western, and his place in all tilts on this, "Being underestimated is, for some people, a misfortune. For Eastwood, it became a weapon."


Bruce Bartlett takes a look at the debt and how much it matters (a lot). And then debunks the ideas that cutting taxes and "growing out of it" will work:

Some Pollyannas, like my friend Larry Kudlow, think we can just grow our way out of the debt by cutting taxes. But this is not really possible given the magnitude of our problem. First, increasing real growth doesn't have as much effect on the debt as one might imagine. According to OMB, raising the rate of productivity, the basic component of real GDP growth, by 0.5% per year over the next 75 years only reduces the long-run fiscal gap by 17%.

Moreover, raising productivity even that much would be hard; over the last five years the productivity growth rate has averaged 1.8% per year, so we would have to raise it by one-fourth just to reduce the projected debt by 17%. And we can't very well expect investment to raise productivity very much when the federal budget deficit will be absorbing a huge percentage of national saving, crowding private borrowers out of the market, which will reduce business investment. Lastly, it's highly unlikely that further tax cuts will do much to increase growth when they will add to the deficit and taxes are already at their lowest level as a share of GDP in almost 60 years--more than 3% of GDP below the postwar average. In any case, the biggest problem businesses have today is a lack of customers, not high taxes."

His solution isn't sexy. Higher taxes and less spending.
A strong piece from the Times of the risk of a double-dip in the jobs market. The first problem is that consumer spending is still lagging, plus:

The second problem is that the stimulus program and the Fed's emergency programs are in the early stages of slowing down.

These programs have done tremendous good, as I've written before. The bubbles in housing and stocks over the last decade were far larger than an average bubble, and yet the resulting bust is on pace to be shorter and less severe than the typical one in the wake of a financial crisis. That's not an accident. It's a result of an incredibly aggressive response by the Fed, Congress, the Bush administration and the Obama administration.
We are all geniuses. Not exactly but David Shenk's new book seems to argue that none of us are born to be mediocre. He claims tries to dispel the "nature vs. nurture" dichotomy that most laypeople get absolutely wrong.

He feels that genetics and environment clearly interact, but not in the deterministic factor we've been lead to believe.

Shenk's particular interest is talent, genius and other instances of extraordinary ability, whether the skills be athletic, artistic or scientific. Musicians and athletes most often get held up as examples of the triumph of innate gifts. According to Shenk, we are erroneously led to believe that stars like Tiger Woods and cellist Yo-yo Ma were born to climb to the top of their fields, when in fact the environments they grew up in are just as responsible (if not more so) for their spectacular feats. To prove this point, he methodically debunks several widely cited examples that supposedly prove the reality of inherited gifts: child prodigies, twin studies and geographical pockets of excellence at particular sports. In all of these cases, he demonstrates, observers have ignored and downplayed the enormous role of environment (especially in early childhood) in favor of touting the preeminence of genetics.

(His book, btw, is called "The Genius in All of Us")

To boil these ideas down even further, Shenk asserts that intelligence is not fixed but rather highly malleable depending on the demands placed upon it and the resources made available. Much of our capacity to think, perform and create is primed in early childhood, so the importance of creating a stimulating, challenging and supportive (but not coddling) context for young children can't be overstated. And while some of us are born with a slight edge when it comes to aptitude, most people can come pretty close to the highest levels of achievement in our chosen field if we pursue it in the right way. Of course, the intensity of drive and commitment exhibited by top athletes like Ted Williams or scientists like Einstein (who said "It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer") is, in itself, extraordinary. But Shenk believes that this, too, can be inculcated, if we so desire.
Interesting discussion of the challenges of protecting the President Obama. Working from the Southern Poverty Law Center's research it appears that (Shocker!) right-wing extremism presents the most clear and present danger to the President.

A former special agent describes the risks:

"In Obama, we have a president with a very unique personality who likes to be out with the people. Put that together with the political atmosphere of these times that is highly partisan and vitriolic, then include race, and we've got a big challenge. There's no margin for error."
A different kind of freedom.

we're going to miss DFW in ways we're only beginning to understand.

He finishes strong.

But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving.... The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day

(The entire piece can be read here)