Thursday, February 16, 2012

Who's on first?

I know everyone in the known media on seven continents (and possibly on Moonbase Gingrich as well, for all I know) has pointed out the musical-chairs game of Who's the GOP Frontrunner This Week, but a picture is still worth a (few hundred) thousand words:

Actually, "Don't Know" also had a commanding lead for a while.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The '60s made us do it

Paul Krugman's column today—noting that Charles Murray's new much ballyhooed book on the social divide is merely the latest example of a venerable conservative tactic to attribute all problems in American society to vague, unspecified things that Liberals Did in the Sixties—reminds me of my favorite anecdote from my days at the late and not-too-lamented weekly newsmagazine U.S. News & World Report.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

U.S. News, the root of all evil

Back in ancient times when I worked at esteemed weekly newsmagazine U.S. News & World Report, I always loathed the annual college rankings report.

Like all cash cows, however, the college guide was a sacred cow, so I just shut up about its obvious statistical absurdities and inherent mendacity. As a lesson in the evils of our times, it is perhaps inevitable that the college guide is now the only thing left of U.S. News.

A story in today's New York Times reports that Claremont McKenna college has now been caught red handed submitting phony data to the college guide to boost its rankings.

But the real scandal, as usual, is not the occasional flagrant instance of outright dishonesty but the routine corruption that is shot through the whole thing.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Visionary grandiosity

I was willing to let it pass when Newt Gingrich compared himself to Abraham Lincoln, Charles de Gaulle, Napoleon, and Mahatma Ghandi, but the Wright Brothers is just a bit too much.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The moral race to the bottom

Morally bankrupt ideologies go through three stages before reaching their full offensive maturity in our political culture.

What begin as recognized evils become justifiable or necessary evils before at last transmuting into positive virtues that brook no argument.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

War of 1812 in paper (how quaint)

The paperback edition of my book Perilous Fight, about the of War of 1812 at sea, is being released today.

“A rousing story . . . Budiansky writes with sure and vivid command.”
—Evan Thomas, Washington Post

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

You're fired!

Energized with their newfound enthusiasm for class warfare (you can always tell an amateur), the Republican candidates were making much of Romney's "gaffe" yesterday in which, speaking of the supposed need for more competition in health insurance, he displayed his solidarity with the working classes by saying, "I like being able to fire people who provide services to me."

You know something really strange is going on when Ron Paul is out there denouncing capitalists who take money from the middle class to enrich themselves.

But what left me marveling was not Romney's cluelessly echoing the very charges against his performance at Bain Capital, but rather his obliviousness to the fact that any firing that goes on in the health insurance business is done by the insurance companies, not consumers. After all, everyone wants to fire their health insurance company, usually while listening to the same Kenny G number for the 132nd time on hold waiting to have someone in Bombay swear they have no record of their claim. That's hardly the point when the insurers hold all the cards.