Top Reads of the Week
Published on August 31, 2012 by Sara Foss

Politics: Cabot Nunlist writes about trickle-down economics

Travel: Jennifer Johnston writes about her trip to Nepal and Bhutan in a three part series you can find here, here and here

Parenting: R.B. Austen writes about her transition back to work after having a baby

Journalism: Sara Foss writes about another newspaper massacre

Movies: Sara Foss writes about "Bernie"

Oh the Himalaya!: Part III
Published on August 30, 2012 by guest author: Jennifer Johnston

Jennifer Johnston recently returned from vacationing in Nepal and Bhutan. For Part I of her experiences, click here, and for Part II, click here.


My favorite spot in Kathmandu was the large stupa at Boudhanath. (See above). Hindus regularly go there to walk around it three times, give offerings, pray and spin the prayer wheels. They generally pray for others, not themselves. It was uplifting to be there under the bright blue sky. I felt light and surrounded by positive energy.


Oil and Water: Mixing Sanity With Politics
Does "Trickle-Down Economics" Make Any Sense?
Published on August 30, 2012 by guest author: Cabot Nunlist

Cabot Nunlist has been writing regularly on important policy issues, and his essays are being reposted on Rule of Thumb.

OK, after a couple days off, I'm back ... this time to talk about taxes. For now, let's isolate the issue of taxation and deal with the spending part of the equation in a post later this week. So, I'm sure everyone reading this has heard of "trickle down economics" or the non-derogatory term for it: "supply side economics." The principle here is that lower overall taxes on the wealthy will stimulate job creation, promote economic growth, and result in a rising tide that lifts all boats. A review of the last 50 years of the American economy does not bear this out: In most cases, the highest growth rates corresponded to years when taxes on the wealthy were (relatively) high. Since the Bush tax cuts went into effect in 2001, we have suffered through a lost decade in terms of equity markets, low interest rates that eat away at savings (when combined with inflation) and a jobless rate that has essentially been trending higher ever since the dot com bubble burst.

So why is this happening? These low taxes should have helped, right? Well, they have certainly concentrated the wealth into an ever-smaller group. The top 1 percent now earn 25 percent of the income earned and control 40 percent of the wealth. If you take it out to the top 5% the numbers are even more lopsided. See the link here for the numbers.

And it's not just individuals - businesses are sitting on a record amount of cash but they are not hiring. Why not? Simple - there is no conspiracy here - there is simply a lack of demand because most people borrowed against their homes, on their credit cards, etc. to get by and can't spend. That's not even counting the unemployed or underemployed. So without the spending, there is no demand, and without the demand there are no more jobs. So, to get the economy going again, empirical and historical evidence suggests we need to improve demand.


Fall Concert Preview
Published on August 30, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I list the concerts I'm looking forward to this fall.

Click here to see what they are.

Oh the Himalaya!: Part II
Published on August 29, 2012 by guest author: Jennifer Johnston

Jennifer Johnston recently returned from vacationing in Nepal and Bhutan. For Part I of her experiences, click here, and for Part III, click here.

After our trek through the Everest region, I went on a five day tour of Bhutan, the Buddhist kingdom that measures its success in Gross National Happiness (intead of GDP). I have wanted to see this peaceful country since I learned about it in high school. The king is well loved, and places an emphasis on environmental sustainability, a strong economy and preserving culture. Tourism is limited to protect the agrarian society, and I had my own guide and driver to take me to ancient monasteries and through the countryside.



Cooking For One
Published on August 29, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, occasional Rule of Thumb contributor Brian McElhiney offers some tips on cooking for one.

Here's an excerpt:

"I love food. And I mean all food — from succulent, perfectly seared prime rib, to fresh broccoli, to greasy fast food cheeseburgers, to those compartmentalized meals they serve on airplanes.

But for most of my life I’ve hated cooking. I think it’s because I’m lazy. It also doesn’t help that, like most of my family, I’m a fast eater and a meal that takes half an hour to prepare ends up being inhaled in about five minutes or less. (My mom is the champion of speed-eating — she used to yell at my sister and me if we didn’t finish our dinner in 10 minutes.)

Cooking becomes even more of a chore when you’re single. Let’s face it — most recipes are written with large volumes in mind, and it’s more economical to buy the ridiculously sized family packs at the grocery store."

Click here to read the whole thing.

A Newspaper Massacre, Redux
Published on August 29, 2012 by Sara Foss

Back in June, I wrote about Advance Publications and their decision to publish four of their newspapers, the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the Birmingham News, the Huntsville Times and the Mobile Register, just three days a week, and operate as a digital news portal 24-7.

As I suspected, Advance was just getting started. This week they announced that they also planned to destroy the Syracuse Post-Standard and the Patriot-News in Harrisburg, which will also reduce their printing schedule to three days a week and beef up their web focus.

My feeling is that these changes are premature, unnecessary and unfortunate. Advance isn't just shifting its operation online - it's gutting its newsroom operations, and forcing readers to rely on their crappy websites. I took a look at, the site that supposedly serves readers in Birmingham, Huntsville and Mobile, today, and my head practically exploded. Rather than a site focused on the community I care about - Birmingham, where I used to live - I stumbled upon a hodge-podge of regional and national stories, with haphazard local coverage.


Oh the Himalaya!: Part I
Published on August 28, 2012 by guest author: Jennifer Johnston

I made my first trip to Asia in July.

I flew with a friend to visit her husband who is living in Kathmandu. (They are from Maine, in their mid-thirties and wanted to live abroad; she splits her time between Nepal and the U.S.) It had been five years since my last international vacation, and I was ready to leave behind my laptop, iPhone and the stress of long work weeks to see the world. I couldn't pass up the chance to visit the religious sites and cultures I had read about in college, or to experience life in Nepal for a few weeks.


What an experience to land in Kathmandu! There are 5.5 million people living in the city. I saw my life flash before my eyes as we weaved through traffic along dirt roads, hearing constant honking, as our taxi made its way through chaos. I swore a lot those first couple of days. And then I got used to it. It's amazing how adaptable humans can be. It made me realize how much I take for granted the luxuries available in the U.S.


Watching "Bernie"
Published on August 28, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the new Jack Black/Richard Linklater tragicomedy "Bernie."

Here's an excerpt:

"Richard Linklater isn’t a household name, but his films are always something to look forward to, because you never know what he’s going to do.

A Texas native, he debuted with 1991’s 'Slacker,' a mostly plotless film that follows oddballs, misfits and conspiracy theorists around the city of Austin, then followed it up with one of my favorite movies of all time, the last-day-of-high school coming-of-age film “Dazed and Confused.” He made the great philosophical animated film 'Waking Life,' the hit comedy 'School of Rock' and two films that comprise one of cinema’s sharpest and most incisive romances, 'Before Sunrise' and 'Before Sunset.' Now Linklater has returned with 'Bernie,' a film that melds documentary and fiction into an intriguing, offbeat tragicomedy.

'Bernie' is one of those “truth is stranger than fiction” tales. The film, which is based on a 1998 Texas Monthly article, tells the story of 39-year-old Bernie Tiede (Jack Black), a well-liked resident of Carthage, Texas, who was accused of killing 81-year-old millionaire Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), a deeply unpopular widow. Because Bernie was so highly regarded, District Attorney Danny Buck Davidson (Matthew McConaughey) requested a rare prosecutorial change of venue in order to secure a fair trial."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Is Cooking Fun?
Published on August 27, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at Slate, Tracie McMillan suggests that foodies should be honest about a basic fact: Cooking isn't fun. She thinks that if more people would admit this, perhaps then we could have a real discussion about how cooking is a time-consuming chore, but a good thing to do regardless. She writes: 

"When the stories we tell about cooking say that it is only ever fun and rewarding—instead of copping to the fact that it can also be annoying, time consuming, and risky—we alienate the people who don’t have the luxury of choice, and we unwittingly reinforce the impression that cooking is a specialty hobby instead of a basic life skill.

So here’s my proposition for foodies and everyone else: Continue to champion the cause of cooking, but admit that cooking every day can be a drag. Just because it’s a drag doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it—we do things every day that are a drag. We take out the trash, we make our beds, we run the vacuum, we pay the bills. These are not lofty cultural explorations, but they are necessary, and so we do them anyway."

I agree with McMillan, to an extent. For me, cooking is a chore - usually I would rather do something else. however, I find that if I force myself to cook, I do enjoy it. The process absorbs me, and I find the end result, if successful, very satisfying. But I'd be a much happier cook if I was independently wealthy and didn't have to get up and go off to a job for eight hours a day. When I get home from work, one of the last things I feel like doing is cooking.

Back to School Waste
Published on August 27, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes about the wastefulness of the back to school shopping season in her column Greenpoint. 

Here's an excerpt:

"I have a composition book I carry around with me to write notes, ideas, story fragments, shopping lists. Once it was my son’s school writing journal, back in the years when spelling was optional, and I like reading the first entry: 'On the first day of forth grade I was verry exsided. I could hardly wate! . . . It took a few days for me to Realise the truth: I was traped in school! The end.'

The entry always cheers me, and makes me wonder why a fourth-grader can spell 'school' but not 'very.' But mostly it makes me wonder why he used only 10 pages in that journal, including all the drawings of race cars.

It’s school supply season, which means school list season, which means furious mom season.

Yes, it’s that time of year when I embark on my annual rant about why every kid is required to have one green folder, one red folder, one yellow folder and one blue folder, plus a separate spiral notebook for every single subject except the one with the teacher who demands a three-subject notebook."

Click here to read the whole thing.

The Red Sox Blow it Up
Published on August 27, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about the big Red Sox trade, which overall I think is great.

Click here to read my thoughts.

Adventures in Work
My Transition To Work
Published on August 26, 2012 by guest author: R.B. Austen

Three months ago, we had our baby girl Kenzie, or should I say she has us now.

We had decided at some point during the pregnancy that I would stay at home with her the first year. We felt lucky to be able to make this choice. But in the spring, right before Kenzie was born, I started a part-time job with an area nonprofit that I wanted to return to, in no small part because it is hard to accept a job offer without explaining that you’ll be out of commission in about 2 months time. It did also help that I like the job.

I work as a parent aide. A parent aide supervises visits between parents and children and provides families with needed supportive services. Each family’s circumstances and challenges are different, which means that I had quickly learned to have no preconceived notions of how a family visit might go.

My first day back, I joined another parent aide during a visit with a family that I would be taking over the following week.  I was there to observe the mother's interactions with her kids and give her suggestions to help her improve her parenting skills. But watching another mother parent her children felt different now. Before Kenzie, I used my years of experience working with kids as well as education, common sense and current parent research to inform my help. Now as I watched the mother diaper her baby, I knew that if I was at home doing this with Kenzie I would be making silly faces and making fun of how gross she was in one of those silly voices people are overcome with around babies. It was even more tangible to me how important that child-parent bond was, even during the most repetitive, dirtiest parenting tasks.


A Call for Compassion
Published on August 26, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about the anniversary of Hurricane Irene, and why we need more compassion in the world.

Here's an excerpt:

"A few weeks ago, I bought tickets for the Restoration Festival, a three-day music festival that will be held the second weekend of September at St. Joseph’s Church in Albany.

I attended Rest Fest last year, and it was a blast — great music in a cool setting.

But what I remember most about the event today is that it coincided with Tropical Storm Irene, prompting two of the national acts scheduled to play to cancel, and organizers to make the event free.

Even so, I had no idea how bad the storm was.

I never lost power and the one-mile trip from my apartment to St. Joseph’s Church was uneventful — no downed lines, no flooded streets. At the church, I heard ominous stories of flooding in Troy, but nothing that truly conveyed the extent of the devastation unfolding in places like Schoharie County, Rotterdam Junction, Scotia, the Stockade and the hill towns of Albany County. Of course, I’d made the mistake of paying attention to national news reports that weekend, and they were full of disappointed chatter about how the storm was an overhyped letdown because it didn’t destroy New York City."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Top Reads of the Week
Published on August 24, 2012 by Sara Foss

Sports: Steven Reeves wrote about Lance Armstrong last month; here's a link to his post, which talks about the doping allegations and predicts the cyclist's fall from grace

Music: Tony Are hails two obscure folk singers

Nostalgia: Sara Foss on our attachment to childhood pleasures and things

Movies: Sara Foss on "ParaNorman"


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