The Life and Times of Michael B

Economic inequality is a hot topic in America these days. It is the subject of hefty bestsellers, presidential addresses, and even Hollywood movies. The issue has even appeared on the radar screen of foreign policy pundits. In this Sunday’s Washington Post, former assistant secretary of state Kurt Campbell writesabout how “income inequality undermines U.S. power.” Campbell writes about...
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Obama and the Gordian Knot of Politics

With the exception of a spike immediately after September 11, Americans don’t trust their government. Take a look at a graph of public trust from 1958 to 2014, and you’ll see the rate drop from around 70 percent half a century ago to the dismal 20-something depths of today. The government shutdown in 2013—the supreme expression of political gridlock—even further reduced that trust. With...
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When Government Breaks the Fourth Wall

You’re at the theater. You’re sitting in your seat, paying attention to what’s going on in front of you. If the play is any good, you’ve completely forgotten that you’re sitting in a theater. You are absorbed in the new world unfolding in front of you. The theater has cast a spell over you. Then, suddenly, the actor on stage turns to the audience and begins speaking...
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Disrupting Hillary

In one of the most enduring images from the lead-up to the 2008 Democratic primaries, frontrunner Hillary Clinton appeared in a rogue political ad as Big Brother. It was a take-off on the infamous 1984 Super Bowl commercial that pitted upstart Apple against Big Blue (IBM) and urged consumers to “Think Different.” In the campaign makeover two decades later, Clinton is intoning political...
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Piketty in Elysium

At the beginning of last summer’s blockbuster film Elysium, three rogue shuttles from Earth approach a space station that houses a super-rich enclave. It’s the ultimate offshore gated community, where the inhabitants possess magical machines that rid them of disease so that they can practically live forever. The shuttles, meanwhile, contain the poor, the sick, “the wretched refuse of your...
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The Surveillance Blitz

Some years ago when I was fielding complaints from authors through the National Writers Union — about not getting paid, about their work being spiked — I received a phone call from an irate woman. She told me that her best ideas were being stolen. She’d be watching television and a favorite drama would suddenly follow a plot line that she’d devised. Or she would go out to see a movie and...
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