Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

The budget ceiling and the Gephardt Rule

The so-called Gephardt Rule (in honor of Representative Dick Gephardt who introduced its first version) provided that when the House agrees to a budget resolution, the Clerk shall prepare a joint resolution suspending the debt limit for the fiscal year covered by the budget resolution. It was repealed at the beginning of the 107th Congress, […]

Economics, not geology

I’ve had a lifelong fascination with New York City in general and with Manhattan in particular. My dad grew up in Brooklyn, and my paternal grandparents lived on Long Island (Hempstead) when I was growing up. I went to the 1964 Worlds Fair in Flushing Meadows, and once ate at an automat in Manhattan. When […]

Trusting statistics

I had a Facebook discussion yesterday about statistics. At one point, my interlocutor posted “You should know better than anyone that statistics can be manipulated to actually show the opposite of what is real.” Well, just to be clear, that’s not a problem with statistics, that’s a problem of motivated reasoning, which is not a […]

Black Earth

Just finished reading “Black Earth: The Holocaust as history and warning” by Timothy Snyder. It is a detailed account of the Holocaust, as well as an effort to abstract lessons from this history for our time. Like his book “Bloodlands,” Snyder’s “Black Earth” makes for painful reading. As the grandson of a Ukrainian Jew and […]


Just finished reading “Bloodlands,” a book by Yale historian Timothy Snyder. It was published in 2010, but now has a lengthy afterword that discusses the book’s reception and ties the theme to current events. I was inspired to read this book because of events in Ukraine and I believe that I have a much better […]

The making of modern Ukraine

For most of my adult life, I’ve learned history almost exclusively by reading books. I took American and World history in high school and two quarters of American history in college, but after that, I became a history autodidact. I’ve written several book reviews (and published three of them), but this is the first course […]

The rest of us

“The Rest of us,” by Stephen Birmingham, is subtitled “The Rise of America’s Eastern European Jews.” Birmingham wrote previously about the Sephardic Jewish immigration around the time of the American Revolution, and about the German Jews who arrived in the mid-1800s. This covers the third wave of Jewish immigration to the United States, the immigration […]

The Wordy Shipmates

For awhile, my favorite radio show was This American Life. And one of my favorite voices on the show was Sarah Vowell. Her nasal, girlish tone belied a sophisticated intelligence and wicked sense of humor. I recently read “The wordy shipmates” by Sarah Vowell. It’s basically her idiosyncratic take on the Puritans who colonized Massachusetts […]