Archive | March 2017

Some Fantasies Really Ought to Be Grounded in Some Reality


In a recent Curbed newsletter, I came across an item titled “Three Gilded Age Berkshire Retreats for Sale Right Now.”

The author of the article, Robert Khederian, notes that as a summer destination for the very affluent of the “Gilded Age,” the Berkshires never quite had the cache of Newport, Rhode Island, as a place to build a “summer cottage.” There is no equivalent in the Berkshires of the Vanderbilts’ “summer cottage” in Newport, the Breakers:

It is worth noting that the Vanderbilts lived in the Breakers in July and August of each year. That’s it.

Nonetheless, the Berkshires “summer cottages” are nothing to sneeze at. Khederian notes that a builder constructed 75 of these “cottages” in Lennox, Massachusetts, in the last quarter of the 19th century. The three currently for sale may or may not be representative, but they are listed at $7.9 million, $3.95 million, and a…

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It Really Isn’t Even a Choice between Music and Missiles


The Wall Street Journal, of all places, has posted a video showing how little the Department of Defense can purchase if all of the federal funding for arts programs is eliminated, as President Trump has proposed. The video is illuminating and suggests a great deal not only about our national priorities but also about how ideology fashions its own reality:

If arts funding is a waste of taxpayers’ money, then it is very far back in the line in terms of both the total allocation and the waste that can be demonstrated.

The Department of Defense, on the other hand, would be at the front of the line. In fact, the Pentagon’s bookkeeping is so bad that it would be close to impossible to track the waste in its spending. Consider these opening paragraphs from an article written by Jamie Crawford for CNN in late August 2016:


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PEN America: Writers and Artists Interrogated Because of Travel Ban


On its website, PEN America has published an item on writers and artists detained and interrogated as a result of the Trump administration’s travel ban. The article includes the following anecdotes, the second of which involves a distinguished historian invited to speak at Texas A&M University:

“The bestselling children’s book author Mem Fox, an Australian citizen, was detained in late February at the Los Angeles International Airport while en route to a conference in Milwaukee. She was detained for nearly two hours by Customs and Border Patrol officials who reportedly believed she was traveling on the wrong visa, although Fox says she has traveled to the U.S. over 100 times before without any incident. Her interrogation was so aggressive that she said she “felt like I had been physically assaulted.” Fox, whose most recent book I’m Australian, Too is a celebration of immigration and Australia’s multicultural heritage, eventually received an…

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