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Archive for June, 2012

Friday, June 29th, 2012

University Press Roundup

Welcome to our weekly roundup of the best articles from the blogs of academic publishers! As always, if you particularly enjoy something or think that we missed an important post, please let us know in the comments.

At Beacon Broadside, Jeremy Adam Smith responds to the recent NYTimes article “How to Read Racist Books to Your Kids.” While Smith understands the complexity of the issues raised in the Times article, he takes issue with the way that author Stephen Marche seems to “dodge tough questions about kids and race.” Instead, he offers a three steps to help parents navigate these situations.

The digital revolution in publishing offers the chance for presses and authors to distribute content in new and creative ways. The Duke University Press Blog has an interview with author Nicholas Mirzoeff about the digital extension of his new book. As Mirzoeff says, “any writer is tormented at the end of a long project by what they’ve had to leave out.” Online resources give writers new ways to share that left-out material.

Some of the most fascinating natural phenomena are the uses of various toxic chemicals by seemingly innocuous plants and animals. At the Island Press Field Notes blog, Emily Monosson takes us through “the story of one of the premier chemical defense systems known.” The evolutionary relationship of black swallowtail caterpillars and Queen Anne’s lace is truly fascinating.

The Proust Questionnaire is one of the most famous templates for an interview, and at the University of Minnesota Press blog, Mark Dery gives his answers. It’s an enjoyable read, with topics ranging from Duchamp to the “corpse flower” to the “unimprovably loathsome Clarence Thomas.”

Friday, June 29th, 2012

Olivier Assayas and Sonic Youth

We conclude our week-long focus on Olivier Assayas and the recently published A Post-May Adolescence: Letter to Alice Debord and Olivier Assayas, edited by Kent Jones, with a look at the director’s collaborations with Sonic Youth.

Sonic Youth were one of the band’s featured in Assayas’s film Noise, a documentary of The Festival Art Rock in Saint Brieuc . The band also provided teh soundtrack for Assayas’s 2002 film Demonlover. In this video, which provides a rare and fascinating glimpse into the construction of a soundtrack, Assayas and Sonic Youth members collaborate on the music for the film:

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Olivier Assayas, 1968, and The Situationists

Olivier Assayas, A Post-May AdolescenceIn a Film Comment interview on the occasion of the release of his film Carlos, Olivier Assayas discussed some of the politics that shaped the film as well.

In particular, Assayas discusses how the Guy Debord and the Situationists affected his thought, a theme he develops even further in his recent book A Post-May Adolescence: Letter to Alice Debord.

In addressing a question regarding a political critique of Chris Marker’s film A Grin Without a Cat published in Cahiers du Cinema in 1976, Assayas, a frequent contributor to the magazine, responds:

The period of Cahiers that you’re referring to is the most political period of the magazine and I can’t say that I sympathized with their politics at that time. My brand of leftism was much more more connected to the ideas of the Situationist International and Guy Debord specifically, which constituted the framework of my politics. Also as a teenager, the huge influence was George Orwell. So I was extremely opposed to anything that smelled of totalitarianism and I think that the politics of Cahiers at that time were defined by the relationship to totalitarianism. When I started writing for the magazine it was at a moment when it was certainly more open and had moved away from those politics. Otherwise I don’t think I could have been involved.


Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Geoffrey Heal: Planetary Economics

“We have a nasty habit of destroying whatever doesn’t have a dollar sign in front of it. We need to recognize the value of natural assets beyond those that are easily monetized.” — Geoffrey Heal

When Principles PayThe Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development took place last week in Brazil, offering a multinational forum for discussion on two themes: “(a) a green economy in the context of sustainable development poverty eradication; and (b) the institutional framework for sustainable development.” Geoffrey Heal, Donald C. Waite III Professor of Social Enterprise at Columbia Business School and author of When Principles Pay, Environmental Markets, and the forthcoming Whole Earth Economics among other works, gave the conference’s keynote address, which is now available via the Columbia Business School Ideas at Work page.

In his address, Heal claims that the multitude of man-made threats to our environment are “irrevocably changing the world around us for the worse, and in ways that will impose huge economic costs.” However, he offers hope for those who despair of our ability to solve these problems:

We have a tendency to throw up our hands in despair at these problems — they seem so all-encompassing and threatening, and so difficult to address. In fact this is wrong. All these problems are manifestations of a few easily remedied shortcomings in our economic system.


Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

The Films of Olivier Assayas

This week we are featuring a book by and about famed French director Olivier Assayas: A Post-May Adolescence: Letter to Alice Debord by Olivier Assayas and Olivier Assayas, edited by Kent Jones.

Assayas’s films have been hailed by critics and is viewed as one of the key figures in the new generation of French filmmakers. As a former critic for Cahiers du Cinema and a die-hard cinephile, he makes his films both personal and referential to the works of directors he admires. However, his films also serve as powerful commentaries of contemporary life in a globalized economy. To give you a better, albeit somewhat superficial, sense of his work here are some trailers for his films:

Carlos (2010)

Irma Vep (1996)

Demon Lover (2002)


Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Columbia University Press Facebook Giveaway!

Columbia University Press Facebook Page

“Like” our Facebook page for your chance to win FREE books from Columbia University Press!

That’s right, we will be giving away $50 worth of Columbia University Press books to one lucky winner selected at random from the list of people who “Like” the Columbia University Press Facebook page in the period between June 25 (yesterday) and July 6 (next Friday).

So head on over to the CUP Facebook page and click the “Like” button today for your chance to win! Even if you don’t win this time around, fans of our page get information about future contests, giveaways, and special offers as well as news,views, and updates on Columbia University Press books and our authors. You can’t lose!

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

New Book Tuesday: Military Masculinity in America and the Aesthetics of American Literature

Our weekly list of new titles now available:

Bring Me Men: Military Masculinity and the Benign Façade of American Empire, 1898-2001
Aaron Belkin
Aaron Belkin, Bring Me Men
American Literature’s Aesthetic Dimensions
Edited by Cindy Weinstein and Christopher Looby

Dekalog 5: On Dogville
Edited by Sara Fortuna and Laura Scuriatti

Development Cooperation in Times of Crisis
Edited by Jose Antonio Alonso and Jose Antonio Ocampo

The Columbia Guide to Social Work Writing
Edited by Warren Green and Barbara Levy Simon

All the Art That’s Fit to Print (And Some That Wasn’t): Inside The New York Times Op-Ed Page (Now available in paper)
Jerelle Kraus

Modern American Literature
Catherine Morley


Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Michael Marder: Do plants have their own form of consciousness?

“At the moment, our political and ethical thinking about vegetation is lagging behind these discoveries. Most people consider plants to be bordering on machines, wholly determined by external factors. And nothing is more conducive to the deepening global environmental crisis than the complacent and un-problematised equation of trees with raw materials – available for unlimited human consumption.” — Michael Marder

Michael MarderOn Sunday, Al Jazeera English published “Do plants have their own form of consciousness?,” an opinion article by Michael Marder, Ikerbasque Research Professor of Philosophy at the University of the Basque Country and author of the forthcoming Plant Thinking: A Philosophy of Vegetal Life. In his article, Marder discusses the controversy stirred up by his two New York Times articles, reflects on his debate with Professor Gary Francione (originally hosted here on the CUP Blog!), and provides further evidence for why we should care about plant thought.

Marder is concerned about the way that political and ethical thinking about plants is failing to change as new scientific information about plants is discovered:

It seems, however, that all this is but the tip of an iceberg now emerging from the stagnant waters of humanist ethics. Even a cursory consultation with the findings of contemporary botany is enough to gauge how research is rapidly dismantling what we thought we knew about plants. Not only can some plants defend themselves by releasing volatile chemicals that attract the predators of the very herbivores who feed on them but they can also differentiate between members of the same species and “strangers”, altering their root growth in response to the identity of the neighbouring plant.

At the moment, our political and ethical thinking about vegetation is lagging behind these discoveries. Most people consider plants to be bordering on machines, wholly determined by external factors. And nothing is more conducive to the deepening global environmental crisis than the complacent and un-problematised equation of trees with raw materials – available for unlimited human consumption.


Monday, June 25th, 2012

Jacqueline Stevens: Political Scientists Are Lousy Forecasters

Political Scientists Are Lousy Forecasters

“It’s an open secret in my discipline: in terms of accurate political predictions (the field’s benchmark for what counts as science), my colleagues have failed spectacularly and wasted colossal amounts of time and money.” — Jacqueline Stevens

This past Sunday, The New York Times published “Political Scientists Are Lousy Forecasters,” an opinion article by Jacqueline Stevens, professor of political science at Northwestern University and the author of States Without Nations: Citizenship for Mortals. In this article, Professor Stevens addresses the anger in the academic political science community about the recent amendment to a bill passed by the House of Representatives which will eliminate National Science Foundation Grants for political scientists. While Professor Stevens does believe that political scientists make important public contributions, she claims that she has found the N.S.F.-funded research done by political scientists troubling for decades: “he government — disproportionately — supports research that is amenable to statistical analyses and models even though everyone knows the clean equations mask messy realities that contrived data sets and assumptions don’t, and can’t, capture.”

The problem, as Professor Stevens sees it, is a simple one: because it is nearly impossible to predict political events, political scientists have a bad track record in predicting important events and trends.

It’s an open secret in my discipline: in terms of accurate political predictions (the field’s benchmark for what counts as science), my colleagues have failed spectacularly and wasted colossal amounts of time and money. The most obvious example may be political scientists’ insistence, during the cold war, that the Soviet Union would persist as a nuclear threat to the United States. In 1993, in the journal International Security, for example, the cold war historian John Lewis Gaddis wrote that the demise of the Soviet Union was “of such importance that no approach to the study of international relations claiming both foresight and competence should have failed to see it coming.” And yet, he noted, “None actually did so.” Careers were made, prizes awarded and millions of research dollars distributed to international relations experts, even though Nancy Reagan’s astrologer may have had superior forecasting skills.


Monday, June 25th, 2012

Book Giveaway! Olivier Assayas

This week we are featuring two recent books — one about French filmmaker Olivier Assayas and one by him. The two titles are Olivier Assayas, edited by Kent Jones and A Post-May Adolescence: Letter to Alice Debord, by Olivier Assayas.

Throughout the week we will highlight aspects of both books and we are also offering a FREE copy of each book to one winner.

To enter our book giveaway, simply e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu with your name and address (U.S. and Canadian mailing addresses only, unfortunately). We will randomly select one winner on Friday at 1:00 pm. Good luck and spread the word!


Friday, June 22nd, 2012

Patron-Driven Acquisitions: #AAUP12 and Beyond

At the 2012 Annual Meeting of the Association of American University Presses this past week, one of the hottest topics was the issue of patron-driven acquisitions (PDA) at research libraries. In a panel on Tuesday, Rick Anderson from the University of Utah Libraries and Joseph Esposito, a publishing consultant who often writes about the effect of PDA on the publishing industry, discussed the future of the relationship between academic publishers and academic libraries in the light of rapidly evolving PDA models. They’ve discussed the issue before on several occasions at The Scholarly Kitchen blog.

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

Paul Courant Offers a Economist’s View of the Google Book Settlement

The Economists' Voice 2.0, edited by Joseph Stiglitz and Aaron S. EdlinWe conclude our week-long focus on The Economists’ Voice 2.0: The Financial Crisis, Health Care Reform, and More, edited by Joseph Stiglitz and Aaron Edlin with an essay Paul N. Courant, an economist and dean of libraries at the University of Michigan.

In his essay, “The Stakes in the Google Books Settlement,” Paul Courant examines the implications of the recent settlement to allow Google to digitize books. Here is an excerpt from that article:

“In contrast, scuttling of the settlement or greatly limiting the volume of works to be covered would put us back to where we started—the only people with good access to the scholarly and cultural record of the twentieth century would be those with physical access to re­search libraries, and even for them, that literature would be more difficult to access than most works published before or since.”—Paul Courant

Basically the proposed settlement would create a market in elec­tronically available copies of out-of- print works that are plausibly in copyright. Google would provide free browsing access (usually 20 percent of a book would be viewable in a given search) and would sell permanent online access to complete versions on behalf of itself and a newly created Book Rights Registry (BRR) that would represent the interests of rights holders of works subject to the settlement. Google would also sell site licenses to institutions such as colleges and uni­versities, enabling students and employees of those institutions to have access to the collections in much the same way that they now have access to electronic journals and databases purchased by their li­braries. Google would obtain 37 percent of the revenue from both the retail product and the site license, with the rest to be distributed to rights holders.

The obvious benefit of the settlement is that it provides electronic access to many millions of works at one fell swoop, saving the trans­actions costs that would be involved if Google, libraries, and others seeking to provide access to the scanned works had to negotiate work by work and rights holder by rights holder, assuming that rights hold­ers could be found. The ability to search simultaneously the collec­tions of the world’s great research libraries, to browse those collections, and to be able to purchase immediate electronic access provides un­calculated, but almost certainly large, consumer surplus.

The settlement would also permit academic libraries and their universities, at least after a time, to save a great deal of money and space, as the necessity of holding extensively duplicated print collec­tions would be eliminated. Moreover, the settlement includes the orphan (foundling) works, removing the risks that would otherwise attend to displaying works where rights are unknown and adding to the value that would be available to students, professors, and other users of Google’s newly created giant electronic bookstore. Inclusion of the orphan works is essential to creating an effective product for the academic market, because without them neither Google nor any­one else could risk putting collections online without costly establish­ment of rights (or the lack thereof) book by book, and the resulting collection of out-of-print works would be seriously incomplete. One can never conclusively prove a book to be orphaned. There is always the possibility that a rights holder will materialize, with a lawyer not far behind.


Friday, June 22nd, 2012

University Press Roundup

Welcome to our weekly roundup of the best articles from the blogs of academic publishers! As always, if you particularly enjoy something or think that we missed an important post, please let us know in the comments.

The Association of American University Presses (AAUP) Annual Meeting was this past week in Chicago. Accordingly, the Texas A&M Press Consortium answers the most pressing questions about the Association, namely “What Is AAUP? And Why Do We Care So Much?” (Shameless plug: make sure you stay tuned for our AAUP Twitter Roundup, coming soon!)

Tomorrow, June 23, is the 40th anniversary of Title IX. Title IX “bans discrimination based on gender in federally funded educational programs,” and, while it has had important impacts on a wide range of education programs, it is probably best known for its effect on women’s sports. At From the Square, the NYU Press blog, Deborah Brake takes a close look at the reasons that Title IX holds “such a special place in US popular culture.”

With the 2012 Summer Olympics fast approaching, another intersection of sports and gender-rights is making headlines: the treatment of transgender athletes in athletic competitions defined by the gender of the participants. The Harvard University Press Blog takes a close look at why these “Gender Games” are such a tricky issue, using the work of Rebecca Jordan-Young to show that “[s]cientifically, there is no clear or objective way to draw a bright line between male and female.”

Tomorrow would have been Alan Turing’s 100th birthday, and, in honor of the occasion, the OUPblog has run a series of posts explaining the enormous impact that Turing’s work has had on a variety of fields from computer science to cryptography to philosophy. First, Peter J. Bentley discusses what Sir Maurice Wilkes, another important computing pioneer, thought of his contemporary Turing. Paul Cockshott discusses Turing’s contribution to philosophy, the philosophy of mathematics in particular. Keith M. Martin discusses Alan Turing’s importance in cryptography. Cristopher Moore and Stephan Mertens show how Turing helped to unify the field of computer science in 1936. And finally, Kees van Deemter has a post called “Computers as authors and the Turing Test” coming out today.

Two hundred years ago this Monday, June 18, the War of 1812 began as James Madison signed a declaration of war against Great Britain. At the UNC Press Blog, historian Jeff Broadwater discusses how Madison’s reputation was permanently affected by the war and asks us to reconsider the popular narrative that “Madison led an unprepared nation into an unnecessary war.” At This Side of the Pond, the blog of Cambridge University Press, historian J.C.A Stagg looks at recent works of scholarship about the War of 1812 and what they tell us about how we use history to create national identities.

Few American sports stars have defined the “all-American hero” like Joe DiMaggio did in the 1930s and 1940s. At the Yale Press Log, Jerome Charyn discusses how DiMaggio was able to capture the spotlight in America. Charyn claims that the certainty that DiMaggio provided in times of uncertainty was an important part of his appeal: “The nation was going to war, and you had this man who personified stability. It wasn’t that he hit in 56 games, it was that he hits in game after game after game. You could depend on it. You could count on it. In a very scary time, there was always Joe DiMaggio.”

This week Beacon Broadside featured the third of their fascinating interviews with Michael Bronski about changing American conceptions of gender over the centuries. This week he discusses “The American Man: From Ichabod Crane to Jackie Chan.” There are a number of great quotes from the interview, but my personal favorite is this one: “So one way of looking at these books–be it James Fenimore Cooper or Mark Twain or Herman Melville–is these are really the early template for what we now understand to be the buddy movie.”

Arguments over laws governing citizenship and violence against women have featured prominently in the media lately, but less talked-about is the impact of these discussions on laws protecting Native American women living in reservations. The University of Minnesota Press Blog has an excellent post detailing the complexities of this situation by Mark Rifkin, “Reauthorizing Indianness (or Acts of Violence against Native Self-Determination).”

Our New York neighbors at Fordham ImPRESSions featured a fascinating post by John Waldman on New York’s “only true freshwater river, the Bronx River” in the South Bronx. The NYC Department of Parks and the Bronx River Alliance have been trying to restore the Bronx River. The river is home to the American eel, “the most mysterious fish in the sea,” and Waldham accompanied filmmaker Mathias Frantz in an attempt to find out more about the eels and their Bronx River habitat.

Reviving distressed cities is a fascinating process, and at the Penn Press Log, Brent Ryan looks at urban renewal project in Philadelphia. The Neighborhood Transformation Initiative (NTI) cleared a huge number of vacant and dilapidated houses from Philly neighborhoods. Unfortunately, after the 2007-2008 housing crash, the city is saddled with debt from the NTI and many of the cleared housing lots sit unused. In his post, Ryan proposes a number of solutions that might help Philadelphia deal with the negative consequences of the NTI.

We’ll wrap up this week’s edition of the University Press Roundup with an interview with Lance Hosey at Island Press Field Notes, the Island Press Blog. Hosey believes that our current understanding of sustainability is limited by our reliance on technology in solving sustainability problems: “Life is more than its ‘resources,’ and sustainability must mean more than just the efficient use of those resources.”

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

A View on the Failures of New Classical Economics from The Economists’ Voice 2.0

The Economists' Voice 2.0After the financial crisis of 2008, economists debated the applicability of New Classical Economics. Did this macroeconomic theory with its faith in markets fail to predict or understand looming economic problems? Paul Krugman criticized New Classical Economics while University of Chicago Professor defended it. In his essay from The Economists’ Voice 2.0: The Financial Crisis, Health Care Reform, and More, “If It Were a Fight, They Would Have Stopped It in December of 2008,” Robert J. Barbera responds to Carey Mulligan. You can also read Mulligan’s response to Barbera in The Economists’ Voice 2.0.

The facts on the ground, however, refused to cooperate. In the fourth quarter of 2008, as Professor Mulligan penned his words, 1.68 million payroll jobs were lost, and the unemployment rate jumped by a full percentage point, to 7.2 percent. Needless to say, more than 90 percent of the job losers worked outside the financial sector. All of this carnage was already looming when Professor Mulligan wrote his Times essay. The conclusion I am forced to come to is that the new classical economics framework seems to be an impediment not only to prediction but to description.

To be sure, a single forecasting error is not sufficient grounds to dismiss either a framework or a forecaster. Indeed, if getting a predic­tion wrong was all it took for dismissal, the unemployment rate among forecasters would be awfully close to 100 percent. At the same time, if unwavering faith in a framework blinds you to both the po­tential for crisis and to its actual arrival, you have a big problem.

Worse still, if you and your framework have the ear of policy mak­ers, you might well become a problem for all of us. To put it bluntly, it is dangerous to pretend that bank runs cannot happen—especially when you are knee deep in one.

Isn’t it reasonable for all economists to acknowledge that the events of the past year were a whopping big natural experiment? In the after­math of the failed Lehman Brothers rescue effort, two very distinct story lines appeared. Shouldn’t we all care about which narrative car­ried the day?

Keynesian economists, comfortable with the elaborations of Hy­man Minsky and Charles Kindleberger, declared in late 2008 that we were experiencing a Minsky moment. The signs were there: bank run dynamics in the repo market and a collapsing commercial paper mar­ket. Panic hoarding of cash by companies on Main Street was des­tined to follow. This would produce a slashing of orders and a sharp rise in joblessness. A massive bank rescue effort might well prevent a depression from happening again, but a tough recession was baked in the cake.

New Classical economists could not have disagreed more. “Forget the banks,” they explained; pension funds and insurance companies will wisely step in and prevent a contagion. Companies will continue to see their pro.ts rise and will be comfortable depending on inter­nally generated funds for working capital. Economists need only focus on the heady marginal product of capital in place in 2007 and 2008. On that basis they should be willing to argue that 2009 would surprise on the upside. Faith in unfettered markets and the New Classical tradition would be rewarded when 2009 turns out to be fine.


Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

Richard Posner on Financial Regulatory Reform and the Politics of Denial

The Economists' Voice 2.0, Aaron Edlin, Joseph StiglitzRichard Posner’s essay “Financial Regulatory Reform: The Politics of Denial,” included in The Economists’ Voice 2.0: The Economists’ Voice 2.0: The Financial Crisis, Health Care Reform, and More, explores the question of whether, as is the case, those officials complicit in the causes of the financial crisis write the reforms. In the article, Posner explores some of the causes and then argues that we should not be swayed by passions, populist or otherwise, in reforming the financial system but also should find some new experts when the time comes.

Here is an excerpt from “Financial Regulatory Reform: The Politics of Denial”:

The likeliest explanation for why these regulatory failures are be­ing ignored is that the government’s senior economic officials—Ben Bernanke, Timothy Geithner, and Lawrence Summers—were im­plicated in the failures and therefore do not want to draw attention to them. We are in the presence of the politics of denial….

Summers and Geithner, along with Robert Rubin (Rubin and Summers being in succession Secretaries of the Treasury in the Clin­ton administration), were complacent about the growing risk-taking of banks and other financial intermediaries and opposed the regula­tion of credit-default swaps, now recognized to have contributed to the financial collapse. Even though housing prices began their long, steep decline early in 2006 and the banking industry (especially the “shadow banking” industry of broker-dealers and other “nonbank banks”) was known to be very heavily invested in mortgage lending, the Federal Reserve, the SEC, and other regulators of financial prac­tices and products did little to avert financial disaster because they underestimated the looming losses to banks’ loan portfolios as housing prices fell and defaults rose. Until Lehman Brothers collapsed, the regulators didn’t realize how serious the situation was, even though the financial collapse had been building since the middle of 2007 and accelerating since March 2008, when Bear Stearns collapsed….


Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

Columbia University Press Summer Book Giveaway!

Columbia University Press Summer Book Giveway!

EDIT: Unfortunately, the contest is now closed. Thanks to all who entered, and congrats to those who won! Keep an eye out for your boxes in the mail.

Stay tuned on our blog (and on Twitter and Facebook) for more exciting contests and giveaways!

Free Books! Win 20 Pounds of Columbia University Press! Now with more boxes than ever!

We have some good news for you! As part of our seasonal office cleanup, we’re giving away books for free. They come in 20-pound boxes, and while we’ve given away twenty or so boxes in previous years, this time we have over fifty! The first fifty-seven people to email their name and mailing address to cup.publicityintern@gmail.com will win a free box of books from Columbia University Press.

Books are “as is”, and might be missing jackets or have slight damage to the cover or pages, but we tried especially hard not to include any with damage that would make them unreadable (the majority of books are in excellent condition; some even come shrink-wrapped). Each box contains approximately 20 lbs. of books, and can be titles in a range of subject areas, new or old. We made sure to include only one copy of a title in any given box.

Please note that books can only be shipped to U.S. or Canadian addresses, no PO boxes. The contest is not open to employees of Columbia University Press or Perseus Distribution, or their families. Again, send your name and mailing address to cup.publicityintern@gmail.com for your chance to win!

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

Henry J. Aaron on Health Care Reform

The Economists' Voice 2.0In the following excerpt from Henry J. Aaron’s “Systemic Reform of Health Care Delivery and Payment,” which appears in The Economists’ Voice 2.0: The Financial Crisis, Health Care Reform, and More, Aaron examines some of the challenges confronting the implementation of The Affordable Care Act. He concludes by arguing “As things now stand, the future of the ACA is highly uncertain. Yet its success is of critical national importance.”

THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT (ACA) became law on March 23, 2010, but little of it is yet actively in effect. Not until January 1, 2014, will the Medicaid extensions, the individual mandate to buy insurance, the state-managed health exchanges, and the subsidies to make in­surance affordable take effect. The tax on high- premium plans will not be imposed until 2018. Tight restrictions on the operations of the Independent Medicare Advisory Board will remain until 2018.

Before those dates, the law will have to clear four hurdles. The odds that it will emerge unscathed are small. It is important to under­stand those obstacles and to consider how they may change the reform or even prevent it from taking effect. The first hurdle is judicial. Several states are challenging the consti­tutionality of the individual mandate—the requirement that everyone (with a few exceptions) who is not insured at work or covered by a public program must personally buy health insurance. Scholars are divided on whether the Constitution empowers the federal govern­ment to impose such a requirement. The courts will decide….

Should the mandate requiring individuals to carry health insur­ance be declared unconstitutional, much of the rest of the bill would become unsustainable, unless some alternative mechanism to create a sustainable risk pool were to be found. Various alternatives could work. Paul Starr has suggested that people who refuse each year to buy insurance should be barred for an extended period—say, four years—from buying insurance in the regulated market and from qualifying for income-related subsidies. The German health system uses such an arrangement and achieves near-universality. The an­swer to the question whether such a penalty could be adopted in the United States is not obvious. Nor is it clear how well such a penalty would work in the United States. Uninsured Americans would be able, as now, to show up at emergency room doors if they are seri­ously ill, because federal law requires that hospitals provide them ser­vices. The subsidies in the ACA might well tip the balance for most in favor of buying insurance. Such a provision would not have to work perfectly, just well enough to prevent the collapse of the health insurance pool.

Were the individual mandate to be declared unconstitutional, enacting some replacement would doubtless open up the whole bill to amendment. Approval of a time-limited exclusion from subsidized coverage or any other mechanism to maintain a risk pool would re­quire sixty votes in a badly fractured Senate and approval by a major­ity in a House of Representatives now controlled by a party that has pledged to repeal the law. Opponents of the law would be disinclined to agree to provisions that sustain it; at a minimum, their price for accepting such amendments would be high.


Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

New Book Tuesday: Modernism at the Barricades and International Poetry

Stephen Bronner, Modernism at the BarricadesOur weekly list of new titles includes Stephen Bronner’s reinterpretation of the cultural politics of modernism and several new titles from the International Poetry Nights in Hong Kong poetry series:

Modernism at the Barricades: Aesthetics, Politics, Utopia
Stephen Bronner

To Read: To Love
Tomaž Šalamun

Short Prayer
Vivek Narayanan

Paper Dreams
Arkadii Dragomoshchenko

Blue Tile
Régis Bonvicino

If We Have Lost Our Oldest Tales
María Baranda

India, Pakistan, and the Bomb: Debating Nuclear Stability in South Asia (now available in paper)
Šumit Ganguly and S. Paul Kapur

Open Secret: Postmessianic Messianism and the Mystical Revision of Menahem Mendel Schneerson (Now available in paper)
Elliot R. Wolfson


Monday, June 18th, 2012

Book Giveaway! “The Economists’ Voice 2.0,” edited by Joseph Stiglitz and Aaron S. Edlin

This week’s featured book is The Economists’ Voice 2.0: The Financial Crisis, Health Care Reform, and More, edited by Aaron S. Edlin and Joseph E. Stiglitz.

Contributors include R. Glenn Hubbard, Williams Nordhaus, Richard Posner, Robert J. Shiller, and other leading economists.

Throughout the week we will highlight aspects of The The Economists’ Voice 2.0 and we are also offering a FREE copy of the book to one winner.

To enter our book giveaway, simply e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu with your name and address (U.S. and Canadian mailing addresses only, unfortunately). We will randomly select one winner on Friday at 1:00 pm. Good luck and spread the word!

For more on the book, you can browse the book using Google Preview.

Friday, June 15th, 2012

The Editors of Best Business Writing on the Business Press and the Public Trust

Earlier this year, the Columbia Journalism Review and Public Business, organized a panel Has the Business Press Failed the Public Trust?. Among the panelists were Dean Starkman and Felix Salmon, two of the editors of The Best Business Writing 2012.

The discussion focused on the the distinction between reporting for investors and the general public, the press’s ability to shape public debate, and the role of non-business reporters in covering business scoops. As evident in the video below of the event, the discussion often turned heated and revealed some of the challenges journalists face in covering business and financial news.