Los Angeles Review of Books

Is College Still Worth It?

WHEN DID American universities switch from being a national glory to a national problem? One likely year is 2010, when total student debt became larger than total credit card debt, and the dam burst on public frustration with endless tuition hikes and mushrooming loans.

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Barbara Ehrenreich on Why We Die and the Purpose of Life

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The Bizarre Re-conviction of Amanda Knox and the Nightmare of the Italian Justice System

This article originally appeared at the Los Angeles Review of Books, and is reprinted here with their permission.

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How Propaganda Can Slowly Repair the Image of an Utterly Disgraced Public Figure Like George W. Bush

This review of "Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House by Peter Baker" (DoubleDay) originally appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, and is reprinted here with permission.

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Can We Stop the Military from Killing by Remote Control?

This review originally appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, and is reprinted here with their permission.

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Raking the Coals of Bigotry: How the NYPD's Surveillance Apparatus Targets Muslims

This article is reprinted with permission from the L.A. Review of Books -- a multimedia literary and cultural arts magazine that combines the great American tradition of the serious book review with the evolving technologies of the Web. Visit L.A. Review of Books today.

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How Did a Form of Torture Become Policy in America’s Prison System?

In 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville visited the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia to observe first-hand the effects of a peculiar — and, at the time, entirely novel — form of incarceration. The Quakers, who had opened the prison two years earlier, believed that long-term solitary confinement was an ideal form of religious penitence (whence the termpenitentiary) and would hasten prisoners’ rehabilitation and reintegration into society. They saw it not as extreme punishment but as a progressive idea, far preferable to the giant holding pens typical of the age, where mutilations and violence among prisoners were common, and spiritual betterment all but unthinkable.

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Why Jonathan Franzen Is Fascinated by the Work of a Forgotten 20th Century Viennese Thinker

“The most impressive  thing about Kraus as a thinker,” writes Jonathan Franzen in his brilliantly annotated new book of translations of Karl Kraus, the 20th-century Viennese critic, “may be how early and clearly he recognized the divergence of technological progress from moral and spiritual progress.” Not a Luddite, Kraus was one of the early owners of an automobile, which he employed to travel the European continent, and, later, he took to flying in airplanes. He also tweaked Shakespeare for the radio, a medium he endorsed. More significantly, he published upwards of 900 editions of his near-weekly journal Die Fackel (The Torch), with a print run of 30,000 copies at its peak. Religiously subscribed to by important German-language writers such as Thomas Mann, Franz Kafka, Walter Benjamin, Sigmund Freud, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Theodor Adorno, and Gershom Scholem, Die Fackel functioned very much like a popular blog to the extent that it would gloss a passage of text taken from the media in order to disseminate its creator’s opinions to its followers. And yet, as Franzen points out, Kraus probably would have assailed today’s blogs as relentlessly as he did the popular blog-like feuilletons that so entranced readers of early 20th-century Vienna’s most respected newspapers. Like any prophetic thinker, Kraus could be contradictory, acidic, and even apocalyptic, and in 1908 he wrote, “Progress makes purses out of human skin.” But Franzen suggests — rightly, I think — that Kraus’s criticisms of our indulgences and addictions were ultimately hopeful: he thought the world could be bettered.

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Inside the Fascinating World of Marijuana Growers

This article originally appeared on the L.A. Review of Books.

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