Three Things to Read in Today's NYT

Read these three articles from today’s NYT:

1. Joan Didion’s new book A Year of Magical Thinking has received plenty of positive reviews, including one today in the NYT Book Review. But the better piece in the book review is the profile of Didion, which ends with Didion’s powerful commencement remarks at U.C. Riverside: "I’m not telling you to make the world better, because I don’t think that progress is necessarily part of the package," she said. "I’m just telling you to live in it. Not just to endure it, not just to suffer it, not just to pass through it, but to live in it. To look at it. To try to get the picture. To live recklessly. To take chances. To make your own work and take pride in it. To seize the moment. And if you ask me why you should bother to do that, I could tell you that the grave’s a fine and private place, but none I think do there embrace. Nor do they sing there, or write, or argue, or see the tidal bore on the Amazon, or touch their children. And that’s what there is to do and get it while you can and good luck at it."

2. In the mag the article Post-Teenage Wasteland explores one of those "hot" issues the press likes to write about: people don’t really "become" adults until age 27 on average. They "dip in and out of school (the average college student takes five years to graduate), jobs and relationships, sometimes ending up back at home."

3. David Brooks’ column (Times Select subscribers, only) is a good reminder about what’s really exciting about politics, and it’s not the day-to-day partisan tug of wars. He articulates his core ideas and I pretty much agree with every single one.

I believe in the lost tradition of American politics, the tradition of Hamilton, Lincoln and the Bull Moose. In other words, I believe that social mobility is the core of the American experience. I believe that society should be structured so that as many boys and girls as possible can work, and rise the way young Hamilton and Lincoln did….

If something is going to make American society more fluid and dynamic, then I am for that thing. That’s why I love globalization, even while I am aware of its costs. I love the fact that American businesses are going to be improved via competition with Chinese and Indian rivals. I love the fact that to compete we are going to have to reform our lobbyist-written tax code into something flatter and fairer.

I can’t believe people want to shield America behind the walls of "fair trade agreements."…
Like Alexander Hamilton, I love the dynamism of capitalism. And like Alexander Hamilton, that doesn’t mean I hate government. I love government when it lifts people up to compete. I hate government only when it stifles competition and coddles. I hated the old welfare system, which pushed its victims away from work. I love welfare reform, which encourages work. I hate government that directs ever more money to the affluent elderly, but I would love a government that gave poor children savings accounts at birth, which would encourage them to think about the future and understand that their destiny is in their own hands…

I hate the forces of the education establishment, which protects its system even though after years and billions spent, African-American students still graduate from high schools at academic levels four years behind their white peers. But I love the charter schools and the forces of reform…

I can’t believe that over the past 10 years our leaders have done nothing to reduce the growing costs of entitlements. Our preparations for Katrina look like models of efficiency compared to our preparations for the hurricane of debt that is ineluctably gathering force in front of us. I can’t believe we haven’t learned from Western Europe’s plight, as it slowly stagnates under the weight of its own welfare costs…

I know America has to persevere in its exceptional mission to promote freedom, and the effort to promote democracy in the Arab world is one of the most difficult and noble endeavors any great power has undertaken.

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