Monday, September 29, 2008

Take the Plunge

Demonstrators protest the U.S. Congress's proposed $700 billion bailout of the financial industry in New York City's Times Square, Sept. 27

What would Ben Franklin or Alexander Hamilton have to say about today's vote by Congress not to "Bail out" the financial
markets? Strangely, I think Franklin might not have voted for it either. Jefferson would not have, I'm sure. Though Hamilton would have been right there with Henry Paulson forecasting gloom and doom. Are we headed for another great depression? I have no idea. I do think it ironic that the 133 Republicans who voted No are doing so because of an angry mob mentality against Bush and Wall St. At long last, those corporation lackeys and right wingers are actually doing what their red neck constituents want. They are voting for hell and damnation, probably their own. The Republican party is imploding.

What gets me are the 95 Democrats who said No: Dennis Kucinich, for example, and my own representative, John Lewis--the Nader types who radically oppose corporations and perhaps even capitalism, at least unregulated capitalism. I agree with them. Any bail out ought to help the average guy-- at least as much as corporate America. Why not "forgive" my debts as we forgive the debts of the banks and big business. Buy out my mortgage-- from me. Or at least extend my credit and give me a few years to sell our house at a decent price. Isn't that what the banks are requesting? Amazing how quickly those same banks say NO when I ask them for a little leverage and reduced payments.

Maybe the country happens to be in the mood for a meltdown and a financial catastrophe. Then, maybe, a President Obama and a new Congress can give us the wisdom and relief Franklin Roosevelt provided the nation and the world. We need a new direction alright, completely different from the tack of Bush and league.

That's my take-- for now.


David Brooks says some of these things with greater detail, knowledge and authority. Here's his brilliant editorial:

Revolt of the Nihilists

Published: September 29, 2008

In 1933, Franklin Roosevelt inherited an economic crisis. He understood that his first job was to restore confidence, to give people a sense that somebody was in charge, that something was going to be done.

David Brooks

This generation of political leaders is confronting a similar situation, and, so far, they have failed utterly and catastrophically to project any sense of authority, to give the world any reason to believe that this country is being governed. Instead, by rejecting the rescue package on Monday, they have made the psychological climate much worse.

George W. Bush is completely out of juice, having squandered his influence with Republicans as well as Democrats. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is a smart moneyman, but an inept legislator. He was told time and time again that House Republicans would not support his bill, and his response was to get down on bended knee before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

House leaders of both parties got wrapped up in their own negotiations, but did it occur to any of them that it might be hard to pass a bill fairly described as a bailout to Wall Street? Was the media darling Barney Frank too busy to notice the 95 Democrats who opposed his bill? Pelosi’s fiery speech at the crucial moment didn’t actually kill this bill, but did she have to act like a Democratic fund-raiser at the most important moment of her career?

And let us recognize above all the 228 who voted no — the authors of this revolt of the nihilists. They showed the world how much they detest their own leaders and the collected expertise of the Treasury and Fed. They did the momentarily popular thing, and if the country slides into a deep recession, they will have the time and leisure to watch public opinion shift against them.

House Republicans led the way and will get most of the blame. It has been interesting to watch them on their single-minded mission to destroy the Republican Party. Not long ago, they led an anti-immigration crusade that drove away Hispanic support. Then, too, they listened to the loudest and angriest voices in their party, oblivious to the complicated anxieties that lurk in most American minds.

Now they have once again confused talk radio with reality. If this economy slides, they will go down in history as the Smoot-Hawleys of the 21st century. With this vote, they’ve taken responsibility for this economy, and they will be held accountable. The short-term blows will fall on John McCain, the long-term stress on the existence of the G.O.P. as we know it.

I’ve spoken with several House Republicans over the past few days and most admirably believe in free-market principles. What’s sad is that they still think it’s 1984. They still think the biggest threat comes from socialism and Walter Mondale liberalism. They seem not to have noticed how global capital flows have transformed our political economy.

We’re living in an age when a vast excess of capital sloshes around the world fueling cycles of bubble and bust. When the capital floods into a sector or economy, it washes away sober business practices, and habits of discipline and self-denial. Then the money managers panic and it sloshes out, punishing the just and unjust alike.

What we need in this situation is authority. Not heavy-handed government regulation, but the steady and powerful hand of some public institutions that can guard against the corrupting influences of sloppy money and then prevent destructive contagions when the credit dries up.

The Congressional plan was nobody’s darling, but it was an effort to assert some authority. It was an effort to alter the psychology of the markets. People don’t trust the banks; the bankers don’t trust each other. It was an effort to address the crisis of authority in Washington. At least it might have stabilized the situation so fundamental reforms of the world’s financial architecture could be undertaken later.

But the 228 House members who voted no have exacerbated the global psychological free fall, and now we have a crisis of political authority on top of the crisis of financial authority.

The only thing now is to try again — to rescue the rescue. There’s no time to find a brand-new package, so the Congressional plan should go up for another vote on Thursday, this time with additions that would change its political prospects. Leaders need to add provisions that would shore up housing prices and directly help mortgage holders. Martin Feldstein and Lawrence Lindsey both have good proposals of the sort that could lead to a plausible majority coalition. Loosening deposit insurance rules would also be nice.

If that doesn’t happen, the world could be in for some tough economic times (the Europeans, apparently, have not even begun to acknowledge their toxic debt) — but also tough political times.

The American century was created by American leadership, which is scarcer than credit just about now.

Then there are those opposed to the "Bail"

Let Risk-Taking Financial Institutions Fail

By Ari J. Officer and Lawrence H. Officer,8599,1845209,00.html?cnn=yes


Sunday, September 28, 2008

All We Need is Art

As our money becomes worthless in the financial bailout of Wall Street, as candidates swing at one another, all barbs and darts, maybe it's time to have an Art break. Today, I heard our deeply loved Icelanders Sigur Ros perform at MOMA. I also saw our friend Kara Walker's latest work in the Sunday New York Times. After the rousing performance last week of Marcia Ball, the answer to our woes is, as I see it, Art and More Art:

sigur rÓs


PopRally invites you to a special performance by the celebrated Icelandic band Sigur Rós, in conjunction with the exhibition Take your time: Olafur Eliasson.

Featuring thirty-eight works installed at both MoMA and P.S.1, Take your time explores the highly experimental work of Olafur Eliasson, whose immersive environments

and large-scale installations elegantly recreate the extremes of landscape and atmosphere in his native Iceland. Eliasson’s work recontextualizes elements such as light, water, ice, fog, stone, and moss to create unique situations that shift viewers' perceptions of place and self.

Sigur Rós creates ethereal, transcendent music that often induces a feeling of wonderment—a stirring accompaniment to Eliasson's explorations of space, color, and illumination.

This event includes an exclusive viewing of Take your time,

which closes to the public on June 30.

Special thanks to Grolsch, Reyka Vodka, Fred, and GuS–Grown-up Soda.

Above: Olafur Eliasson. 360° room for all colours. 2002. Stainless steel, projection foil, fluorescent lights, wood, and control unit, 126 x 321 x 321" (320 x 815.3 x 815.3 cm). Private collection. Installation view at Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. Courtesy Tanya Bonakdar
Gallery, New York. © 2008 Olafur Eliasson

Above: Sigur Rós, The Museum of Modern Art 2008.
Directed and edited by Jesse Reding Fleming

Above: A Portrait of Sigur Rós, The Museum of Modern Art, June 17, 2008.
By Ruvan Wijesooriya

Then we have Kara's view of Autumn:

Kara Walker:



Saturday, September 27, 2008

Debate Game

As the nation struggles with the financial crisis, our future president struggles to express ideas people will vote for. Neither McCain nor Obama scored a knock out win, and they both seemed "presidential," especially after the Bush years. Obama certainly was far more in touch with the concerns of the middle-class, everyday person, while McCain continued to be the good general, all for the troops, victory, military spending, and tax cuts for the corporations.
It is hard to imagine Joe Biden in such an exchange with Sarah Palin.

It is a quiet weekend in Atlanta. Overcast. We all lift our hands to the sky in hope of rain. And those who are driving line up for gas liked starved refugees. It is limbo time.

And we recall the fine acting and character of Paul Newman. He will be greatly missed.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Government of, by, and for ... the banks (updated)

From the New York Times:

What About the Rest of Us?

Published: September 25, 2008

Lawmakers were still wrangling Thursday night about the Bush administration’s $700 billion bailout of the financial system. Political theater was mainly responsible for the delay, but it will be worth the wait if lawmakers take the time to make sure that the plan includes real relief for homeowners and not only for Wall Street.

The problems in the financial system have their roots in the housing bust, as do the problems of America’s homeowners. Millions face foreclosure, and millions more are watching their equity being wiped out as foreclosures provoke price declines.

The problems became even more evident Thursday night with the federal seizure and sale of Washington Mutual to JPMorgan Chase.

It’s unacceptable that lawmakers have yet to come out squarely in favor of bold homeowner relief in the bailout bill. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, the biggest advocate of bailing out Wall Street, is also a big roadblock to helping hard-pressed borrowers. He wants to keep relying on the mortgage industry to voluntarily rework troubled loans, even though that approach has failed to stem the foreclosure tide — and does a disservice to the taxpayers whose money he would put at risk in the bailout.

Many of the assets that Mr. Paulson wants to buy with the $700 billion have gone sour because they are tied to mortgages that have defaulted or are at risk of default. Unless homeowners get some help — and its a pittance compared to what Mr. Paulson wants to give to bankers — the downward spiral of defaults, foreclosures and tumbling home prices will continue, which could push down the value of those assets even further.

We could make a strong moral argument that the government has a greater responsibility to help homeowners than it does to bail out Wall Street. But we don’t have to. Basic economics argues for a robust plan to stanch foreclosures and thereby protect the taxpayers’ $700 billion investment.

Mr. Paulson has long opposed what is probably the best way to help Americans stay in their homes: allowing a bankruptcy court to reduce the size of bankrupt borrowers’ mortgages. Unfortunately, but predictably, drafts of the bailout plan circulated late Thursday do not mention that relief.

It is simply outrageous that every type of secured debt — except the mortgage on a primary home — can be reworked in bankruptcy court. The law was designed to protect lenders, who have obviously and disastrously abused that protection. There would be no favors dispensed in bankruptcy proceedings. Lenders would have to accept less of a payback and borrowers would have to submit to the oversight of the bankruptcy court for years.

But the bankruptcy process would mean many fewer foreclosures. And that would halt the downward slide in home prices, reduce the number of vacant homes — and the blight that comes with them — and help preserve equity for all homeowners. It would cost the taxpayer nothing.

Arguments against bankruptcy relief for mortgages have all been raised and refuted in Congressional hearings and debates over the past year.

There should be no more balking. Any bailout bill must allow struggling homeowners to modify their mortgages in bankruptcy court. Mr. Paulson should drop his opposition now. If he won’t, Congress should insist on the bailout for homeowners. Americans’ $700 billion investment needs to be protected.

And, Krugman gets it right-- again

September 26, 2008
Op-Ed Columnist

Where Are the Grown-Ups?

Many people on both the right and the left are outraged at the idea of using taxpayer money to bail out America’s financial system. They’re right to be outraged, but doing nothing isn’t a serious option. Right now, players throughout the system are refusing to lend and hoarding cash — and this collapse of credit reminds many economists of the run on the banks that brought on the Great Depression.

It’s true that we don’t know for sure that the parallel is a fair one. Maybe we can let Wall Street implode and Main Street would escape largely unscathed. But that’s not a chance we want to take.

So the grown-up thing is to do something to rescue the financial system. The big question is, are there any grown-ups around — and will they be able to take charge?

Earlier this week, Henry Paulson, the Treasury secretary, tried to convince Congress that he was the grown-up in the room, come to protect us from danger. And he demanded total authority over the rescue: $700 billion to be used at his discretion, with immunity for future review.

Congress balked. No government official should be entrusted with that kind of monarchical privilege, least of all an official belonging to the administration that misled America into war. Furthermore, Mr. Paulson’s track record is anything but reassuring: he was way behind the curve in appreciating the depth of the nation’s financial woes, and it’s partly his fault that we’ve reached the current moment of meltdown.

Besides, Mr. Paulson never offered a convincing explanation of how his plan was supposed to work — and the judgment of many economists was, in fact, that it wouldn’t work unless it amounted to a huge welfare program for the financial industry.

But if Mr. Paulson isn’t the grown-up we need, are Congressional leaders ready and able to fill the role?

Well, the bipartisan “agreement on principles” released on Thursday looks a lot better than the original Paulson plan. In fact, it puts Mr. Paulson himself under much-needed adult supervision, calling for an oversight board “with cease and desist authority.” It also limits Mr. Paulson’s allowance: he only (only!) gets to use $250 billion right away.

Meanwhile, the agreement calls for limits on executive pay at firms that get federal money. Most important, it “requires that any transaction include equity sharing.”

Why is that so important? The fundamental problem with our financial system is that the fallout from the housing bust has left financial institutions with too little capital. When he finally deigned to offer an explanation of his plan, Mr. Paulson argued that he could solve this problem through “price discovery” — that once taxpayer funds had created a market for mortgage-related toxic waste, everyone would realize that the toxic waste is actually worth much more than it currently sells for, solving the capital problem. Never say never, I guess — but you don’t want to bet $700 billion on wishful thinking.

The odds are, instead, that the U.S. government will end up having to do what governments always do in financial crises: use taxpayers’ money to pump capital into the financial system. Under the original Paulson plan, the Treasury would probably have done this by buying toxic waste for much more than it was worth — and gotten nothing in return. What taxpayers should get is what people who provide capital are entitled to: a share in ownership. And that’s what the equity sharing is about.

The Congressional plan, then, looks a lot better — a lot more adult — than the Paulson plan did. That said, it’s very short on detail, and the details are crucial. What prices will taxpayers pay to take over some of that toxic waste? How much equity will they get in return? Those numbers will make all the difference.

And in any case, it seems that we don’t have a deal.

This has to be a bipartisan plan, and not just at the leadership level. Democrats won’t pass the plan without votes from rank-and-file Republicans — and as of Thursday night, those rank-and-file Republicans were balking.

Furthermore, one non-rank-and-file Republican, Senator John McCain, is apparently playing spoiler. Earlier this week, while refusing to say whether he supported the Paulson plan, he claimed not to have had a chance to read it; the plan is all of three pages long. Then he inserted himself into the delicate negotiations over the Congressional plan, insisting on a White House meeting at which he reportedly said little — but during which consensus collapsed.

The bottom line, then, is that there do seem to be some adults in Congress, ready to do something to help us get through this crisis. But the adults are not yet in charge.

Our choice to solve all this:

On the Left

and, On the Right

Monday, September 22, 2008

Cogito, ergo sum

Thoughtful article on the teaching of philosophy:

September 21, 2008
The College Issue

The Thinker

With its roots in agricultural education and its remote location in rural Alabama, Auburn University has long been an easy target for ridicule from its archrival, the University of Alabama, whose students refer to Auburn as “the barn” — or as Alabama’s legendary head football coach, Bear Bryant, once put it, to the enduring delight of his fans, “that cow college on the other side of the state.”

Auburn is a land-grant university: it became one in 1872 under a federal program geared toward helping the working class obtain practical college educations. That mission continues largely to this day. A public university with an annual tuition of less than $6,000 for Alabama residents, it accepts roughly 70 percent of those who apply. Among its 20,000 undergraduates, business and engineering are the most popular majors. When students choose liberal-arts majors, they tend to be the more practical ones — communications, criminology, psychology, prelaw.

So it came as something of a surprise when, in the late ’90s, Auburn’s college of liberal arts undertook an internal ranking of its dozen academic departments and philosophy came out on top. The administration figured that there must have been a problem with the criteria it used, and a new formula was drawn up. Once again, philosophy came in first. This time, the administration decided to give up on the rankings altogether. “As I often put it to the dean, you’ve got a philosophy department that you have no right to have,” Kelly Jolley, the chairman of the department, told me recently. “It’s just way, way out of step with what you would expect to find at a place like Auburn.”

Jolley is almost single-handedly responsible for this state of affairs. When he first arrived at Auburn as a young professor 17 years ago, there were just a handful of philosophy majors, and there wasn’t much interest inside the department or the administration in adding more. Today, however, there are about 50 philosophy majors at Auburn. If recent history is any guide, a handful of them will even pursue Ph.D.’s in philosophy at highly competitive graduate schools and go on to become professional philosophers. “I don’t know of a comparable department at a comparable school,” James Conant, a philosophy professor at the University of Chicago, where two of Jolley’s former students are now studying, told me.

This summer I spent several days with Jolley, attending his classes and talking, often for hours at a time, about philosophy and his approach to teaching. At 42, he is a bear of a man with a prematurely white beard and blue eyes. He walks with an unsteady gait, the product of a pair of bad knees from his days as a high-school football lineman. You might imagine philosophers as inaccessible and withdrawn, endlessly absorbed in esoteric thoughts. Jolley couldn’t be further from this stereotype. He’s cheerful and engaged, an enthusiast about everything from college football, which he follows rabidly, even by Southern standards, to pit bulls (he owns two, Ahab and Sadie).

This is not to say that Jolley isn’t, above all, a philosopher. It’s just that he sees philosophy less as a profession than as a way of looking at, of being in, the world. “I am convinced that philosophy is not just about theory,” he told me. “It’s about a life well lived and thoughts truly thought.”

In May, when I visited Jolley, the Auburn campus had just cleared out for the summer, but he was teaching a summer class, Introduction to Logic. He was also running two unofficial, noncredited study groups, one on an early Greek theologian named Gregory of Nyssa and another on the 20th-century philosopher Bertrand Russell, which met in the philosophy department’s cramped, poorly air-conditioned lounge, known as the Lyceum, after Aristotle’s original school of philosophy in Athens.

Jolley has been running discussion groups like these since he first came to Auburn. They are emblematic of his approach to teaching, which, if it’s working properly, quickly migrates out of the classroom and into more informal settings, whether it’s the Lyceum, a coffee shop or the rambling grounds of a Civil War-era mansion where he likes to go for walks with students.

Being a philosopher requires you to engage in the practice of relentless inquiry about everything, so it’s not surprising that Jolley has spent untold hours puzzling over how to best teach the discipline itself. What he has decided is that philosophy can’t be taught — or learned — like other academic subjects. To begin with, it takes longer. “Plato said that you become a philosopher by spending ‘much time’ in sympathy with other philosophers,” he told me. “Much time. I take that very seriously.” We were sitting in his office, which was dark with academic books and journals; a large paperweight reading “Think” sat amid the clutter on his desk. “Plato,” he went on, “talked about it as a process of ‘sparking forth,’ that as you spend more time with other philosophers, you eventually catch the flame. That’s how I think about teaching philosophy.”

Jolley says he thinks of his relationships with his students less as teacher-student than as master-apprentice. His goal, as he sees it, isn’t to teach students about philosophy; it is to show them what it means to think philosophically, to actually be a philosopher. When the approach works, the effect can be significant. Several years ago, a student named Zack Loveless wandered into one of Jolley’s classes and very nearly dropped it after the first day. “I was expecting a survey course, and in walks this big scary guy, using words I’d never heard before, talking about Hume as background for Kant, telling us how hard the class was going to be,” Loveless told me.

Loveless, who grew up in a working-class home in a small town in Alabama, stuck with the course and soon switched his major from psychology to philosophy. He took at least one class with Jolley for each of his remaining semesters at Auburn and did several independent projects with him and is now getting a Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Chicago. He describes Jolley as more of a collaborator than a professor; rather than answer his questions, Loveless said, Jolley tried to work through philosophical problems with him.

Jolley is always on the lookout for students with a philosophical bent, and has urged his colleagues to recruit aggressively as well. While I was at Auburn, he introduced me to one of the department’s current top prospects for graduate school, a rising senior named Benjamin Pierce. Jolley told me that Pierce’s gift for reasoning was first identified a couple of years ago in an entry-level logic class. “If A is greater than B, and B is greater than C, then A is greater than C,” the professor said, introducing the so-called transitive relation.

“Not in rock, paper, scissors,” Pierce volunteered.

Pierce is now majoring in philosophy. “We have high hopes for him,” Jolley told me with the pride of a football coach talking up a strong tackler with great open-field speed. “I would bet that he ends up in a Top 10 graduate program.”

Jolley grew up in Gallipolis, Ohio, a small town in the Appalachian Mountains. He first felt the tug of the philosophical life during his freshman year in high school, when a teacher gave him a copy of Plato’s dialogues. An intellectually unfocused but precocious student, Jolley instantly took to the challenge of wrestling with such a difficult text. “Until then, I’d been clever enough to do whatever I wanted to do, to read with one eye,” he told me. “Then all of a sudden I ran into philosophy, and it was like running into a brick wall.”

But it was the substance of Plato’s meditations — the radical nature of the philosopher’s quest for self-knowledge — that really grabbed hold of Jolley. This was partly a function of his religious upbringing. His parents attended a Church of Christ three times a week. Listening to all those sermons about heaven and hell turned Jolley inward, made him wonder about what kind of person he was. But the church, he felt, hadn’t given him the tools he needed to grapple with that question. Philosophy did. “I’ve never been able to shake the feeling that the old Delphic instruction, know thyself, applied to me,” he said.

At the end of Jolley’s junior year in high school, the College of Wooster offered him a four-year academic scholarship. He skipped his senior year and went straight to college, declaring his intention to major in philosophy on the first day of class. Jolley went on to get his Ph.D. at the University of Rochester and was still finishing his dissertation on Plotinus, the founder of neo-Platonism, when he and his wife packed up their apartment and drove to Auburn in the summer of 1991 with their 15-month-old son.

Jolley’s early efforts to change the culture of the philosophy department at Auburn met with quite a bit of resistance from the university’s administration. Among other things, they rejected his requests for money for more upper-level philosophy classes. Determined to build up Auburn’s philosophy major, Jolley simply taught the courses himself, free of charge.

Many of Jolley’s colleagues were similarly skeptical of what he was trying to do. Several of them urged him to “tone it down,” he recalls, when they noticed the intimidating syllabus for his first class, the history of ancient philosophy, taped to the door of his office. They advised Jolley against wasting his time trying to start a philosophy club at Auburn — the club now has about 30 members — and called his approach to teaching “aristocratic.” In particular, they objected to the fact that he was grading students not on how well they learned philosophical terminology and definitions but on their ability to think philosophically.

Jolley gradually built allies within the department while at the same time looking to bring in like-minded professors. He didn’t expect Auburn to be able to land top candidates, but he was convinced that a lot of talented young philosophers were slipping through the cracks, often because they had the misfortune of specializing in an especially popular area, or because they had been stigmatized for taking too long to finish their degrees. (Jolley’s latest hire, Arata Hamawaki, spent 18 years finishing his Ph.D. at Harvard.) Auburn’s philosophy department is now dominated by graduates of some of the nation’s top philosophy programs.

By any measure, Jolley has accomplished a great deal. But in the service of what, exactly? During my stay at Auburn — and in our e-mail exchanges afterward — Jolley and I returned again and again to that very question. Why does philosophy matter?

Jolley could never seem to come up with a clear, settled explanation, and since clarity is a philosophical virtue, on one level this obviously bothered him. Yet his failure to give a simple answer was, in a way, the best answer he could have given. Philosophy is so much a part of how Jolley thinks, talks and writes that his attempts at an answer were themselves invariably philosophical, which is to say, aimed as much at exploring the assumptions behind the question as at answering it. “One reason it can seem so hard to see how philosophy relates to life is that we have often already decided that philosophy is thinking, not living,” he once wrote me. Explaining why philosophy matters, in other words, requires doing philosophy — the very thing the questioner wants explained.

While I was in Auburn, I attended a few of Jolley’s logic classes. All students at Auburn are required to take at least one entry-level philosophy course like logic. Traditionally, these “core” classes are designed to ease students into a particular subject. This is not Jolley’s approach. As he argues, core curriculums should aspire to do more than merely give students a taste of something. “Look, if the core is really going to matter for a student’s education, they need genuine exposure to that discipline,” he told me a few minutes before class. “You’re not giving them ‘the core’ if what you’re giving them is some sugarcoated simulacrum of philosophy that you’ve decided they can swallow.”

Jolley’s classes are famously demanding. Instead of assigning relatively accessible books on philosophers, he loads up his syllabuses with primary texts and asks his students to record in a notebook their thoughts on what they’re reading. “For the student merely interested in getting a degree, Kelly has nothing to offer,” says a colleague, Michael Watkins. “But for those who are interested in more, Kelly provides an example of what it means to be educated, to take one’s education seriously.”

Logic met at 9:45 a.m. in the Haley Center, a dreary-looking, 10-story building that would have been right at home in Communist East Berlin. Jolley had assigned a short essay by Lewis Carroll, “What the Tortoise Said to Achilles,” an imagined dialogue in which the Tortoise flummoxes Achilles by repeatedly refusing to accept what at first appears to be an easily justified deductive argument. Looking a lot like a forest ranger in his army green shirt, khaki pants and heavy brown boots, Jolley recapped the essay and ran through several opposing interpretations of it. At every turn, he was greeted with an uncomfortable silence.

“Not a very talkative group,” Jolley observed after the procession of flip-flops, orange Auburn T-shirts and backward baseball caps filed out of the room. “I can usually tell if students are getting it from the looks on their faces, but some of these kids were positively Sphinx-like.”

For all of the success Jolley has had creating a thriving philosophy program at Auburn, the core classes still represent the bulk of the teaching load and the biggest challenge to the department’s professors. “There’s a battle at the core level here to convince students that there’s even a possibility that philosophy might have something interesting to offer them,” one Auburn philosophy professor, Guy Rohrbaugh, told me.

It seems fair to wonder whether Jolley’s approach is the best way to win that battle. It’s been years since he has taught, say, a student on a football scholarship, and the size of his classes tends to shrink substantially after the first meeting. Jolley’s goal, as he describes it, is to produce students who are “capable of genuine creative philosophical thought.” That’s a high bar to set for students in an entry-level logic class.

After class, Jolley and I walked across Auburn’s mostly deserted campus and into town for lunch. It was oppressively hot and humid; Jolley wore a fraying straw boater to keep the sun off his face. Over pizza and iced tea, I asked him if he ever wondered whether his style of teaching might be inappropriate for a large state school like Auburn — if the cost of his approach is that he’s teaching to the few rather than the many. “My view is that you really fall into a trap when you start allowing what you believe about your students to dictate how you teach your discipline,” he answered. “Too often these days we end up setting up our courses in light of what we believe about our students and we end up not teaching them. At best, we end up housebreaking them.”

In a sense, what Jolley is engaged in at Auburn is nothing less than a defense of the liberal-arts education. As he points out, the opening stanza of Auburn University’s creed — “I believe that this is a practical world and that I can count only on what I earn” — conveys a certain kind of hostility to the world of ideas in which philosophy and for that matter the rest of the humanities plainly reside. “The creed is a fine document in many ways,” he told me, “but it reinforces a certain picture of what you’re here for, and it can be very hard to break the grip of that with students.”

In Jolley’s ideal world, every student would catch the philosophy flame, but he knows this will never happen. He says that philosophy requires a certain rare and innate ability — the ability to step outside yourself and observe your own mind in the act of thinking. In this respect, Jolley recognizes that his detractors have a point when they criticize his approach to teaching. “It’s aristocratic in the sense that any selection based on talent is aristocratic,” he told me. “I know it offends everyone’s sense of democracy, this idea that everyone’s equal, but we all know that’s just not true.”

Perhaps the dispute between Jolley and his critics boils down to how you define great teachers. You typically think about them as being devoted, above all, to their students. Jolley says his first priority is to philosophy itself. “I care about the discipline of philosophy more than the academic fate of any individual student — and I think I should,” he said. “Otherwise I’m just a baby sitter who occasionally breaks into syllogism.”

Jonathan Mahler is a contributing writer. His most recent book is “The Challenge: Hamden v. Rumsfeld and the Fight Over Presidential Power."

The New York Times
September 21, 2008
Jessica Nelson/Minneapolis College of Art and Design

Think about it.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Marcia Ball

To celebrate Nisa's Birthday, we all went down to the Variety Playhouse and heard

Marcia Ball (click)

sing to us the best of New Orleans blues, jazz and Louisiana rhythm. It was a night to be remembered, reminding me how, when I lived just off the N'awlin's streetcar line, I swore I'd never inhabit a city like Atlanta. It made me long for the life there and the values, so opposite to this city too busy to give a damn.

Of course I thought of dear KT, who actually looks a bit like Marcia Ball, especially when she sang about not having a home to go back to and all the ravages of Katrina and Rita, and now Gustav and Ike. When she sang "they're trying to wash us away," about Louisiana, Dar and I were up front before the stage and I was glad to be wearing my "Make Levees, not war," T-shirt. Anyhow, It's too late and I've had too much Louisiana beer to do the concert and the performance justice. Here are two of the songs we heard:

We ended the night with Louisiana grub in Little Five Points: Nisa, Pamela, Dar, Wright, Myself, and the plant (You had to be there...)


Friday, September 19, 2008


Photo from Wiki's

Carrington first appeared to me in the writings by and about D. H. Lawrence. She was a friend and fellow artist of Dorothy Brett, the painter who followed the Lawrences to New Mexico. She was also one of the people who fell into the orbit of Garsington and Lady Ottoline Morrell, the Hermine of Women In Love.

There she met Lytton Strachey, the love of her life. The film Carrington lovingly details their Bloomsbury-like relationship, including a menage-a-trois with handsome R. Partridge as well as numerous homosexual couplings. The sex is always secondary to the psychic bond, the kind of spiritual relationship that Lawrence was always mocking, but also always having.

The film portrays the wit, the talent, and the energy that ignited them both, from Lytton Strachy's absurd dancing to Carrington's pure adoration and her final determination to die when he did. The secondary loves all come to life as well, fully and beautifully realized. No one is left two dimensional, even the jealous and obsessed artist and early lover of Carrington, Mark Gertler.

Emma Thompson inhabits Carrington. I wish the film were 4 hours longer, giving us her interaction with Virginia Wolf, and David Garnett and Duncan Grant. Hell, whoever made this film should have done a 13-part study of the whole damn Bloomsbury group. Someone really must, someday.

'Til then, here's a taste:


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Return to Woodstock

Joni didn't go and neither did I (I was in NYC seeing Hair; she was appearing on the
Dick Cavett Show ). We both wish we had. At least in Joni's case it was the inspiration for the song of an angel:

40 years
have passed since Woodstock;
and we need another one as much as the world needed the original.

Check out Wikipedia's extensive review of the festival:

Woodstock Festival (click)

Peace and Love,

Thumbnail for version as of 15:42, 15 February 2006

Friday, September 12, 2008

Why the World Didn't End on Wednesday

Of all the stories I've read about the experiment in Switzerland this week, the summary by the New York Times is the best I've read. And so, why not share it here?

The Origins of the Universe: A Crash Course

THREE hundred feet below the outskirts of Geneva lies part of a 17-mile-long tubular track, circling its way across the French border and back again, whose interior is so pristine and whose nearly 10,000 surrounding magnets so frigid, that it’s one of the emptiest and coldest regions of space in the solar system.

The track is part of the Large Hadron Collider, a technological marvel built by physicists and engineers, and described alternatively as heralding the next revolution in our understanding of the universe or, less felicitously, as a doomsday machine that may destroy the planet.

After more than a decade of development and construction, involving thousands of scientists from dozens of countries at a cost of some $8 billion, the “on” switch for the collider was thrown this week. So what we can expect?

The collider’s workings are straightforward: at full power, trillions of protons will be injected into the otherwise empty track and set racing in opposite directions at speeds exceeding 99.999999 percent of the speed of light — fast enough so that every second the protons will cycle the entire track more than 11,000 times and engage in more than half a billion head-on collisions.

The raison d’être for creating this microscopic maelstrom derives from Einstein’s famous formula, E = mc2, which declares that much like euros and dollars, energy (“E”) and matter or mass (“m”) are convertible currencies (with “c” — the speed of light — specifying the fixed conversion rate). By accelerating the protons to fantastically high speeds, their collisions provide a momentary reservoir of tremendous energy, which can then quickly convert to a broad spectrum of other particles.

It is through such energy-matter conversion that physicists hope to create particles that would have been commonplace just after the big bang, but which for the most part have long since disintegrated.

Here’s a brief roundup of the sort of long-lost particles the collisions might produce and the mysteries they may help unravel.

Higgs Particles

One of the mysteries that continues to stump physicists is the origin of mass. We can measure with fantastic accuracy the mass of an electron, a quark and most every other particle, but where does mass itself come from?

More than 40 years ago, a number of researchers, including Peter Higgs, an English physicist, suggested an answer: perhaps space is pervaded by a field, much like the electromagnetic fields generated by cellphones and radio broadcasts, that acts like invisible molasses.

When we push something in the effort to make it move faster, the Higgs molasses would exert a drag force — and it’s this resistance, as the Higgs theory goes, that we commonly call the object’s mass. Scientists have incorporated this idea as a centerpiece of the so-called standard model — a refined mathematical edifice, viewed by many as the crowning achievement of particle physics, that since the 1970s has described the behavior of nature’s basic constituents with unprecedented accuracy.

The one component of the standard model that remains stubbornly unconfirmed is the very notion of the Higgs’ “molasses” field. However, collisions at the Large Hadron Collider should be able to chip off little chunks of the ubiquitous Higgs field (if it exists), creating what are known as Higgs bosons or Higgs particles. If these particles are found, the standard model, more than a quarter-century after its articulation, will finally be complete.

Supersymmetric Particles

In the early 1970s, mathematical studies of string theory revealed a striking step toward Einstein’s unfulfilled dream of a unified theory — a single theory embracing all forces and all matter. Supersymmetry, as the insight is called, is mathematically complex but has a physical implication of central relevance to the Large Hadron Collider.

For every known species of particle (electrons, quarks, neutrinos, etc.), supersymmetry implies the existence of a partner species (called, with physicists’ inimitable linguistic flair, selectrons, squarks, sneutrinos, etc.) that to date has never been observed.

Physicists believe these “sparticles” have so far evaded detection because they’re a good deal more massive than their known counterparts, thus requiring more powerful collisions for their copious production.

A wealth of calculations strongly suggests that the collider will have that power.

The discovery of sparticles would be a monumental achievement, taking us far beyond Einstein by establishing a deep link between nature’s forces and the particles of matter. Such a discovery also has the potential to advance our understanding of dark matter — the abundant matter that permeates space but does not give off light and hence is known only through its gravitational influence. Many researchers suspect that dark matter is composed of sparticles.

Transdimensional Particles

A tantalizing idea considered since the early part of the last century is that the universe might have more than the three spatial dimensions of common experience.

In addition to the familiar left/right, back/forth and up/down, physicists have contemplated additional directions that are curled up to such a small size that they’ve so far eluded discovery.

For many years Einstein was a strong proponent of this idea. He had already shown that gravity was nothing but warps and curves in the familiar dimensions of space (and time); the new idea posited that nature’s other forces (for example, the electromagnetic force) amounted to warps and curves in additional, as yet unknown, spatial dimensions. Difficulties in applying the idea mathematically resulted in Einstein ultimately losing interest. But decades later, string theory revived it: the mathematics of string theory not only requires extra dimensions but has shown how to resolve the issues that flummoxed Einstein.

And now, remarkably, there’s a chance — albeit a small one — that the collider may find evidence for the extra dimensions. Calculations show that some of the debris produced by the proton collisions may be ejected out of our familiar spatial dimensions and crammed into the others, a process we’d detect by an apparent loss of the energy the debris would carry.

The unknown is just how powerful the collisions need to be for this process to happen, a number itself determined by another unknown: just how small the extra dimensions, if they exist, actually are. The more tightly they’re curled, the harder it would be to cram anything in them and so the more energetic the required collisions.

Should the Large Hadron Collider have the power necessary to reveal extra dimensions of space — to overturn our belief that length, width and height are all there is — that would rank as one of the greatest upheavals in our understanding of the universe.

Micro Black Holes

Now for the possibility that’s generated the fuss.

Recent work in string theory has suggested that the collider might produce black holes, providing physicists with a spectacular opportunity to study them in a laboratory.

The common conception is that black holes are fantastically massive astrophysical bodies with enormous gravitational fields. But in reality, a black hole can have any mass. Take an orange and squeeze it to a sufficiently small size (about a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a meter across) and you’d have a black hole — with the mass of an orange.

Physicists have realized that the collider’s proton-proton collisions might momentarily pack so much energy into such a small volume that exceedingly tiny black holes may form — black holes even lighter than the one theoretically created by the orange, but black holes nevertheless.

Why might one worry that this would be a problem? Because black holes have a reputation for rapacity. If a black hole is produced under Geneva, might it swallow Switzerland and continue on a ravenous rampage until the earth is devoured?

It’s a reasonable question with a definite answer: no.

Work that made Stephen Hawking famous establishes that tiny black holes would disintegrate in a minuscule fraction of a second, long enough for physicists to reap the benefits of having produced them, but short enough to avoid their wreacking any havoc.

Even so, some have worried further that maybe Dr. Hawking was wrong and such black holes don’t disintegrate. Are we willing to bet the fate of the planet on an untested insight? And that question takes us to the crux of the matter: the collisions at the Large Hadron Collider have never before occurred under laboratory settings, but they’ve been taking place throughout the universe — even here on earth — for billions of years.

Cosmic rays — particles wafting through space — constantly rain down on the earth, the other planets and the wealth of stars scattered throughout the galaxy, with energies far in excess of those attainable by the Large Hadron Collider. And since these more powerful collisions haven’t resulted in astrophysical calamities, the collider’s comparatively tame collisions most assuredly won’t either.

Should any of the particles described above be produced at the Large Hadron Collider, from Higgs particles to black holes, corks will rightly pop in physics departments worldwide. But the most exciting prospect of all is that the experiments will reveal something completely unanticipated, something that forces us to rethink our most cherished explanations.

Confirming an idea is always gratifying. But finding what you don’t expect opens new vistas on the nature of reality. And that’s what humans, including those of us who happen to be physicists, live for.

Brian Greene, a professor of math and physics at Columbia, is the author, most recently, of “Icarus at the Edge of Time.”

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Coming soon to a theatre near you:

A City Saved

Benjamin Franklin: City Slicker
The self-styled country mouse was in truth America’s first great urbanist.

Franklin in the late 1770s, elegant and sophisticated.
anne-rosalie bocquet filleul/The Philadelphia Museum of Art/Art Resource, NY
Franklin in the late 1770s, elegant and sophisticated

I’m tired of this dirty old city,” sang country-music great Merle Haggard, probably referring to his hometown of Bakersfield, California, southern anchor of the San Joaquin Valley:

Entirely too much work and never enough play.
And I’m tired of these dirty old sidewalks.
Think I’ll walk off my steady job today.
Turn me loose, set me free, somewhere in the middle of Montana . . .

Merle’s singing an old American tune here. From the Founders to Thoreau to modern Farm Aid concerts, Americans have been of two minds about the city and the country. For some, the city means progress, prosperity, and the development of mind and culture, and the country means the opposite. For others, the country means virtue, tradition, and freedom, and the city means the opposite.

Benjamin Franklin was reported to have said, at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, that his fellow Founders must “all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.” Hang together the Founders did. But they didn’t do so forever, and, after independence and a workable constitution, they soon divided (the vast complexities duly noted) on the issue of city versus country. On the one hand were the Federalist proponents of banks, commerce, manufactures, and cities; on the other, the Democratic-Republican proponents of Jefferson’s agrarian ideals.

Franklin didn’t live to see this division play out, but it’s my guess that he would have sided with the city, albeit with subtle reservations. Franklin is often referred to as “the first American.” That’s true enough. But you might go further, and say that Franklin was also America’s first city slicker.

Read the rest of the Essay at:

Monday, September 08, 2008

More on Ms. Bullwinkle

Palin: wrong woman, wrong message

Sarah Palin shares nothing but a chromosome with Hillary Clinton. She is Phyllis Schlafly, only younger.
By Gloria Steinem
September 4, 2008
Here's the good news: Women have become so politically powerful that even the anti-feminist right wing -- the folks with a headlock on the Republican Party -- are trying to appease the gender gap with a first-ever female vice president. We owe this to women -- and to many men too -- who have picketed, gone on hunger strikes or confronted violence at the polls so women can vote. We owe it to Shirley Chisholm, who first took the "white-male-only" sign off the White House, and to Hillary Rodham Clinton, who hung in there through ridicule and misogyny to win 18 million votes.

But here is even better news: It won't work. This isn't the first time a boss has picked an unqualified woman just because she agrees with him and opposes everything most other women want and need. Feminism has never been about getting a job for one woman. It's about making life more fair for women everywhere. It's not about a piece of the existing pie; there are too many of us for that. It's about baking a new pie.

Selecting Sarah Palin, who was touted all summer by Rush Limbaugh, is no way to attract most women, including die-hard Clinton supporters. Palin shares nothing but a chromosome with Clinton. Her down-home, divisive and deceptive speech did nothing to cosmeticize a Republican convention that has more than twice as many male delegates as female, a presidential candidate who is owned and operated by the right wing and a platform that opposes pretty much everything Clinton's candidacy stood for -- and that Barack Obama's still does. To vote in protest for McCain/Palin would be like saying, "Somebody stole my shoes, so I'll amputate my legs."

This is not to beat up on Palin. I defend her right to be wrong, even on issues that matter most to me. I regret that people say she can't do the job because she has children in need of care, especially if they wouldn't say the same about a father. I get no pleasure from imagining her in the spotlight on national and foreign policy issues about which she has zero background, with one month to learn to compete with Sen. Joe Biden's 37 years' experience.

Palin has been honest about what she doesn't know. When asked last month about the vice presidency, she said, "I still can't answer that question until someone answers for me: What is it exactly that the VP does every day?" When asked about Iraq, she said, "I haven't really focused much on the war in Iraq."

She was elected governor largely because the incumbent was unpopular, and she's won over Alaskans mostly by using unprecedented oil wealth to give a $1,200 rebate to every resident. Now she is being praised by McCain's campaign as a tax cutter, despite the fact that Alaska has no state income or sales tax. Perhaps McCain has opposed affirmative action for so long that he doesn't know it's about inviting more people to meet standards, not lowering them. Or perhaps McCain is following the Bush administration habit, as in the Justice Department, of putting a job candidate's views on "God, guns and gays" ahead of competence. The difference is that McCain is filling a job one 72-year-old heartbeat away from the presidency.

So let's be clear: The culprit is John McCain. He may have chosen Palin out of change-envy, or a belief that women can't tell the difference between form and content, but the main motive was to please right-wing ideologues; the same ones who nixed anyone who is now or ever has been a supporter of reproductive freedom. If that were not the case, McCain could have chosen a woman who knows what a vice president does and who has thought about Iraq; someone like Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison or Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine. McCain could have taken a baby step away from right-wing patriarchs who determine his actions, right down to opposing the Violence Against Women Act.

Palin's value to those patriarchs is clear: She opposes just about every issue that women support by a majority or plurality. She believes that creationism should be taught in public schools but disbelieves global warming; she opposes gun control but supports government control of women's wombs; she opposes stem cell research but approves "abstinence-only" programs, which increase unwanted births, sexually transmitted diseases and abortions; she tried to use taxpayers' millions for a state program to shoot wolves from the air but didn't spend enough money to fix a state school system with the lowest high-school graduation rate in the nation; she runs with a candidate who opposes the Fair Pay Act but supports $500 million in subsidies for a natural gas pipeline across Alaska; she supports drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, though even McCain has opted for the lesser evil of offshore drilling. She is Phyllis Schlafly, only younger.

I don't doubt her sincerity. As a lifetime member of the National Rifle Assn., she doesn't just support killing animals from helicopters, she does it herself. She doesn't just talk about increasing the use of fossil fuels but puts a coal-burning power plant in her own small town. She doesn't just echo McCain's pledge to criminalize abortion by overturning Roe vs. Wade, she says that if one of her daughters were impregnated by rape or incest, she should bear the child. She not only opposes reproductive freedom as a human right but implies that it dictates abortion, without saying that it also protects the right to have a child.

So far, the major new McCain supporter that Palin has attracted is James Dobson of Focus on the Family. Of course, for Dobson, "women are merely waiting for their husbands to assume leadership," so he may be voting for Palin's husband.

Being a hope-a-holic, however, I can see two long-term bipartisan gains from this contest.

Republicans may learn they can't appeal to right-wing patriarchs and most women at the same time. A loss in November could cause the centrist majority of Republicans to take back their party, which was the first to support the Equal Rights Amendment and should be the last to want to invite government into the wombs of women.

And American women, who suffer more because of having two full-time jobs than from any other single injustice, finally have support on a national stage from male leaders who know that women can't be equal outside the home until men are equal in it. Barack Obama and Joe Biden are campaigning on their belief that men should be, can be and want to be at home for their children.

This could be huge.

Gloria Steinem is an author, feminist organizer and co-founder of the Women's Media Center. She supported Hillary Clinton and is now supporting Barack Obama.,0,1290251.story

Sunday, September 07, 2008


Remember the Bull Moose Party of 1912? It was a progessive endeavor to end political corruption and the power of big oil especially Standard Oil. It failed.

McCain and Bullwinkle-- not so funny anymore.

In showing clips of Teddy Roosevelt, the 2008 Republican Convention conjured up that progressive Bull Moose Party Roosevelt headed. However, the only similarity the present Republican presidential nominees have with the Progressives of 1912 are bull and moose: McCain's pretense of being a true maverick- bull, and Palin, the Oil-soaked moose hunter from Alaska.

McCain a symbol of Change? Come on...

What does the Obama/Biden ticket offer that's different? Look up the goals of the Progressive Party. Add to them the return of power to the middle class, the reform of health care, a woman's right to choose, equal rights for gays, the protection of Social Security, an end to aggressive wars, and a return to a position of leadership and responsibility globally, and you have some of it. Better yet, look at the two teams' sets of advisers. Ask which set really represents change.

Either that, or vote for 4 more years of cartoons.


Night of Song

Our night out: Nisa, Wright, Dar and I...

at the Variety Playhouse, enjoying the music of:



Sat, Sept 6, 8:30pm

After a Grammy nomination, and top 10s in The New Yorker and Time Magazine, Tift Merritt took a hiatus with a piano in Paris and came home with her best and most personal songs to date. Her new album Another Country was released February 26 to rave reviews.
“This is a happy record,” Teddy Thompson says of his new Verve Forecast release A Piece of What You Need. “Well, maybe not happy, but upbeat. Actually, maybe not upbeat, but it does have some up-tempo songs! Anyway, it's as close as I've gotten to making the record I've always wanted to make.”
Indeed, happy or not, A Piece of What You Need — Thompson's fourth album overall and his third for Verve — is the London–born, New York–based artist's most ambitious and accomplished effort to date, showcasing his formidable vocal, songwriting and guitar talents while venturing into rewarding new musical and lyrical territory.

--Variety Playhouse

See too:

Tift Merritt

Teddy Thompson

Friday, September 05, 2008

Drink Up

From the AJC:


Age law doesn’t prevent drinking, just increases risks

Anyone between the ages of 18 and 21 who wants to drink does. The question before legislators is whether to allow 18- to 20-year-olds to drink legally in restaurants and clubs. When I turned 18 the thought was if you are old enough to die for your country, you are old enough to drink. That idea seems as true now in the days of Iraq as it was in the ’70s.

At 18, I was able to learn to drink responsibly, not because of low self-esteem, as one reader suggested, but because it was an enjoyable way to spend an evening dining out and being with friends (” Booze salves low self-esteem, Letters, Aug. 27).

Today’s college crowd has to sneak around, learn how to break the law and often ends up driving drunk and doing far more harm than my generation did. In Europe, beer is available in vending machines, with the result that there is less drunkenness and drunk driving. It is unreasonable repression that breeds low self-esteem and dangerous excess.




Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Lights Were Bright

Four days in New York provided us with dazzling performances on Broadway, food and fun in Greenwich Village (check out the Duplex Piano Bar), a day in Central Park, soaking up the sun, the cool breeze, and the ambiance of New York and its denizens, including free champagne at the Waldorf Astoria, apple cheesecake at the Roxy, and a spacious, luxurious room looking out over Park Avenue at Kimpton's 70 Park Avenue.

Patty LaPone's Momma Rose won a Tony. Picture and review from The New York Times (click)
Even the Orchestra is Beautiful

In addition to the stellar production of
Gypsy, we also saw Spring Awakening, a musical drama of teenage angst and sexual awakening in a repressive German town a century ago. The songs were rhapsodic and the current star, Hunter Parrish, embodied the rebellious anarchism of Melchior beautifully.

See the web site images.

And Read the great review.

Hunter Parrish is Melchior

And last, but hardly least, Dar and I appeared and danced on the stage of the Helen Hayes Theatre's production of Xanadu with Whoopie Goldberg and the rest of the cast.

Clever review of our third play.

Heaven on Wheels...

Peter Lueders/Paul Kolnik Studio

Cheyenne Jackson and Kerry Butler in “Xanadu,” a spoof of the 1980 movie starring Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly.

Our new fave restaurant is:



(Credit: Photo by Dana N Laventure)
Though few people even know what "gluten" is, those who are allergic to it flock to Risotteria. It's one of the few restaurants in New York City catering to the wheat allergy with a gluten-free menu. It has several varieties of creamy risotto, the house specialty, and the fresh baked pizza dough (also gluten-free) is out of this world. The atmosphere is simple, but inviting as the staff is happy to pull up a chair and let you dish about your favorite dish.

Neighborhood: Greenwich Village
270 Bleecker St.

New York, NY 10014