Book Review — Dave Zirin’s People’s History of Sports in the United States: 250 Years of Politics, Protest, People, and Play


Dave Zirin’s rebellious, myth-busting history of sports in America tells an alternative history of the U. S. as reflected in the games Americans play or follow as spectators. Sports are not mere games, as Zirin shows. Sports mirror and illuminate the political conflicts that have shaped American society.

Zirin and his new book join arms with the rebel athletes like Ali or Pat Tillman. He reveals how sports have been used by the people in power to stoke the fires of war, corporate control, racism, sexism, and homophobia. “A People’s History of Sports in the United States: 250 Years of Politics, Protest, People, and Play” is replete with surprises for seasoned sports fans, while historical and political junkies will be amazed by the connections Zirin draws between politics and pop flies. There’s as much in his book on the Civil Rights Movement as there is on pro baseball or basketball. As Jeff Chang, author of “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop,” puts it, “After you read him, you’ll never see sports the same way again.” Continue reading

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Book Review — The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University


Kevin Roose was an ordinary sophomore majoring in English at Brown University before he happened upon an original idea. When interning for writer A. J. Jacobs, Roose met some students at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University and became convinced there was a divide to be bridged between such God-oriented young conservatives and more typical secular college kids like himself. He met with a dean, and then went undercover for a semester at “Liberty.” His book about the experience, The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University, is surprisingly funny as well as touching.
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Just Like His Boss, Presidential Advisor Goolsbee Keeps His Cool in Chicago


Austan Goolsbee, chief economist for President Barack Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board and a member of the Council of Economic Advisors, was in fine form Monday when he came to Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, to address the Institute for Policy Research.

The Texas born, Ivy educated administration advisor came across as more of a Will Rogers than a policy wonk as he described his personal initiation into real-time politics and commented on topics like the Dodd financial reform bill that has been working its painful way to the Senate floor for a vote. Goolsbee was, after all, named “Funniest Celebrity in Washington” in 2009, beating out Joe the Plumber, that honest-to-goodness political clown.

Back in 2004, however, when Goolsbee was first brought in to advise Obama in his campaign for a U.S. Senate seat, the University of Chicago business school economist had not even met Obama. “Professor Goolsbee,” as staffers then referred to him, suddenly was called on to help shoot down GOP candidate Alan Keyes’ offbeat proposal to exempt descendants of slavery from paying income taxes. (He now describes Keyes as “the bomb thrower of all bomb throwers.”) When put on the spot, the analytical, data-based academic researcher hastily came up with “trillions” as the probable cost, while noting that it was kind of hard to say. Continue reading

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Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein Explore the Nudges and Nudgers That Shape Our Lives


Our goal is to give benevolent nudgers an instruction manual.  The evil nudgers have already mastered most of these tools, alas.

— Richard H. Thaler, Coauthor with Cass R. Sunstein of Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness

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In a most intriguing yet wonkish bookNudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness — Professors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein (who has been nominated by President Obama to serve as “regulatory czar” overseeing the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs*) bring the world of behavioral economics down to a very entertaining and user-friendly plane. Talking about choice architecture, they give concrete examples in chapter after chapter of how real people pick and decide their way through life, sometimes effectively, other times to their own detriment. They look at all kinds of institutional “nudges” that influence choices, from street stripes painted to fool drivers into slowing down, to targets in urinals that, well, you get the picture — nudges are everywhere. And the authors show ways we can all nudge and get nudged more wisely. Sometimes, it’s as simple as designing a better form or engineering-in a better default option. Continue reading

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Christine Bowman Wins BuzzFlash Wings of Justice For Standing Up For Those Whose Voices Needed to Be Heard

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Christine Bowman

We give the Wings of Justice award each week to someone who rises above and beyond what they are supposed to do. This week, we honor one of our own.

Christine Bowman has been at BuzzFlash for the last five years, and she is one of the most remarkable and talented editors we’ve ever had the privilege to work with. Continue reading

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High Court’s Supremely Flawed DNA Ruling Puts States Rights Before Due Process, Justice, Public Safety and Empathy

by Christine Bowman

supreme courtAt the Supreme Court of the United States Thursday, a 5-4 ruling against William Osborne seemed to confirm that ideology and lack of empathy trump everything else for some of the right-leaning justices now serving there. “Although the right wing bloc obviously consider themselves on the ‘law and order’ side of the bench, their lack of empathy in this matter actually promotes lawlessness and needlessly puts women in danger,” one court observer wrote yesterday. Continue reading

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Who Could Vote for Hate? Why, the Fundamentalists and the GOP Right Wing, of Course.

by Christine Bowman

Congress and AG Eric Holder are Standing Up To Hate. Fundamentalists and GOP Disingenuously Ask, ‘Hate? What Hate?’

Hate crimes are up — especially against gays and Latinos. “There has been a documented rise in these threats of violence” which have been “stoked by extreme political rhetoric… sensationalism and irresponsibility that we’ve seen on talk-show radio and other forms of communication, like the Internet,” Wade Henderson, head of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, reports.

A new and broader hate-crime bill that should help address the issue passed in the House in late April [vote summary here], and it is slated to be taken up by the Senate before August. Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) introduced the bill, and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Arlen Specter (D-PA) are cosponsors.  Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) called hate crimes “a unique brand of evil” that distresses entire communities. Continue reading

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