The Wheat and Chaff — Obsessions, Compulsions, Disorders


Jeremy Scahill’s “Dirty Wars” and the Cost of Us-Them Thinking
by MATT B.
I just saw Jeremy Scahill’s documentary Dirty Wars, and it got me thinking about the phrase “American lives.” You hear it from politicians all the time: it’s the thing they’re going to protect, the thing that motivates the policies they’re going to adopt or the actions they’ve already taken. And like any phrase that you

Getting the Flu: A Four-Day Forced Meditation Retreat
by MATT B.
I haven’t left the house much over the last couple of days. My sheets are bunched up at the foot of the bed, clothes are strewn all over the floor, and containers of half-eaten soup and Emergen-C scan the wasteland from their perches on desktops and chairs. It’s been wonderful. In fact, it’s a lot

If You Have $250 Million, You Shouldn’t Be President
by MATT B. on OCTOBER 24, 2012
Just for a moment, let’s put aside questions of economic policy. Let’s also put aside questions about how Mitt Romney made his money, or about the moral legitimacy of the system that allowed him to make money in the ways that he did. For just a second, let’s focus on the money itself and what

Case Dismissed! Charges Dropped in My Bizarre Arrest at a January Romney Event
by MATT B.
In January, I had one of the weirder and more unsettling experiences of my life – after (possibly) being mistaken for a protester, I was removed and then arrested for “criminal trespass” at a public Mitt Romney event in Hudson, NH. Recently, I got some great news: the case has been dismissed! No charges, no trial,

The Evasion of Ethics at Harvard Kennedy School, Or Why Digging Deep into Ethics Makes Us Better Policymakers

We face enormous challenges: global warming, poverty, health care, terrorism. Dealing with these challenges requires deep thinking about a range of moral questions. What is it to be a human being? How do we work? What’s good for us? What do we owe to one another? Unfortunately, HKS doesn’t do much to encourage this kind

To Bet or Not to Bet? Why Gambling on Elections is Wrong
by MATT B.
Many mornings this spring, my roommate, Teddy, and I have speculated about how the Republican candidates are likely to fare in states we’ve never visited. Our third roommate, Ben, stays quiet and seeks out the most reliable polling information he knows. “InTrade has Romney up by 4,” Ben will say. When he does so,

William James, Mental Illness, and God: How OCD Helps Me Understand Certain Varieties of Religious Experience
by MATT B.
In his lecture on “The Reality of the Unseen,” William James describes how some people perceive gods or spirits just as vividly as they perceive objects directly in front of them. He quotes a fellow professor on his experiences with a mysterious, spirit-like presence. For several nights, the colleague writes, he felt the presence steal into

Five Disturbing Things About Mitt Romney’s “I’m Not Concerned About the Very Poor” Comments
by MATT B. on FEBRUARY 1, 2012
Yup, not a typo. Romney made those remarks in an interview with Soledad O’Brien this morning. After all, he said, “We have a very ample safety net and we can talk about whether it needs to be strengthened or whether there are holes in it.” Several things. First, it shouldn’t really be up for debate: there

“Lock Yourself in Your Bathroom and Then Imagine You Have to Stay There for the Next Ten Years”: The Slow Torture of Life in the American Prison System
by MATT B.
I try not to use this blog as an outlet for re-posts, but this article screams to be shared. In it, The New Yorker‘s Adam Gopnik describes the intense, time-warping agony of life in prison: “It isn’t the horror of the time at hand but the unimaginable sameness of the time ahead that makes prisons unendurable for their inmates.

Tens of Thousands of Responses to My Arrest at a Romney Event in New Hampshire
by MATT B.
Over the past several days, I’ve been astonished at the response to my arrest at a Mitt Romney event in New Hampshire. Folks from around the country have written with offers of legal assistance, and the incident has sparked intense discussions around civil liberties and campaign tactics across the internet. It’s been tweeted thousands of