Archive

  • It's Not Me, It's You

    Lula, whose government is now so rife with corruption that the populist is facing impeachment, has apparently decided on a new public relations strategy. Protesting innocence and offering exculpatory evidence is for losers, the new breed of angel-pure, Latin-American leftists simply tells the citizenry that they're a bunch of scumbags and should stop being so goddamn hypocritical: As his government and his reputation collapse around him, Mr. da Silva in Brazil has taken a similar tack. He initially contended that "as regards its electoral behavior, the Workers' Party did what has been done systematically in Brazil." But he has since abandoned those excuses in favor of protestations of innocence and personal integrity. "Among 180 million Brazilians, there is no one, neither man nor woman, with the authority to lecture me about ethics, morals or honesty," he said in a speech here last week. "In this country, the person who can debate ethics with me has yet to be born." There's also a...
  • Cage Fighting

    Incidentally, what's all this fuss over cage fighting? I mean, not my cup of tea, but if a bunch of wannabe-warriors want to step between chicken wire and beat the consensual crap out of each other, who cares? I'm glad that they have fewer deaths than boxing, I'm pleased that the cage prevents whiplash, but in the end, when people want to do stupid shit outside the eyes of regulation, there's not a whole lot that can be done to stop them. Indeed, if you really were concerned about safety, you wouldn't criminalize or shun the sport, you'd try and usher it into some sort of more regulated, more codified system where the rules could be normalized, best-methods for safety could be observed, and competent referees could keep an eye on the action. When I was 15, I went to the Southern California championships for wrestling. It was my first year on varsity, I was a sophomore. In my first match, my opponent, an older, lumbering, heavier guy, flipped me. Generally, I did well with bigger dudes...
  • Priorities

    Don't you wish some of our leaders still thought like this? Medicare's history suggests that tough problems in health care can be solved, but only after long struggle, and only with visionary and effective leadership from the highest reaches of our political system. Johnson pulled out all the stops for Medicare. He told Vice President Hubert Humphrey on March 6, 1965: "I'll go a hundred million or a billon on health or education. I don't argue about that any more than I argue about Lady Bird buying flour." He added: "I may cut back some tanks. But not on health." To be fair, we do now have a Republican party that wants more tanks, more health, free cake and ice cream, subsidized trips to amusement parks, and lower taxes. But were the crunch ever to come, or were it ever to be recognized, you know exactly what'd go first. Last year we beat back an assault on Medicaid. But as the budget gets worse, if housing pops, if the economy turns south -- it'll revolve right back up to the...
  • Will the Real David Brooks Please Stand Up?

    What's happened to David Brooks? I mean that seriously -- no snark. What's gone wrong there? The other day I picked up BoBos in Paradise at a used bookstore and it's great. Funny and light-hearted and incisive in a way that really rings true, at least for me and my crowd. It's got great one-liners ("At that point, it had not yet become unfashionable to get sick and die") and chapter-long meditations, like the opening riff on professional weddings, that are actually intellectually provocative. And then...what? His last column was on the difficulty of taking kids on airplanes. Not the laws of it, not the sociology of it, just the fact that kids misbehave and parents are at a loss. Way to cover new ground, David! His political columns skim hackery a few times before sinking into party-line talking points. This guy was good. He was funny and personable and insightful. What happened? And where do we find another one?
  • So Understated

    But Nathan, how do you really feel ?
  • The Struggle Against Extremism?

    I don't imagine I'm the only one made seriously nervous by the Bush administration's rebranding of "the Global War on Terror" as the "Global Struggle Against Extremism". I remember, back in the good ol' days of Tom Daschle and Jim Jeffords, how we all complained that the War on Terror was a mind-shatteringly broad label, that it would never end, that you could no more kill terror than eradicate roundhouse kicks. But even so, there was a comforting definition to it: terror, as used in the label, was a verb. We were going after those who plunged nailbombs down subway holes and entered cafes with dynamite strapped to their chest. Broad it may have been, but it made sense and it denoted something relatively specific. But the struggle against extremism? What the hell is that? Whose extremism? Only Arabs? What about Palestinians? Israeli settlers, anti-abortion protestors, socialists? Those weird folks who plaster college campuses in anti-circumcision propaganda? The war on terror promised...
  • Gore on Health

    Via The Carpetbagger , this just about clinches the Gore deal for me. What worries me about Hillary, and has for awhile , is how hemmed in she is on health care. After the total failure that was her first attempt at a major overhaul, her credibility and, thus, ability to push for substantive reform is asymptotically approaching zilch. She'll have to be an incrementalist. She'll get things done, sure, but small things, like IT, not big things, like single-payer. That's not because she's philosophically opposed to the project -- at least I don't think she is -- but the media storyline (Hillarycare 2!) would be ext to impossible to overcome. Gore has no such constraints. More to the point, he's already endorsed single-payer: "I think we've reached a point where the entire health care system is in impending crisis," Gore said. "I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that we should begin drafting a single-payer national health insurance plan." Just having such a major figure push that...
  • So Polarizing

    File this one under "The Red/Blue Divide is a Simplistic Heuristic that Obscures More Interesting Truths Underneath, and I am a Windy Wordbag". Hillary Clinton's most lucrative state is, of course, New York. But who's in the #2 spot? Not California. Not Florida. Not Illinois. Not Oregon. Texas . And there's an interesting "why" to it, or at least to part of it. Much of her money is coming from the poor Rio Grand Valley area. Apparently, Hillary has friends in unexpected places: Cantu [Hillary's top fundraiser] says Clinton is "wildly popular" in the Rio Grande Valley, largely because of the issues for which she stands. People cannot forget the former first lady from her White House days, when she and husband Bill toured South Texas, showing an interest in the economically troubled region while most politicians had abandoned it. "A lot of people are excited about her and maybe her future," he says. "They feel she knows the valley, and if she got elected to higher office, she'd help us...
  • That Principled GOP

    I just love this : But the House speaker, J. Dennis Hastert, told [Rep. Hayes] they needed his vote anyway. If he switched from "nay" to "aye," Mr. Hayes recounted, Mr. Hastert promised to push for whatever steps he felt were necessary to restrict imports of Chinese clothing, which has been flooding into the United States in recent months. Sometimes, the only way to get free trade is to restrict free trade. The world is funny like that. "This became much bigger than Cafta, because it became a political issue," said Rob Portman, the United States trade representative. "It was important to our position as the global leader on trade, so we had to fight back, and to fight back meant being very aggressive, explaining why it was good." Because it'll get the GOP to take a more protectionist stance on China. Now I see why it passed... "What was the cost to the U.S. taxpayer for the president, with all of his power and all of his influence at his disposal, what was the cost to U.S. taxpayers...
  • Lame Duck?

    The Times has a piece lauding the enormous efficiency of the Bush machine on Capitol Hill. CAFTA, the transportation bill, the energy boondoggle -- all are passing and this duck, once thought to be lame, is soaring with the eagles. Of course, this is really like being impressed that a waterfowl with a jetpack is able to get airborn. The media, much of the time, does not quite seem to comprehend the importance and legislative power of Bush's party controlling the House and the Senate. It's rather hard to imagine how, save for a major intraparty schism, Bush could become a lame duck in this legislative situation, at least on relatively uncontroversial issues. And save for CAFTA, Bush's accomplishments have been relatively uncontroversial. Democrats won on the energy bill. What stopped passage last year was DeLay's amendment to retroactively shield MTBE manufacturers from lawsuits. This year, it got dropped. The transportation bill was so loaded with pork that everyone wanted it to go...

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