Archive

  • Transitional Popes

    If I were the new Pope, I'd be feeling a bit weird right now. In fact, not only now; I'd be downright nervous whenever someone glanced at their watch in my presence. What's the rush? With all the commentary focusing on Ratzinger's status as a transitional (read: likely to die soon) Pope, he's got to be feeling the reality of mortality pretty acutely. You'd think this transitional idea would be something the Cardinals could keep to themselves, but apparently not. Instead, Ratzinger emerged Pope amid ecstatic cries of "He's so old!" and "I bet his health is failing" and, the current crowd favorite, "the real question is who'll be the next Pope when he dies, which will be soon?" Odd folk, these Catholics are. They take all the fun out of promotion.
  • The Health of Nations: England

    Welcome to the second installment of The Health of Nations (though it's the first one to sport a clever title). I'm your host, Ezra, and I'll be taking you on a deadly-dull tour through England's health care system. An uninteresting topic set in a country known for its dullness, should be a party. And speaking of the party, you don't want to show up not knowing anybody. So if you missed yesterday's edition on France , you might want to give it a look-see. Da' Basics: Britain's health care system finds its roots in a document called the Beveridge report. The report argued that the health care system Britain had in the 40's -- which covered about half the country and used political patronage as its sorting mechanism -- should be combined with the rest of the country's fragmented social programs and administered in a uniform way. Thus the National Health Service was created. The NHS is mostly funded through taxes -- 82% of it is, to be exact. Of the remaining, 13% comes from employer-...
  • Well Put

    Harry Reid sent Mitch McConnell a letter on "the nuclear option" today. It's good enough to reprint in full, text below the fold:
  • Da New Pope

    Well ladies and gents, looks like we have a new Pope. German frontrunner Joseph Ratzinger was chosen today, taking the name Benedict XVI. So who is he? Well we've got this profile from the Washington Post, which says: He wrote a letter of advice to U.S. bishops on denying communion to politicians who support abortion rights, which some observers viewed as a slam at Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry. He publicly cautioned Europe against admitting Turkey to the European Union and wrote a letter to bishops around the world justifying that stand on the grounds that the continent is essentially Christian in nature. In another letter to bishops worldwide, he decried a sort of feminism that makes women "adversaries" of men. ... He is a lightning rod for church liberals who see the hierarchy as reactionary. Ratzinger was active in stamping out liberation theology, with its emphasis on grass-roots activism to fight poverty and its association with Marxist movements. He once...
  • Incentives

    Jesse's got a great swipe at those who'd deny women the morning after pill: Does anybody here know why the morning-after pill has a 72-hour window? Anyone? Well, you see, when the mommy half and the daddy half get together, it's a process called "fertilization". The problem is, however, that unless that fertilized mommy-and-daddy bit is implanted in the mommy's tummy, it can't ever become a baby nine months later. Unless it's implanted, it's a combined bit of regularly produced bodily secretions that in its then-current state cannot develop any further. I'm not going to speculate on why there's a contingent of Americans dead-set against allowing women avoid pregnancy even before implantation has occurred; it's enough to simply say they're wrong. And while I know this stuff is supposedly icky -- particularly talk about fertilization! -- morning-after pills and condoms and the like are really quite popular. American parents aren't running around worrying their daughters will abort, they...
  • Heavens to Betsy!

    The New York Times has a tidy little editorial on the train wreck that is the House Energy Bill. Read it . But midway through, the piece gives in to the sort of fresh-faced naivete that makes you wonder who put a newborn in charge of writing opinions for the nation's preeminent paper. Witness: The House is moving quickly and with sad predictability toward approval of yet another energy bill heavily weighted in favor of the oil, gas and coal industries. In due course the Senate may give the country something better. But unless Mr. Bush rapidly elevates the discussion, any bill that emerges from Congress is almost certain to fall short of the creative strategies needed to confront the two great energy-related issues of the age: the country's increasing dependency on imported oil, and global warming, which is caused chiefly by the very fuels the bill so generously subsidizes. And unless drug dealers take a stand against drugs, kids will continue to use! Watching the Times scratch the...
  • Marla Ruzicka

    DHinMI's obituary for Marla Ruzicka, the aid worker murdered in Iraq yesterday, is an essential read, remembering her is the least we can do. Actually, that's not true, learning from her is the least we can do. Because Marla lived a lesson that many of us desperately need to learn. She understood that great good could come in the aftermath of great evil, and that the perpetrators of the latter could be your best allies in achieving the former. Ruzicka was no fan of the war, that much is sure. But once it had been engaged, she saw that the chaos it left had to be filled with something more positive, more beneficial, more sound. And so she set about trying to actualize that, and did a hell of a job right up until her death. She enlisted all available allies, from NGO's to liberal organizations to the Senate right up to the US Army. No group, no matter how culpable, was off-limits in her quest to heal the country. And every group, no matter how culpable, joined her in her efforts. The...
  • The Iran-India Pipeline

    America is very, very stupid if they keep opposing the natty gas pipeline between Iran and India. Aside from the points Perkovich and Prasad bring up in their op-ed (clean gas for India, cooperation between India and Pakistan, development of Iranian natural gas, rather than nuclear, resources), tying Iran to so much Indian revenue would create another point of pressure that can be brought to bear when Iran wants to misbehave. If we can make a deal with India that we'll throw our support behind the venture (and maybe help them out in some other venues) so long as they pledge to use their economic influence to keep Iran in line, we'd have a best of both worlds situation. India would have some clean energy that wouldn't destroy their -- and our -- environment and Iran would have a partner who they'd need to remain in good standing with and who could thus demand some degree of responsible behavior from them. Blocking this pipeline out of simple spite would be the most myopic, short-...
  • Health Care: France

    Because the blogs are populated by that rarest of above-ground breeds, the policy nerd, there's been a lot of talk lately about the health care structures of various other countries, how they stack up with ours, and why we lose. What there hasn't been is much information on how these other countries actually work, save for "better" and with "more government". Since I have a very peculiar idea of what "fun" is, I'm going to try and correct that. Each day this week I'll be writing a bare bones guide to another country's health system so when you're discussing say, France, you know how it works rather than that it simply works better than ours does. Speaking of France, I'm going to start with them, because they've gotten the most attention recently. Tomorrow I'll do England, the next day Germany, Thursday will be Australia, and Friday we'll do Canada. It'll be fun, I don't promise. Alright then, off we go: France:
  • Gas Prices Burn

    The LA Times has an interesting article on the hit fuel prices are handing small businesses. Makes sense, particularly if your work has a roving component (gardener, pizza delivery, etc). Nevertheless, this strikes me as quite a non-story. Gas prices are higher, but not that much higher. We're dealing with an increase of around 30 cents a gallon (at least here in the Southland), seems to me that small business has larger fish to fry, it's just the LA Times that didn't. It will, on the other hand, be pretty fascinating to see what happens when oil becomes really expensive, $4 or $5 bucks a gallon. Considering the lifetime costs of that, you're likely to see a lot of investments in new, more fuel-efficient capital. That means everything from hybrid cars to window insulation to white paint for your roofs (did you know that if LA painted its roofs white it'd save about 1,500 megawatts of power on cooling, or about 3% of California's Summer load?) to thicker copper wires (retain...

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