Archive

  • 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...
  • "Keep the Government Away From My Medicare!"

    Kevin does some digging and finds that the poor and the elderly -- the two groups that rely primarily on government-run program for their health care -- are way more satisfied than the rest of us. He finds this confusing, puzzling even. I think it's somewhat explained by an anecdote from The Choice . The authors are walking through an airport with John Breaux when an old woman runs up to him and says: Senator, don't you dare let the government get its hands on my Medicare! Without missing a beat, Breaux replies: Don't worry madam, I won't. I think that about explains it. We've so fully demonized government-run health care that we won't even believe it can work when it already is . The totality of propaganda's triumph over not just the facts, but our subjective interpretation of the facts (i.e, how satisfied we are with our health care) is truly stunning. Ugh. In light of all this health care talk, I'll be working on a little feature this week. Every day, I'm going to profile a...
  • Clark 08

    Looks like Clark is readying himself for 2008. Good. Longtime readers know I was a big Clark-booster in 04 and I think all the same arguments will apply this time around, so I'm glad to see him taking it seriously. Looking back, there's little doubt in my mind that, had Clark entered the primaries when Dean did, he would've won them. I'm also convinced that Kerry/Clark rather than Kerry/Edwards would have taken home the presidential bacon. Kerry thought his resume enough to prove his national security cred; he was wrong. I remain certain that the reason John lost was because it was easier to imagine Bush traipsing through Vietnam than it was to see Kerry do the same -- appearances, unfortunately, matter. Happily, Clark oozes military. It's impossible to imagine the guy anywhere else . And that's the key thing for a Democrat right now. We've got a persistent advantage on domestic issues and the credibility we've built there is attached to the party, any nominee can use it. What we don'...
  • Pop Culture Smartens Up

    Brooks' column today is, well, very good . Break out the party hats and noisemakers, it's a perfectly sound meditation on the paradoxical relationship between an increasingly sexual culture and a decreasingly sexual youth that doesn't pivot into insane ravings in the last paragraph. Huzzah! This culture stuff, by the way, is exactly the sort of column Brooks should stick to. He's quite entertaining and often profound when evaluating the contours of American life, it's when he tries to enter the political trenches that his pen loses its individuality and his fairness becomes a cynical ploy. Anyway, I'm digressing. Brooks is right that culture is actually getting better, though he focuses only on the sexual aspect of it. My experience would back him up -- UCLA is a stunningly virginal campus, and many I knew in high school kept up impressively chaste profiles (many did not, but the orgies were rarer than the prayer meetings). Santa Cruz was much more sexually active, though it had an...
  • Downer Sunday

    Brad Plumer's post on Sudan reminded me of a point I've wanted to make. Despite the Bush administration's criminal negligence of the issue, they've actually been among the most attentive to genocide in memory. Save Clinton's eventual intervention in Kosovo -- and that was different because it was in Europe -- the level of indifference and cynicism American politicians exhibit towards African atrocities is stomach-turning. Bush, to his credit, has been willing to call it a genocide (a surprisingly large step), support various measures to stop it, and actually work to keep some degree of attention on the situation. Should we be doing more? Yes, much. But Bush's failures are nastily endemic to the American government, they're not specific to him. The one Western leader who does care about Africa in a serious, sustained manner is Tony Blair. Indeed, he's actually sent troops to stop a genocide (Sierra Leone), and many observers think that he'd do the same in Sudan if his position in...
  • Thank You NetFlix

    So I spent a good chunk of my Saturday blowing through Season 1 of Coupling (the BBC version). That's a really, really, really funny show -- props to those who kept recommending it. But guffawing aside, three questions: • Did anyone else find the fifth episode, the one where Jeff hits on the absurdly attractive Israeli who can't speak a word of English, completely impossible to get into? It's a general problem for me. I'm willing to suspend my disbelief fairly often, but I somehow can't clear the mental hurdle erected when situational comedies beg me to believe that stunningly attractive girl X is madly attracted to schlumpy, borderline-retarded character Y. I try, but just can't. For that reason, I think it'd be impossible to watch King of Queens. I've seen it on airplanes and, aside from the not-funny issue, the premise of a fat, irritating, socially-awkward UPS delivery-man marrying, yes, a super hot and put-together woman just doesn't fit. And being unable to buy the foundation of...

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