Back in the late 1600s, people noticed that houses sometimes caught on fire and burned down. This sometimes even spread to nearby houses and destroyed a great deal of property and killed or injured a number of people. At the time, the best defense was forming a community bucket brigade to pass water from one person to the next to throw it on the fire. But then someone had a great idea: form a permanent organization whose job it would be to put out fires. How do you pay for such a thing? Private fire insurance. How well did that work? Well, like an HMO, it was better than nothing.
Barack Obama gets an A- for his first 100 days as president on pretty much every issue. His cabinet appointments have been clumsy, and his handling of the stimulus package unnecessarily watered down good economics with bad to satisfy Republicans who then voted against it anyway. But for the most part, he has done an excellent job of rehabilitatiing the United States on the world stage and handling the break down of the economy. The test he has failed was on the subject of torture.
The election of Barack Obama to the presidency means a lot to this country and to the world. It means that we can begin getting some respect back in the international community. It means we can open new dialogs with both allies and enemies. It means our government will stop ordering scientific reports altered to fit their world view. It will stop casually spying on our own citizens. It will stop torturing suspects and sending suspects to foreign countries to be tortured. It means our government will find a way out of Iraq.
An open letter to my brother
You know you're a Republican. You think you're a conservative. But progress does funny things to politics. They shift over time. Let's put yours in perspective.
Your wife works outside the home. You don't expect your children to follow in the family business. You're even sending them to college.
You appreciate that Social Security is your mother's only source of income and that it will be an important part of your retirement plan.
You're not a sexist. You're not a racist. You're not an anti-semite. You even tolerate gay people, as long as they stay in the shadows. You oppose abortion.
You like having clean air, clean drinking water, and rivers that don't catch fire because corporations have dumped horrible chemicals into them. And you recognize that other regulations on business are a necessary evil.
You would have made a great Democrat fifty years ago.
What kind of choice is Sarah Palin as a running mate for John McCain? A weird one. On first blush, Palin looks right enough: she's a state governor and former mayor, 44, and looking to advance into the passenger seat of the presidency perhaps as a stepping stone to the driver's seat 4 or 8 years later. What's wrong with that? Plenty of governors have run for and even won the White House, including TR, FDR, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and George W Bush. But Alaska isn't like most other states. It's geographically gigantic, but in terms of people, it's tiny—47th in the nation. Being governor of Alaska is like being the mayor of a medium-sized city.
A new Slate article on the presidential names is about the laziest piece of writing I've ever seen on presidential history. The author claims that "Barack Hussein Obama" is such an unusual name that it is entirely out of keeping with American history—largely true—and that past presidents and even presidential candidates have all had very ordinary names, which is patently ridiculous.
Bush gets Libby off, destroys last vestiges of honor
George W Bush has always styled himself "the decider." He decides if Saddam is dangerous. He decides if Rice will talk to Congress. He decides if Rumsfeld is incompetent. He decides if Gonzales is a hack. He decides if it's okay to spy on Americans, imprison people without charges, and torture suspects. And now he decides if Scooter Libby should serve more of his sentence for obstructing justice than Paris Hilton served for driving on a suspended license.
Want to clean up Congress? Give them more money
When Bill Clinton left the White House to his successor, he had arranged with Congress a pay raise for the president (such things always take effect for the next guy). Cost of living increases had driven many federal jobs' salaries up close to his paltry $200 thousand annual salary, and it was becoming embarrassing. Congress members vote themselves raises pretty regularly. Of course, voters often complain about this—pretty much every time Congress votes themselves a pay raise, in fact—even tho US government employees, from the president on down, make lousy money. Lousy. And DC is an expensive place to live.
W's strategy for Iraq is to choke the enemy with our dead
Stop him before he kills again. Over the holidays, the American dead in Iraq topped 3,000. That's well short of the 58,000 that died in Vietnam, but it's a hell of a lot closer than any sane human being imagined. And it's a hell of a lot more than any rational human being would persist in the face of. That 3,000 dead not during a shooting war, but during the rebuilding after the war. It's not a war of attrition; it's an occupation of attrition. That's like getting scored on for 30 points after the final whistle. It doesn't make sense.
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