29 June 2009

Waxman-Markey

So Waxman-Markey is the big bill that recently went through the House and is making a run for the Senate. You can usually tell someone's position on it just by how they describe it: if they call it a "climate bill," then they probably want it to pass because they want a looming problem addressed, but if they call it an "energy bill" then they probably don't want it to pass because they think it will cripple America's energy supply and industry. But that's not always true. Sometimes you have to read their nonsense.

Jim Lindgren at the Volokh Conspiracy offers a pretty standard conservative view:
The idea that a government of one country could appreciably change the world's climate over the next 40 years is the ultimate hubris. ... With the Climate Bill, if someone had to waste as much money and destroy as many jobs and as much wealth as possible — and still have only a trivial effect on the environment — the Climate Bill would be pretty much the ideal piece of legislation.

This is a very common sentiment on the right, but it's very unfortunate that it's cropping up at Volokh, which is usually a solid repository of well-thought-out conservative bloggers. It's disappointing they put up such standard hogwash about the bill. Lindgren doesn't bother to offer many facts or silly things in his post, but he has previously supported himself with such gems as this WSJ editorial (the height of scientific data) which is so bizarrely myopic that it's painful. The right's dialog seems to have gone:
  1. We'll support this bill if it doesn't cost very much, but it will cost every household thousands of dollars. The CBO will prove it.
  2. Well, the CBO actually says it will cost only $175 a year per household, but the CBO study is flawed.
  3. The EPA may agree and in fact say it will cost much less than that, but the requirements are still unrealistic. It's part of a renewable energy scam, and global warming isn't going to cause much harm since it will only bring down global GDP by 5%.
  4. Okay, that 5% might represent a huge number of extremely poor countries and their billions of residents, but... um...
Unfortunately, that's where everyone seems to end. It doesn't help conservatives that polling has a lot of people favoring this bill: Nate Silver at 538 did his usual mathemagic and found that there was an "indifference point" in household price below which people were willing to pay to help the climate, and Waxman-Markey is below this even by the higher CBO estimate.

Let's put it frankly: from an environmental standpoint, this bill sucks. It demands 20% renewable energy in ten years (with allowances for 5% efficiency savings to be part of this total), when we should be aiming for at least 30% in that timeframe. It tries for a 17% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020, when we should be aiming for double that number. There are no international provisions to speak of. It's not a very good bill.

But it's the best one that can pass, and even then it's going to be tough. Big industries in the Midwest own a lot of people in Congress, even the most socially liberal Democrats, and a hell of a lot of concessions had to be given away to make this happen. Plus, in ten years when disaster hasn't struck from above, it's going to be a great stepping stone to the next effort.

So all in all, I support it strongly. Let's hope it passes the Senate.

25 June 2009

Redesign

I'm tweaking my blog's layout a bit, trying out a new graphic at the top and a colors change. I like it.

Republicans 101

Listed in order of prominence:
  • Rush Limbaugh - Now widely considered the head of the GOP, this popular radio host who has struggled with addiction to prescription painkillers is reviled by almost everyone outside of a core of strong conservatives. Limbaugh has long led the charge against moderation in the party, snarling at "RINO"s (Republican In Name Only) and heaping vitriol on those who disagree. He did, however, help instill a large part of the notorious GOP discipline (his followers willingly call themselves "dittoheads") - since anyone who steps outside the lines gets immediately and forever attacked.
  • Dick Cheney - Another figure who is considered a leader of the party, this former Vice President is also not in elected office. He has spent a great deal of time in political gamesmanship of late, trying to defend the Bush administration. With both him and Rush being so strongly influential yet not beholden to an electorate, the GOP has swerved further and further away from the kind of politics that actually win elections. They have no incentive to promote GOP action on what the people actually want, like the 73% who want a public option in healthcare.
  • Newt Gingrich - A former Congressman and Speaker of the House, Gingrich is often remembered for his Contract with America that started a massive Republican resurgence. He is also remembered for the epic showdown with President Clinton about government spending; what began as a fight for "fiscal discipline" was revealed to be more politics and personal when Gingrich snapped that they wouldn't have had to crack down if he hadn't been snubbed by the President and put in the back of Air Force One. Humiliated and removed, he has become yet another highly vocal and influential Republican figure who isn't in elected office.
  • Gov. Bobby Jindal - A folksy Indian-American and governor of Louisiana, Jindal's star was rapidly on the rise - he was sometimes called the "Republican Obama" - when he was called upon to issue the response to Obama's State of the Union last year. The miserable effort was bizarre (attacking "volcano monitoring" as wasteful!) and strongly resembled a goofy character named Kenneth on the popular television program and commerical 30 Rock. In short order, his futures dimmed and haven't brightened.
  • Gov. Sarah Palin - Yeah. Palin.
  • Gov. Mark Sanford, Sen. John Ensign, Sen. David Vitter - All three of these well-thought-of Republicans recently confessed to some degree of hypocrisy, admitting that they cheated on their wives. Sanford's own misdeeds have been the most prominent and serious, as he disappeared without word to Argentina to be with his mistress for most of a week without making any preparations for disaster (such as informing the Lt. Governor).
  • George W. Bush - Yeah. Bush.

The GOP is making two severe mistakes: the most prominent Republican leaders are all in unelected positions of demagoguery, and they have purged almost all moderates from their ranks. The effect is to engage in a vicious cycle of inquisition, where the increasing absence of an effective moderating voice has made it almost impossible for Republicans to win in any district but those that are already certain, ghettoizing the GOP in the South and Midwest. Unless the elected leaders of the party assert themselves and manage to redefine the message as the "big tent" that so effectively fooled the electorate for so long, then the GOP may cease to be a serious national party for at least four years. The party system favors a Republican-Democratic duality too strongly to eliminate them forever, but a drastic change or an FDR-style perpetual domination is not impossible.

23 June 2009

Jim Manzi at National Review Online

Quoth the jackass:
I’m also glad to see that Ezra Klein is explicit about his acceptance that climate change is expected to have extremely limited effects on the United States for at least the next hundred years. I figure that ought to be pretty important when debating the proper policies for the government of the United States. On the other hand, we continue to disagree about the financial efficiency of the foreign aid program defined by transforming the energy sector of the American economy in order to very slightly ameliorate a predicted problem that might affect people who might live in low-lying equatorial regions of the world decades from now.
Yeah, fuck those people, we'll all be dead, and everyone knows small changes now can't make a big difference in a century.

From "A Farewell to Arms"

Once in camp I put a log on top of the fire and it was full of ants. As it commenced to burn, the ants swarmed out and went first toward the centre where the fire was; then turned back and ran toward the end. When there were enough on the end they fell off into the fire. Some got out, their bodies burnt and flattened, and went off not knowing where they were going. But most of them went toward the fire and then back toward the end and swarmed on the cool end and finally fell off into the fire. I remember thinking at the time that it was the end of the world and a splendid chance to be a messiah and lift the log off the fire and throw it out where the ants could get off onto the ground. But I did not do anything but throw a tin cup of water on the log, so that I would have the cup empty to put whiskey in before I added water to it. I think the cup of water on the burning log only steamed the ants.
Politico reports on widespread rumors Palin is dumping Alaska.
No candidate, including Palin, has yet filed papers with the Alaska Public Offices Commission. Palin’s office declined an opportunity to explain her thinking on the 2010 race, and the Republican Governors Association said it would not comment on discussions it has had with the governor.

But a number of Democrats and Republicans in Alaska and Washington who spoke to POLITICO believe her silence is a sign she will not pursue a second term as governor so that she can play a larger role on the national political stage.
Is she taking Roger Simon's terrible advice?

Two Assessments of Obama

One is from the New Republic's The Plank, and the other is from the National Review Online. I don't think it's too hard to guess which way each one spins.

Let's start with the Plank piece first. It's a brief bit about Obama's style, and I think the often-clever Jonathan Chait is especially insightful in it.
This is a perfect summation of Obama's strategy. It does not presuppose that his adversaries are people of goodwill who can be reasoned with. Rather, it assumes that, by demonstrating his own goodwill and interest in accord, Obama can win over a portion of his adversaries' constituents as well as third parties. Obama thinks he can move moderate Muslim opinion, pressure bad actors like Iran to negotiate, and, if Iran fails to comply, encourage other countries to isolate it. The strategy works whether or not Iran makes a reasonable agreement.

The results remain to be seen. But it eerily resembles the way Obama has already isolated the GOP leadership. Obama began his presidency by elaborately courting the opposition party. Republicans in Congress believed that, by flamboyantly withholding cooperation, they could deny Obama his stated goal of bipartisan harmony and thus render him a failure. Instead, they wound up handing Obama the alternative victory of appearing to be the reasonable party. Polls showed that the public, by overwhelming margins, believed that Obama was trying to work with Republicans and that Republicans were not reciprocating.
While I think Obama is far too moderate on a hell of a lot of issues, I have often and forcefully said that his personal skill is unparalleled at this time. And in a case like Iran, where I can be confident his goals coincide with my own, I believe Obama will play the situation perfectly. In other words, I think it is seldom wise to question Obama's ability, no matter what you think of his ideals. Republicans who think otherwise should ask themselves why exactly he has been drubbing them at every turn.

Thomas Sowell from NRO, on the other hand, has a considerably more acid contribution:
The current intramural fighting among Republicans does not necessarily mean any fundamental rethinking of their policies or tactics. These tussles among different segments of the Republican party may be nothing more than a longstanding jockeying for position between the liberal and conservative wings of the party.

The stakes in all this are far higher than which element becomes dominant in which party or which party wins more elections. Both the domestic- and foreign-policy direction of the current administration in Washington are leading this country into dangerous waters, from which we may or may not be able to return.
He then starts in on some things he thinks Obama has done, and that he thinks are absolutely shameful.
A quadrupling of the national debt in just one year and accepting a nuclear-armed sponsor of international terrorism such as Iran are not things from which any country is guaranteed to recover.

Just two nuclear bombs were enough to get Japan to surrender in World War II. It is hard to believe that it would take much more than that for the United States of America to surrender — especially with people in control of both the White House and the Congress who were for turning tail and running in Iraq just a couple of years ago.

Perhaps people who are busy gushing over the Obama cult today might do well to stop and think about what it would mean for their granddaughters to live under sharia law.
That's right: the National Review is suggesting that Iran is going to nuke the United States, and that the Obama administration will immediately submit. Then Iran will invade us and impose Sharia law.

Let's just consider this for a moment. A mature and presumably reasonable person who works at a respected national magazine is seriously making the suggestion that this is a danger, and that Iran can't be "accepted" as a nuclear power. He doesn't really offer any alternative, of course, because it must be unspoken that there aren't a whole lot of things one can do about it short of war, as North Korea has amply demonstrated over and over ("Yeah, we're nuclear now. Oh, you don't like it? Yeah, that's tough. Screw off, UN.") All you can do is work to remove supplies of raw materials and technology (which no doubt and thankfully Obama is doing behind the scenes, no matter his rhetoric) and use diplomacy.

Then comes the acorn:
Unfortunately, the only political party with any chance of displacing the current leadership in Washington is the Republican party. That is why their internal squabbles are important for the rest of us who are not Republicans.
Ah! So that's why he was frightening us with an absurd "think of the children" scenario: you have to vote Republican so they can save us! He doesn't even argue in the piece for why they have good policies or anything like that... it's simply and irrationally, "If you don't vote Republican in the future you will be nuked."

Absolutely brazen and shameless scaremongering.

18 June 2009

Roger Simon's Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Politico Article

I don't know why, but Politico has taken the unusual business model of sprinkling a few great articles amidst a great deal of nonsense. They have a chair in the White House Briefing Room and get called on a lot by Gibbs and Obama, though, so I guess it's paying off. 1

Still, Roger Simon put up a particularly terrible article the other day, and I thought it would be amusing to look at the many ways in which it is awful, both as a piece about politics and as a work of purported journalism.

First of all, it's called "7 Things Sarah Palin Must Do Now". Right away, that should be a tip-off it's going to suck. The only time clever little lists should be masquerading as opinion pieces are when they're lists of World's Hottest Butts or Top Ten Most Gruesome Murders. And while Palin is vaguely attractive when compared to other people in politics (who's her competition - Gillibrand?) she doesn't quite have the caboose necessary.

Then it starts right off talking about Palin, in order to make her interesting and relevant enough for Simon's advice to be interesting and relevant to his poor readers. The only problem is that she's not very interesting or relevant right now, which is why she did an Abraham-and-Isaac with her younger daughter in order to make a few news cycles this past week. So Simons hauls out some numbers:
True, her approval rating as governor of Alaska has dropped to 54 percent, her lowest ever, but it is not that far below Barack Obama’s national approval rating of 62 percent.
So now a popularity of 54% is "not that far below" 62%, eh? I guess that kind of holds up, even though eight points seems like a hell of a lot to me, especially when you note that Palin's popularity has been plummeting. I guess it's time for her to bribe every citizen of her state by redistributing the wealth gained from their natural resources - then she can get back to attacking socialism without worrying about them much more.
There is little doubt that Obama is the most popular politician in America (and probably the world). Yet when voters were asked last week in a Diageo/Hotline poll if they would reelect Obama today or would like to see “someone else” be elected president, Obama got 46 percent, and “someone else” got 30 percent. That’s a nice margin for Obama, but it’s not astronomical.
Nice margin? They asked voters whether they want Obama there, or if they'd like "someone else" - a question that essentially is asking if there's anybody they can think of they would like to see as President more than Obama. It seems to me that means that Obama is thus more popular than any other high-profile politician in the country all at the same time. He's not quite as popular with yours truly, but I'm not fool enough to pretend that beating out every possible other candidate by sixteen points is merely a "nice margin."

Simon's advice to Sarah begins:
1. DUMP ALASKA. She doesn’t need to run for reelection for governor in 2010 for name recognition or to get media attention. And being a governor these days is like having a target on your back. (Republican Tim Pawlenty, who has his own plans for 2012, announced earlier this month that he will not seek election to a third term as governor of Minnesota.) But there is a bigger reason for Palin to give up the governorship: Maybe you can see Russia from Alaska, but you can’t see Iowa and New Hampshire from Alaska. Alaska is too far away from where she needs to be. She can live, skimobile and hunt moose in Alaska, but she needs to spend a lot of travel time in the Lower 48 without having to run back to Juneau every week.
Name the last person elected to the Presidency after quitting a governorship when they were unpopular in their state. W, Clinton, Reagan, Carter... you just can't go up to the bat without your team solidly cheering you. Advising Palin to abandon her home state is incomprehensibly poor advice: imagine every news story summing her up as the "unpopular former governor of Alaska." In a world defined so much by the media, you need to have your highest accomplishment be an unblemished one.
2. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH PEOPLE SMARTER THAN YOU ARE. That shouldn’t be hard, her opponents will say. OK, let them laugh. They laughed at George W. Bush when he ran for president in 2000 and at Arnold Schwarzenegger when he ran for governor of California in 2003. Both benefited from low expectations and smart staffs. I am not one of those people who believe that staffs win or lose elections — candidates win or lose elections — but the Democratic presidential race in 2008 certainly demonstrated the difference that staffs can make. Hillary Clinton assembled a staff of loyal people who were largely inexperienced in presidential campaigning. Barack Obama assembled a staff of loyal people who were very experienced in presidential campaigning. It made a difference.
Hey, guess what: intelligence and experience are not at all the same thing! That kind of makes this point either incomprehensible (is he saying Terry McAuliffe, Clinton's chairman of her cmapaign, was stupid or just inexperience?) or breathtakingly obvious ("CAMPAIGN MANAGER WANTED: MUST BE NOT DUMB").
3. PICK A HANDFUL OF ISSUES AND STICK TO THEM. The increase in the size of government? The increase in the deficit? The increase in the role of Washington in people’s lives? All good issues for Republican primary voters. And all three are things Palin talks about already. And she shouldn’t worry if she gets attacked for being naive or simplistic. Ronald Reagan got pretty far with: “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.’”
Okay, this is actually good advice. No fault here.
4. STUDY UP. Before CBS’s Katie Couric and ABC’s Charlie Gibson interviewed Palin, they studied hard, backed up by excellent research staffs that prepared a lot of material for them. Palin has to do the same before major interviews. While she is not bad at answering direct questions, she falls down on followup questions. She has to do what successful candidates do: Rehearse. The rule is that you have to study at least as hard as the people trying to trip you up.
It seems pretty clear that, whatever her strengths might be, Palin isn't going to wow anyone with her grasp of the issues. It was widely acknowledged by everyone (even Palin herself) that her expertise as a potential leader lies solely in the field of energy management. It's what she's built her career on, with her handling of the oil companies and her hugely ballyhooed pipeline. She doesn't do anything else, and she knew it. She handled herself very well because of this, actually: she memorized her talking points and stuck to them. If she was asked about something she didn't know, she just slid right back to something from a flashcard. The flowchart sums it up pretty well. She shouldn't try to tango when she clearly has trouble walking.
5. DON’T BELIEVE YOU CAN’T DO IT. Palin’s critics point out that she is no Ronald Reagan, and that in tough times, voters are going to turn to potential candidates like Mitt Romney, who stress competence. But Palin has a chance because of what the Republican Party has become: a smaller, more conservative party that has already driven away many moderates and “soft” Republicans. The Republican Party today is like a star that has gone nova and collapsed to its densest core. While some potential nominees will try to sell a big-tent message, demanding that the party moderate its positions to win more voters, primaries are usually dominated by hard-core activists. This is where Palin has the potential to do well.
Of course, everyone knows that you win elections by ignoring the moderate swing voters. Is Simons giving advice about how to win the GOP primary or the Presidency? She could win the former just by chanting "tax cuts" and repeating what the American Enterprise Institute beams into the chip in her brain, but if she wants to attain the latter, she might need to convince some of those who aren't Reagabots.
6. DON’T GO CHANGING. In her debate with Joe Biden, she did far better than most expected by being warm and passionate and by using everyday language like “I betcha” and “heckuva opportunity” and “darn right.” She even winked. It didn’t make her look dumb; it made her look human. She should not be afraid to stick with what has gotten her this far. She showed last week she is not afraid to be a mom standing up for her kid. But she also should not be afraid to take some risks and go back on “Saturday Night Live.” She should not be afraid to make fun of herself, even if plenty of others already are.
Being naive, fresh-faced, and natural worked for her because she was such a newbie in Washington. How long could that be effective? She is pretty good at playing the victim ("lipstick on a pig") but she was going for the #2 job before - it's hard to see anyone wanting a Victim in Chief.
7. DON’T WORRY ABOUT FAILURE. Heck, there’s always 2016.
If Palin takes Roger Simon's advice, she better hope so.


1. Especially for Obama, who gets worshipped by the netroots for being "hip to the New Media."

16 June 2009

Health Care: the Public Plan

If you are interested in the health-care debate, then you need to be interested in the details. Because it's all in the details: grand policy statements and vague notions about ideals are almost entirely useless in this discussion, given the incredibly misleading activity of the GOP, the American Medical Association (which is behaving more like the union it is than the advocacy group it has been), and the farthest left.

If you want the skinny, then Ezra Klein at the Post has a (famous at this point)pretty good primer on some of the public options. Krugman chimed in at the Times with his best efforts at a tidy narrative. But the best discussion is coming from Frank Pasquale at Balkinization, with his series of posts (one, two, and three) analyzing the nature of the public plans and addressing criticism carefully. It's an invaluable read:
Congress or HHS or state insurance commissioners could try to outlaw or restrict risk selection practices one by one. But as Pollitz has noted, as of 1997, the "US Department of Labor had resources to review each employer-sponsored group health plan under its jurisdiction once every 300 years." The Bush years probably did not significantly address that shortage. Moreover, "state insurance department staff levels declined 11% in 2007 while premium volume increased 12%." The personnel simply aren't there, and when they are, they are as likely as not to be outgunned by private sector attorneys, lobbyists, and experts-for-hire. The right way to discipline private insurers is to have competition from a public option--not to allow them to continue a risk-selection race-to-the-bottom by deflecting regulation.
Check it out.

15 June 2009

Why He Is Ever My Favorite

The account of Washington's handling of the Newburgh Conspiracy from AmericanHeritage.com; the President addresses a gathering of rebellious soldiers who threaten the existence of the new nation. They are unmoved by his prepared speech.
He had read it all. And it had failed. He knew it had failed. They were not persuaded.

Washington shuffled his papers. He had labored over his speech. But it held long, involved, cumbersome sentences. When spoken, the muscle was lost in the flesh of ornate composition. Washington could not match Brutus as a writer.

In desperation he took a letter from a pocket of his regimentals. In it Congressman Jones praised the army and pledged his support. Perhaps this would help. As Washington opened the note, there was a murmur among his officers. Washington took that as impatience. He cleared his throat and attempted to read.

He could not. The script was too small. His eyes could not focus. The dim letters blurred. Helplessly he fumbled in another pocket for his spectacles. As he donned them, the murmur increased. Again he thought it impatience. He adjusted the spectacles. “Gentlemen,” he said, “you must pardon me. I have grown gray in your service and now find myself growing blind.”

It was enough. They’d not been impatient. The murmur was one of sympathy, understanding, affection. In their eight years together they had never seen Washington wear spectacles. He had seemed tired and worn before. Now he seemed older and vulnerable. He was only fifty but had aged this week. He had problems they didn’t even know about. If he still trusted the Congress, they could do no less.

Few heard as Washington haltingly read from Jones’s letter. No matter.

When he stopped, the officers crowded about him in reassurance and contrition. Some wept. Others simply stood, stunned and silent, as the general left the room.

If Gates hoped to regain the initiative, he had no chance. Henry Knox quickly moved to thank the commander for his speech. Then, after a quick review of McDougall’s report, General Ruf us Putnam moved that Knox’s committee prepare new resolutions for the officers’ consideration. In short order the officers resolved their “unshaken confidence” in Washington and in the Congress. The crisis was over.

Cairo Speech

Well, I am no closer to an answer. I may have to spend another year teaching abroad, maybe in Korea or somewhere else. I'm going to have a sit-down with Lizzie and figure out what we want to do. At least now she's no longer just going to have to follow me somewhere, so there's an upside to it: we can meet her goals as well. My mother is going to freak out, though.

The news have been filled with items of amazing interest. Of particular note was Obama's speech in Cairo. It was respectful and well-phrased, but then, we would expect nothing less from this President.
Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire. The United States has been one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever known. We were born out of revolution against an empire. We were founded upon the ideal that all are created equal, and we have shed blood and struggled for centuries to give meaning to those words -- within our borders, and around the world. We are shaped by every culture, drawn from every end of the Earth, and dedicated to a simple concept: E pluribus unum -- "Out of many, one."
But even better, the speech was candid in some ways. Obama didn't simply defend Israel as is the norm for American Presidents (as Israel is the beneficiary of a half-dozen powerful interest groups in Washington), but he also endorsed the two-state solution and condemned further illegal settlements. He sums up effectively:
For decades then, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It's easy to point fingers -- for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought about by Israel's founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: The only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.
The President took some criticism on the speech from both the right and the left. Peretz at the New Republic took him to task for ignoring Zionism and associated historical movements and oversimplifying Israel's founding as being essentially compensation for the Holocaust. And even though I think this flaw doesn't seriously diminish the impact of the speech, it's a good criticism that hits on target.
When Obama attributes the establishment of Israel, and also Israel's fear that the Iranian government and many Arabs would quite happily visit another devastation on it, to the Holocaust, he is in fact accepting Dr. Ahmadinejad's analysis of the Zionist triumph and also one of the tenets of Palestinian rejectionism, which is that the Palestinians are correct in their phobia that they have paid the price for what the Nazis did to the Jews.
But even though he took some flack, by and large the President's Cairo speech was well-received. It was even more well-received a few days later, when Iran and Lebanon went to the polls to vote. While Iran returned Ahmadinejad to the Presidency (something which read as a defeat to - surprise surprise - that same critic at the New Republic who hated the speech), Lebanon surprised all forecasters by turning out Hezbollah, and the pro-western coalition won a comfortable victory instead. Commentators on the left have been quick to call the speech a major factor. Hertzberg at the New Yorker opines:
The words of an American President, even one from Chicago, were not necessarily foremost in the minds of the Shiites, Sunnis, Druze, and Christians of many theological varieties and political persuasions who lined up to cast their ballots and dip their thumbs in ink. But most analysts agreed that Obama’s speech, and the carefully constructed edifice of public diplomacy of which it was the keystone, was a factor in the outcome.
Amidst a sea of delayed gratifications (Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal) and questionable accreditation (stimulus results), this looks to me as a clear and firm evidence of Obama being a great President.

Also, check out Inside the Obama White House. Regardless of how you feel about the President himself at this point, it's an amazing look into the West Wing. Carefully controlled, but with astonishing access. Yet another display of Obama's political skill and message control. Regardless of his policies and ability as a leader - I think they're good, but there are legitimate reasons to think otherwise - it has to be said that he is one of the most adept politicians of this age. It helps a lot these days that the Republicans are tearing at their own flesh; yet another moderating Republican (Bennett) is going to have to pour money into a challenge from his compatriots, unsettling a seat long considered GOP territory.

11 June 2009

Classy



I bought Dowd some flowers to make her smile but she still didn't like me, she must be bitter. Can I have another blended baby smoothie?

I don't like her much either, but you're a real class act, Rove.

Screwed

So, as some know, I have been fixing to go to graduate school in New Zealand. I was pretty much settled on the University of Canterbury, a decent enough school on the whole and an international one (New Zealand being a rather more exciting place to live for Lizzie than Cincinnati). I am admitted and whatnot, and the only remaining hurdles are obtaining extensions of my U.S. federal loans and getting a visa to the country.

But alas. There are problems.

A couple of months ago, I crowed about one of my loans being paid off. They contacted me about a few cents remaining on my account, and I laughed as I sent them a check for $0.14. It was silly of them and a waste of everyone's time, but it wasn't really a big deal. Hard for me to complain about when it made a funny story and didn't do any harm, right?

Well, I discovered yesterday that my Perkins loans have gone to collections, because it seems I sent those few cents to the wrong loan company.

I found this out because I can't extend my loans when any of them are in collections. And this also explains why I am still waiting to hear that UC received my transcripts from Wake Forest. A quick check confirmed it.
Hi Alexander,

We are federally mandated to send any unpaid Perkins loans to a collection agency. It is policy to place a hold until all financial obligations have been met. This does include any collection accounts with outside agencies.

...

Thanks,
Susan
So. I have to pay the whole balance of my Perkins loans (the one being pennies, the other being substantial) before I can get loans to go to grad school. And if I were to pay off the loans, I wouldn't have enough money to pay for my whole first year of grad school as well as living expenses, something that is required to get a visa.

In other words, I can either get the money to go to grad school but be barred from the country, or else I can go to the country but without being able to go to grad school. And I cannot see any way out of it.

Careful checking and perhaps more invective than was strictly necessary informs me that there is no way to work around it. There is no process or possibility of getting my loans out of collections until they are paid off. There is no possibility of getting a visa unless I can demonstrate I have sufficient resources to pay for a year of school (plus the sum needed for a ticket home).

And I have only a month to solve this problem, if it can be solved, since deadlines are already approaching.

I. Am. Screwed.

09 June 2009

News Feed

Now you can check out my Google Reader's Shared Page if you would like to see some recent articles I found interesting, or subscribe to the Atom feed. The most recent items are also on the left, along with a photo feed.

05 June 2009

Agenda

It seems pretty long odds that it's coincidence the NYT ran a piece called "The Deadly Toll of Abortion by Amateurs" two days after the murder of prominent abortion doctor George Tiller.

While it must have been in progress for quite some time before the Tiller murder, since it's in a foreign bureau and a reasonably in-depth piece for its length, it also isn't immediate news and could easily have been held for a week or two until after the controversy subsided somewhat.

Sure, one might ask why they should hold it - shouldn't a worthy subject get timely coverage without bending to pressure to be falsely balanced? - but I think that a fairly good case can be made that a piece that so strongly highlights only one side of the debate looks like outright advocacy. And while there's a place for that in every paper (except the weak modern editorial page in the Times these days), that place is not in the straight news articles. Even if I agree.

04 June 2009

Absolute Brilliance

NYT with an amazing piece about a work of performance art by Icelander Ragnar Kjartansson:
[W]hat anyone who stops by his work space at the palazzo will find, now or over the next six months, is a farcically romantic idea of what the end of the world might look like, at least for an artist: Mr. Kjartansson, standing at an easel day after day, relentlessly painting the portrait of a man who poses before him in a black Speedo, cigarette and beer in hand.

As time passes, the canvases Mr. Kjartansson makes — he plans to complete one a day — will mount up around him, as will the empty bottles and butt-filled ashtrays, all of it a monument to artistic ruin.
I like only the occasional work of performance art - it's one of the easiest mediums in which to become lost in self-indulgence - but this sounds like one of the most brilliant and beautiful performances of which I have heard in some time. I wish I could be in Venice to see it, or get one of the paintings. Alas. Check out the article, though.