The GOP's Strange Ideas About Helping the Poor
December 17, 2010

My latest column for Kaiser Health News: Rep. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana is not just a Republican. He's also a doctor. And that means he has not one but two reasons to dislike Medicaid. Not only does it cost the government a lot of money. It also serves a lot of its beneficiaries poorly. Cassidy explained in a Dec. 16 column for Politico that Medicaid is the stingiest payer in our health care system. For most services, it reimburses less than both Medicare and private insurance.

Why Don't Novelists Care about Katrina?
September 10, 2010

Since 2001, fiction based on September 11 has become almost de rigueur among major novelists writing in English. In the aftermath of the attacks on the Word Trade Center, many of the most famous authors of our time have weighed in on the attacks, depicting the ways large and small in which they altered people’s lives. Some hypothesized possible motivations behind the terrorists’ actions: John Updike in Terrorist (2006) and Martin Amis in the short story “The Last Days of Muhammad Atta” (2006).

A New Oil Rig Explosion—and a Familiar Lesson
September 02, 2010

(Updated at 6:00 p.m.) As Brad Plumer reported earlier, another oil rig exploded off the coast of Louisiana today, forcing workers to jump into the water while the rig was on fire. The Coast Guard says it has rescued all 13 workers and, so far, it looks like we're not in for a repeat of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, according to New Orleans Times-Picayune. This rig, which is owned by Mariner Energy, was in much shallower waters--340 feet deep rather than a mile. And while the well was producing oil, Mariner officials say that workers shut down the operation before evacuating.

Another Rig Explosion In The Gulf
September 02, 2010

Not good. Some updates from CNN: An oil rig has exploded 80 miles off the coast of Louisiana… The accident took place 80 miles off the coast of Louisiana on the Vermilion Oil rig 380, which is owned by Houston-based Mariner Energy. U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Bill Colclough tells CNN that all 13 workers involved in the rig explosion are accounted for, but one person is injured.

Does Flood Insurance Just Make Things Worse?
August 27, 2010

When Hurricane Katrina made landfall in southeastern Louisiana on August 29, 2005, it caused extreme flooding up and down the Gulf coastline. Four years later, the Gulf has made a dramatic recovery—thanks in part to the billions of dollars in aid sent via the national flood insurance program. The hurricane certainly underscored the need for federal aid in the event of a natural disaster. But was the federal flood insurance program the best way to get aid to those in need? Some background: The National Flood Insurance Program, run by FEMA, provides insurance to homes that lie in floodplains.

The Movie Review: ‘If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise’
August 23, 2010

Spike Lee's wonderful 2006 documentary When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts, wasn’t just about Hurricane Katrina. Rather, it explored the social inequities that the hurricane laid bare, and the incompetence, confusion, greed, and stupidity that made a terrible situation worse. His latest effort, If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise, which premieres on August 23and 24, casts a cold eye on the opportunism that followed in the wake of Katrina, finishing with a devastating hour about the BP oil spill and the political and economic forces that allowed it to happen.

Surviving the Next Katrina
August 19, 2010

Note: This is part of a week-long series on New Orleans, five years after Katrina, based in part on my recent rip there. Everybody wants to know whether New Orleans can survive the next big hurricane. Few of them realize that it should have survived the last one. Katrina was not a category five storm and it didn’t even hit New Orleans directly. At the last minute, it veered northeast, making its final landfall on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Katrina was massive enough to inflict damage far away from the eye, so it was bound to take its toll on New Orleans, too.

Another Tanker Disaster
August 12, 2010

Via Jon Hiskes, The Onion has the story: In what may be the greatest environmental disaster in the nation's history, the supertanker TI Oceania docked without incident at the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port Monday and successfully unloaded 3.1 million barrels of dangerous crude oil into the United States. According to witnesses, the catastrophe began shortly after the tanker, which sailed unimpeded across the Gulf of Mexico, stopped safely at the harbor and made contact with oil company workers on the shore.

Heritage Foundation's One Man, All-Oil Executive Focus Group Agrees With Heritage Stance
August 04, 2010

Congress is fighting over whether to lift the cap on oil liability, making oil companies completely responsible for damages caused by their spill, or whether to continue having the government subsidize oil companies by covering damages above $75 million. The Heritage Foundation thinks the free market is too unfair to oil companies, and thinks the people are with them: Last night after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) pulled his oil spill response bill, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) told reporters: “The key question is, whose side are you on?

The WSJ Edit Page Discovers Market Failure
August 02, 2010

The Wall Street Journal's climate editorial this morning is a perfect display of pro-business ideology untethered to even the pretense of support for the free market. According to the Journal, it's not fair to lift the liability cap for oil spills: As for the Senate, Mr. Reid's new nonclimate energy bill is all about trying to link Republicans to Big Oil. With BP as the corporate villain, Democrats are proposing to lift the $75 million oil spill liability cap for economic damages to infinity. And to do so retroactively on all rig leases. This is a bad-faith exercise. Mr.