The Tax Code Gets A Carbon Audit
December 10, 2009

An intriguing proposal from Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer: Buried in the "minibus" spending bill approved by the House Thursday afternoon is a provision providing the National Academy of Sciences $1.5 million to conduct a carbon audit of the U.S. tax code... Blumenauer had gotten the study signed into law in 2008, under George W. Bush's administration. But without appropriated funds, it never happened.

The First Palinologist?
December 01, 2009

Sarah Palin isn’t the only person cashing in on her ill-fated bid for the vice-presidency. A whole slew of authors, fashion designers, movie producers, pornographers, cartoonists, and opticians are riding the Palin gravy train. So I was not surprised when a press release landed in my inbox plugging what seemed to be the latest category of Palin profiteer: Academics. The University of Alaska Southeast is now touting one of their political science professors, Clive Thomas, as a one-stop Sarah Palin expert.

Should Geithner Resign?
November 24, 2009

So far the members of Congress who think the Treasury Secretary should go don't quite constitute a full-blown caucus, much less anything resembling a majority. But they're expressing their opinions with increasing passion. Early this month Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell confessed that she was "not sure" why Geithner still had his job given his too-soft treatment of Wall Street.

Reid Has the Votes, At Least Tonight
November 21, 2009

Tonight, at around 8 p.m., the Senate will vote on a "motion to proceed" with the debate over health care reform. To be clear, this isn't actually a vote on whether to pass health care reform--or even a vote on whether to hold such a vote. It's a vote on whether to begin talking about whether to have a vote on whether to pass health care reform. And yet the outcome is not a foregone conclusion.

Need Some Money? Free Some Prisoners!
October 09, 2009

Since late summer, several states have passed into law resolutions to release thousands of prisoners before they've completed their sentences. The goal is to help make up for immense budget shortfalls. The states, including California, Colorado, Illinois, and Oregon, have targeted their bloated prison systems in their quest to save hundreds of millions and make up for immense budget shortfalls. (Some have balanced budget amendments that require them to work out immediate savings.) But how exactly would such a plan work?

All Over the Map
September 15, 2009

“First Fridays” these days find Wall Street investors and Washington policymakers and pundits holding their collective breath. At around 8:30 AM, on the first Friday of each month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases the latest round of job and unemployment figures.

Red Letter Appointment
August 10, 2009

I finally have a friend in high places. Last week, President Barack Obama announced that he is appointing Ruth Goldway, who has served on the Postal Regulatory Commission since 1998, to be its chair. And I have to say that it’s a good appointment. Ruth, known years ago as the mayor of the People’s Republic of Santa Monica, has been a voice for reform on the commission.

L.A. Stories
June 03, 2009

Bernini and the Birth of Baroque Portrait Sculpture -- J. Paul Getty Museum Hearst The Collector -- Los Angeles County Museum of Art Dialogue Among Giants: Carleton Watkins and the Rise of Photography in California -- J. Paul Getty Museum Back when I was in college, there was a theory that the way to get a sense of how somebody felt deep inside was to ask whether they preferred Tolstoy or Dostoevsky. The friend who was drawn to the ecstatic optimism of certain moments in War and Peace was one kind of person, and the friend who was consumed by the darkness of Crime and Punishment was another.

From TR to BHO
December 03, 2008

Not that my political history is so important. After all, no one in either the near or more remote environs of The New Republic required my enthusiasm for Barack Obama to kindle their own. As for my own enthusiasm--actually, it was at first a quizzical intrigue--it was sparked by the disciplined and thoughtful passion of my thirty-something children, first my film director (First Love, Last Rites; The Chateau; The Ex) son, soon thereafter my writer (Vanity Fair) daughter.

Surgical Prep
November 19, 2008

If you believe what the pundits are saying, enacting universal health insurance in the next year won't be difficult: It will be impossible. As the argument goes, it would cost too much money, antagonize too many interest groups, and--given the difficulty of finding 60 votes in the Senate--require too much raw political muscle. Even before Barack Obama won the election, allies were advising him to stay far away from major health care legislation, lest he fail as miserably as Bill Clinton did when he famously tried for universal coverage back in 1994.