December 19, 2008

Hands Off My Yoo Hoo, Buddy!
12:00 AM

New York Governor David Patersen has a commentary up on CNN.com today, arguing for an "obesity tax" on sodas and sugary fruit drinks. Though well-intentioned, this kind of proposal gives me the willies. I appreciate the public health challenges posed by the "obesity epidemic," but there are a variety of reasons why fat is not tobacco (a parallel Patersen draws in his opening graf). I wrote a piece to this effect back in 2002--which I would link to if our archives weren't so craptacular.

Every Cloud Has A Double Standard
12:00 AM

John Cloud writes a lot of stories for Time, but the one I remember best was his defense of Ann Coulter for her use of the word "faggot." Cloud, who is gay, said that Coulter "was using the word 'faggot' with virtual quote marks around it" and he vouched for her personal tolerance: Coulter has at least one close gay friend, and when I was reporting my profile of her, she always remembered to ask about my partner at the time.

December 18, 2008

Conscience of a Nationalist
12:00 AM

When I first met literature professor Guo Quan in early 2006, he expounded on the difficulty of defacing a tombstone. Guo had recently taken an ax to the grave of Wang Zhi, a sixteenth-century Chinese merchant who helped facilitate Japanese pirate attacks on Ming dynasty China. "I managed to scratch out the name and the inscription," he said. "But it took a few hours."To reach Wang Zhi's grave, he'd stalked through the woods of Anhui province with another professor in the dead of night.

Secession We Can Believe In
12:00 AM

Thomas Naylor, a retired Duke economics professor, ascended the podium at an anti-war rally at Johnson State College in Johnson, Vermont, shortly before the U.S. invaded Iraq. His speech was filled with the usual leftist rhetoric about the evils of the Bush administration. His solution, however, was far from traditional. It was an idea that he had been developing for about ten years, but had never spoken about in public. “They were shocked, bug-eyed,” he tells me, reflecting on the speech.

Lahood And Solis: Second Round Picks
12:00 AM

Almost all of Barack Obama’s cabinet members have been outstanding. You can quarrel with Hilary Clinton’s foreign policy views or Tom Vilsack’s position on organic food or New York Fed Chief Tim Geithner’s proximity to Wall Street, but you can’t quarrel with their qualifications for the job. And Obama has managed to pull together a cabinet that represents the full spectrum of his majority coalition without a hint of tokenism. Who better than Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano to run Homeland Security or Dr. Steven Chu as energy secretary?

Some Thoughts On Obama's Sec Pick
12:00 AM

What to make of Obama’s pick for SEC chair, Mary Shapiro? She wasn't exactly a dark horse, but the good money was on former SEC Commissioner Harvey Goldschmid and former Treasury Undersecretary Gary Gensler. But Shapiro has some particular qualifications. First, her selection is good evidence that the administration is serious about combining the SEC and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Shapiro has served on both--including as CFTC chair--and thus brings both broad experience and a lack of territorial loyalty to one or the other.

December 17, 2008

Trickled Down
12:00 AM

WASHINGTON--Three analysts were recently invited to the U.S. State Department to share some thoughts with the diplomats who serve in the Western Hemisphere. Surprisingly, all of us were mostly in agreement on the impact the current economic crisis will have on the region. Despite the warnings, Latin Americans were largely unaware of the implications of the U.S. financial meltdown and the recession until only a few weeks ago. They believed that the times when the U.S. sneezed and the region would catch a cold were gone. What an illusion.

Could Be Lahood
12:00 AM

Chicago Tribune's The Swamp, the WSJ, and other sources are reporting that retiring Illinois Congressman Ray LaHood might be tapped as Obama's transportation secretary:  LaHood, a long-time staff aide to the affable then-House Minority Leader Bob Michel (R-Ill.) who took his boss's seat when Michel retired, was elected along with a tide of Republicans led by Newt Gingrich. But he did not follow the same highly partisan path that characterized the class elected with him. Among those LaHood maintained a friendly relationship with over the years is White House chief of staff- designate Rep.

How To Explain A Fixed Election
12:00 AM

Today's front page New York Times story on Russian voting monitors sent to Belarus to rubber-stamp the recent parliamentary "election" in that country is predictably depressing. The president of Belarus, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, is a Putin ally; Lukashenko's supporters managed to win every seat in the 110-member Parliament. The piece follows one of the Russian monitors, Kholnazar Makhmadaliyev, as he travels around Belarus. There is nothing too surprising about the story, although this Twilight Zone-ish, hilariously paradoxical dismissal of fraud claims was amusing: Mr.

December 16, 2008

State of Disgrace
12:00 AM

Even in the era of Jack Abramoff and Ted Stevens, Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich’s alleged crimes--selling the president-elect’s Senate seat, trying to force the firing of Chicago Tribune staff--seemed over the top. Yet, as we’ve been reminded over the last week, Blagojevich is hardly an outlier in Illinois politics.