Politics

December 19, 2008

Washington Diarist: Important People
12:00 AM

These are the times that try men’s resumés. Maybe it is the swift emergence of Washington as the capital of status anxiety, in the transition’s tilting of egos and elbows; or the restoration to prestige of “the best and the brightest,” all shadows gone, and the return to power of liberal credentialism; or the fact that Congress could find $700 billion when the mandarins of New York needed it but could not find $14 billion when the workers of Detroit needed it—whatever it is, I am tiring of very important people. I never saw the owl of Minerva fly through Harvard Yard.

Buncha Wimps
12:00 AM

Contrary to what you’ve been reading about the latest controversies and scandals coming out of Illinois, it’s actually been a happy time for politicians around here. Between the recent sit-in at the Republic Windows and Doors factory and the arrest of Governor Rod Blagojevich for allegedly attempting to sell off Barack Obama’s vacant senate seat, I don’t think our elected officials have ever felt more, oh, liberated. Confused?

Gov. Patterson: Hands Off My Yoo Hoo!
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.

Bush To Detroit: Don't Drop Dead
12:00 AM

As you've probably heard by now, President Bush announced this morning that he wasn't going to let the domestic auto industry collapse. At least not on his watch. And while it'll probably take a day or two to sort out the details, and what they mean, here's the gist of it: Bush is authorizing the Treasury Department to loan Chrysler and General Motors $17.4 billion. (Ford has said it doesn't need money right now.) The money will come from the Wall Street rescue fund, or what's left of it, and it comes with a number of strings attached.

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.

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