Wednesday, June 10, 2009

On Happiness...

I've taken a break from my obsession with David Brooks. More pressing matters call.

Nonetheless, he's written some lovely bits on his joint-blog with Gail Collins.

The most important decision any of us make is who we marry. Yet there are no courses on how to choose a spouse. There’s no graduate department in spouse selection studies. Institutions of higher learning devote more resources to semiotics than love.

The most important talent any person can possess is the ability to make and keep friends. And yet here too there is no curriculum for this

The most important skill a person can possess is the ability to control one’s impulses. Here too, we’re pretty much on our own

These are all things with a provable relationship to human happiness. Instead, society is busy preparing us for all the decisions that have a marginal effect on human happiness.

What if David Brooks...and Carolyn Hax...pooled their genes???

Positive review of WaPo?

Stop the presses!

A fantastic example of how newspapers--shockingly!--still matter transpired yesterday in the (great? Dare I say, greatest?) state of Virginia.

It's well known (amongst politicos and news junkies, at least) that the nation's eyes will be watching the Governor's races in Virginia and New Jersey. Simply because...there's nothing else to watch.

Over Memorial Day weekend, the Washington Post ran a well-timed editorial endorsing a long-shot candidate (for the Democrats) from rural Virginia--Creigh Deeds. I'll admit it: I was sold. The piece is persuasive, remarkably effect, and--as far as journalistic prose goes--truly a gem.

Democratic voters may wonder: How can Mr. Deeds beat presumptive Republican nominee Robert F. McDonnell, who beat Mr. Deeds in the attorney general's race four years ago? The answer: Mr. Deeds lost by a scant 323 votes out of roughly 2 million cast despite being outspent 2 to 1. This is one of only two governor's races slated for the fall, and whoever wins the primary will have plenty of cash. Virginia is still more purple than blue, and Mr. Deeds's moderate platform would have the broadest appeal.

Our judgment, though, is based on who would make the best governor in the Warner-Kaine tradition, not who would be the strongest candidate. Like those Northern Virginia senators who have endorsed Mr. Deeds -- including Janet D. Howell, Mary Margaret Whipple, J. Chapman "Chap" Petersen, Charles J. Colgan and Richard L. Saslaw -- we believe that he understands Northern Virginia. We also believe that he has the character, experience and savvy to be a successful leader of the entire commonwealth.

(I think I'm in good company amongst Virginians when I say that if you bandy anything about and say its "like Mark Warner," its popularity will jump ten points. This would probably even work for toothpaste.)

The impact of the editorial did not go unnoticed: National Journal argues that without it, Northern Virginian voters would have remained skeptical of Deeds' pro-gun stance. And sure enough, Deeds came from behind to snatch the victory.

Happy ending? We'll see.

Monday, June 8, 2009

No Nail?

The most hilarious article since George Will's op-ed on jeans: Sen. Chuck Grassley disparages Obama's trip to Paris via Twitter.

More amusing than Grassley's actions are the actual content of the texts themselves:
Sen. Grassley's first tweet: "Pres Obama you got nerve while u sightseeing in Paris to tell us 'time to deliver' on health care. We still on skedul/even workinWKEND."

A short time later: "Pres Obama while u sightseeing in Paris u said 'time to delivr on healthcare' When you are a 'hammer' u think evrything is NAIL I'm no NAIL."
Ah, yes. The laconic poetry of QWRTY and 140 characters.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Mooning over Noonan

I love Peggy Noonan. Really, as far as journalists go, she's pretty close to my hero.

Never short on poetry, Noonan shares my disgust with GOP attacks on Sotomeyer's nomination:

Excite the base? How about excite a moderate, or interest an independent? How about gain the attention of people who aren't already on your side?

The base is plenty excited already, as you know if you've ever read a comment thread on a conservative blog. Comment-thread conservatives, like their mirror-image warriors on the left ("Worst person in the woooorrrlllddd!") are perpetually agitated, permanently enraged. They don't need to be revved, they're already revved. Newt Gingrich twitters that Judge Sotomayor is a racist. Does anyone believe that? He should rest his dancing thumbs, stop trying to position himself as the choice and voice of the base in 2012, and think.

The criticism of Newt, by the way, is merited. If spouting this sort of schlock makes him the "standard-bearer" of the Republican party in 2012, I can't imagine there will be many there to celebrate with him.

A regional slant on universal health care

An interesting piece in the Washington Post about health care emphasizes regional disparities that (essentially) will result in what the author characterizes as "regional subsidization." Ouch.

Ignoring partisan overtones, this point is still a good one. Perhaps it is by neccessity that the debate over health care is framed in terms of national policies--particularly given the crisis in funding "entitlements," namely Medicare and Medicaid (as well as Social Security).

No one is disagreeing with the argument that the institutional infrastructure of health care in the U.S. is complex--and when nationalized, somewhat inefficient. Yet we're wearing rose colored glasses if we neglect another reality: that health care coverage is equally affected by more local legislation through state governments. Some states are "stingier" than others--thus, fewer people are covered by Medicare and Medicaid in states in the South and Southwest.

Look at it this way:
"There's a big regional backdrop to this," said Harvard health policy professor Robert Blendon. "Those who are the beneficiaries of all this money that's going to be floating around is one group of states, and who's going to have to pay for the taxes if they lift this exemption is another group."

For example, he said, if you're a New York policeman married to a nurse and your combined salaries are $80,000, your health insurance will be taxed to pay for a family in Mississippi. "I'm trying to figure out how Chuck Schumer can raise his hands and say this is a good thing if New York workers are going to be such losers based on taxes," he said.
McGillis concedes that some of these disparities might be worked into the nationalized plans--but at the cost of complicating the tax code, and undercutting the overall effort to reform health care.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this argument, however, is its novelty (at least in the Post, which by habit I read the most regularly). Why isn't this part of the national debate covered by the media?

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Love, Actually?

The Washington Post announced this weekend that it's launching a wedding section. I'm having a moment of guilty, 27 Dresses-esque, pleasure. Everyone likes fairy tales.

Or do they? Another story today follows up Janice Radway's famous study, "Reading the Romance," which investigates women's escapist reading of romance novels. Sales figures are way up--but on this count of cultural preference, I'll diverge.

While there's an attractive escapism (for me) in peeking into the glamorous lives of others, romance novels make me cringe. Sort of like horror movies. (It's hard to put a finger on it, but I suppose it has something to do with the suspension of disbelief.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Real Housewives...

...of Washington D.C.? You'd better believe it.

Although the show's take on DC will undoubtedly be some sort of Frankenstein's monster, it's worth questioning who will participate.

Will it be savvy socialites who manage to out-maneuver producers and camera crews for free PR? Or will it be clueless social climbers, unaware that their public humiliation via self-aggrandizement is exactly that--an anathema to the secretive elegance of the D.C. elite?

My guess is that anyone who's who in Washington will gracefully defer from the show. Maybe the girls from Blonde Charity Mafia (gag) can round up some relatives to fill in.