Friday, December 18, 2009

30 million reasons.

In today's column, Brooks lists the reasons to support and oppose the healthcare bill currently under consideration in the Senate.

His reasons to oppose the bill anger me, each in its own unique weakly reasoned and misleading way. But the thing that bothers me the most is the opening sentence:

"The first reason to support the Senate health care bill is that it would provide insurance to 30 million more Americans."

Brooks spends exactly 21 words in his 800-word column on this fact as if to quickly get that out of the way so he can talk about the important stuff.

Well, here is my list:

1. It will expand health insurance to 30 million Americans.

2. It will be budget neutral .. and I don't care what Brooks says about the alleged political inconceivability of spending cuts. If you really believe that you can't support legislation because the Congress will never be able to stick to its targeted savings embedded in it, that's political nihilism and effectively invalidates any further debate. On the one hand he wants more cost control, on the other hand he doesn't believe that the cost cutting measures in place will be implemented. What exactly does that leave the Congress with then?

3. It will expand health insurance to 30 million Americans.

4. It will save tens if not hundreds of thousands of lives every year.

5. In case you missed it, it will expand health insurance to 30 million Americans.

6. It will launch a host of ideas to improve the system.

We're not talking about anything revolutionary or immediate here but I have absolutely no idea what else Brooks is looking for that would:

(a) improve quality and efficiency
(b) correct all the messed up incentives currently in place
(c) cut not just wasteful spending but also total spending (that seems to be what he is looking for in his reason to oppose # 2)
(d) and at the same time do all magic this BY MEANS OF A SINGLE BILL and AT THE SAME TIME not be achieved with some measure of government involvement in the current system (which he cites as reason #4 to oppose).

Brooks is opposing the bill because it fails to live up some vague ideal of "getting the fundamental incentives right" .. but he also expects us to believe that it's a tough call for him, and he "flip flops" every day, as if the bill kept changing dramatically overnight from one that fundamentally transforms the system to a bad one that only insures 30 million more people without bending the cost curve.

As if all this time it seemed like we might, in the end, suddenly, find the holy grail .. and - OMG, oops - we didn't, so - sorry 30 million uninsured Americans, better luck in 16 years!

And those 350,000 of you that die in the meantime because you have no coverage - you can rest in peace because .. we didn't slow innovation!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

You Know You Made It When ..

.. a dorky historian uses you as an example of flamboyance.

"To be recommended humble discretion by President Sarkozy is like being counselled modesty in dress by Lady Gaga, or self-denial by a banker."

Thanks, TGA, for a hump day chuckle. And an otherwise good article on the Swiss minaret craziness.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Boeuf Bourguignon.

Because this blog does have "eat" in its title, some pictures from my effort to make Boeuf Bourguignon a la Julia Child.

You start with oil, butter and bacon, of course.

You pat the beef dry with paper towels and display it on a white cutting board to take a nice picture.

Then you do a million other steps, all of which you forget to take pictures of .. oh, except the onions ..

.. and mushrooms ..

.. all of which are sauteed in butter - naturally! While the beef is braising in the oven for 3 hours, you realize you're starving and you run out to buy some cheese - how French! - and consume tons of it with crackers and wine.

When the meat is done and your whole home smells like butter and beef, you take a nice picture of the beef ..

.. and conclude that you're entirely too full of cheese to eat much of it. Refrigerate and reheat it the next day, when the flavor developed into even more orgasmic dimensions.

Bon Appétit!

Warning: This recipe was developed by Julia Child to prevent weight loss by long distance runners despite training as much as 50 miles per week. Reading this post alone is equivalent to consuming a tablespoon of butter. Eat some bread.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


I have to admit: I have no idea what the US should do in Afganistan and I don't have a strong view on Obama's decision about this on Tuesday. And judging from reading the million and a half comments about it in the last few day, nor does anyone else really. Given the insane mish-mash of entirely contradicting elements of the genesis of the war, the current situation and the variety of possible ultimate goals, it's impossible to have an answer that will be entirely satisfying to anyone - and so the critics abound.

Meanwhile, I like the analysis of the Tuesday speech put forth in this TNR article:

"the rhetoric does, I think, help to answer a question that a lot of pundits have been puzzling over for the past year: What, exactly, is Barack Obama's overarching worldview when it comes to foreign policy? For a long time, I've felt I didn't really know. After last night's speech, I suspect Obama doesn't really know either. A politician who is capable of sounding such dissonant notes in the same speech is a politician who is still figuring out his first principles of foreign policy. This might help explain some of the more confusing things about Obama's first year in office: how, for instance, a president who has found his way to a human-rights-friendly policy on Afghanistan could have seemed so cold to human rights in his approach to Iran and China; or how a candidate who once spoke forcefully about the need to address genocide in Sudan has proven to be such a disaster on the issue now that he is in office."

On a slightly different note, I really enjoy the proposal to institute a war tax to pay for this insanity. And not because I want to pay more taxes, but because it exposes the hypocrisy of proponents of escalating the war who at once want to send more troops, but don't want to pay for it with tax hikes, even thought they are allegedly fiscally conservative (yes, I'm talking about Republicans here). And, in a sense, it will put the question to the nation as a whole: is this war worth paying for and if it's not worth paying for, why is it worth fighting?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


An interesting article about Dubai .. but this part is particularly insightful:

"In Saudi, it's hard to be straight when you're young. The women are shut away so everyone has gay sex. But they only want to have sex with boys – 15- to 21-year-olds. I'm 27, so I'm too old now."