Sunday, August 3, 2008

Some Worthwhile Stuff in the Sunday WaPo

And some stuff to dump on, as always. But there's a time to give credit where credit is due. I'll do a summary here, then say some more as time allows.

Front page: "Hovering Above Poverty, Grasping for Middle Class" is the top headline in the print edition. The WaPo surveyed "1,350 randomly selected people between ages 18 and 64 who work at least 30 hours a week and earned no more than $27,000 last year" which is the bottom 40% of the workforce in terms of income. One quick take:
[T]he vast majority of those surveyed are having trouble paying for gas, saving for retirement or for their children's educations. Most find it difficult to afford health care and housing, and nearly half struggle to pay for food....Three in 10 work for companies that do not offer them health insurance or paid vacations. About 4 in 10 get no sick days or retirement benefits.

To cut expenses, most said they are trying to minimize their use of electricity and heat, and more than half said they have postponed needed medical or dental care.

What the Dems could offer this group: universal health care, two weeks' paid vacation and one week of sick leave per year, and a promise to stand behind Social Security. The Broders of the world are always trying to cut back on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, because It's Important To Be Responsible, unless of course you're figuring out how to pay for a war. Then you can just borrow like crazy, and cut taxes on the rich.

Outlook section:

1) Global Warming Did It! Well, Maybe Not by Joel Achenbach. A surprisingly insightful piece by a guy who usually writes fluff pieces. Some quick points he makes:

a) While global warming is real, there's no way to say a particular weather disaster (e.g. Katrina, this year's Iowa floods) are caused by climate change. All you can say is that global warming ups the odds of floods, severe hurricanes, and the like.

b) We're trashing the environment and putting ourselves at risk in plenty of other ways. If we live in low-lying areas or in arid but wooded areas, drain wetlands, straighten out streams, and the like, then we're asking for trouble - climate change or no.

c) The takeaway: we should definitely worry about global warming. But we're acting crazy in plenty of other ways, too.

2) "McCain's Problem Isn't His Tactics. It's GOP Ideas," by Greg Anrig. Short version: being against taxes, regulations, effective government, and pretty much any Federal program that would actually help ordinary people, has proved to be catastrophic (see Iraq, Katrina, lead on kids' toys from China, salmonella on jalapenos). Since Katrina, everyone's pretty much figured this out. But there's nothing in the conservative tool chest but more of the same, which doesn't give McCain much to work with.

Op-Ed Page:

1) Shorter George Will: Obama's too full of himself, and too 'cosmopolitan' (whatever that means, and it's essentially what they used to call Jews), and besides, he wants to bring about change, which is never good. Issues? What issues? Atmospherics are more important.

2) Shorter David Broder: filibusters, schmilibusters - what the Dems need to break partisan gridlock is centrist Senators who are willing to work with Republicans. Like Mark Warner, Mark Begich, Jeanne Shaheen, and Tom and Mark Udall. Oh, and Ted Stevens' record of steering pork back to Alaska was all about helping the needy back home. (The 'bridge to nowhere' would have put how many meals on struggling families' tables? Not to mention, Alaska has the sixth-highest median family income of any U.S. state. Yeppers, making sure Federal money went to Alaska rather than somewhere else was all about helping the needy.)

3) Heather Lende (guest columnist, Alaska resident): We Alaskans like Ted Stevens. He's our pal, our uncle. And besides, the bribes he took weren't ginormous or anything.

4) David Ignatius takes dictation from a Senior Administration Official: we're not gonna bomb Iran this year - even Cheney is OK with that.

One part that wasn't dictation: "By late 2009, the Israelis warn, the Iranians could produce the 1,000 kilograms of low-enriched uranium that could quickly be converted to the 25 kilos of highly enriched fuel needed for a bomb." I'm no expert on nuclear enrichment, but my understanding is that uranium for a nuclear power plant (i.e. low-enriched) needs to be on the order of 5% U-235, but bomb-grade (highly enriched) is more like 95%. The purpose of the centrifuges is to separate the U-235 from the much less fissile U-238. I'd gladly accept clarification from anyone more knowledgable about these things, but it sure would seem like it should take a good bit longer to get from 5% pure to 95% pure than it did to get from yellowcake to 5%.

5) Jim Hoagland has a column about China, the Olympics, and human rights, and I'm sure it's important, but my eyelids always get heavy when reading Hoagland. You're on your own.

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