Vote McGinn

I’m still a bit shattered by the results of the mayoral race.  Nickels was a sophisticated, cosmopolitan leader who understood growth and what that means for Seattle.  Was he perfect?  Not at all.

Nonetheless, Democracy (in this case, the torch’n’pitchfork “any bum but this one” variety) works its magic, and we’ll have a new mayor come next year — which is too bad, if you’re a fan of transportation and big infrastructure investments.  Warts and all, Nickels has been the Transportation Mayor, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s at least a little bit scared about What Comes Next.

So it falls to us, the electorate of Seattle, to figure out which brand of new will be less bad when it comes to transportation.  While the worst that could be said of Nickels might have been that he was a little too fond of mega-projects, both Joe Mallahan and Michael McGinn have serious flaws when it comes to their support for progressive transportation policy.

McGinn is notably anti-tunnel (I think he missed the point of Nickels’ support for a tunnel; namely, you HAVE to build the surface option to get to the tunnel, which you punt 15 to 20 years into the future … meaning it never gets built).  Heck, the man staked his entire campaign on it.  Beyond that, I’m not sure McGinn really has much grasp on transportation.  His campaign website makes some vague promises to “eliminate overcrowded buses”, but to me that’s kind of like Nickels promising that it’ll never snow again.

Mallahan, for his part, offers far more specifics.  You can read them here, but I’ll summarize: screw Paul Allen and other developers.   Mallahan sounds terrifyingly like the “Lesser Seattle” group that torpedoed every modern development in Seattle until they finally couldn’t deep six the light rail.   He’s anti-streetcar, anti-Mercer Project.  He’s pro-tunnel.  He’s pro-bike.

McGinn’s lack of specifics are troubling, but at least he seems to be pro-growth.  I say “seems to be”.  It’ll be interesting to see how the candidates do for themselves in the weeks ahead.

And, if nothing else, at least the City Council gets it.  Look forward to the era of the weak mayor, Seattle.

What Those Pew Global Attitudes Surveys Don’t Always Reflect

I’m not sure when the last time was that I checked the “bottom” of my soul — it’s possible I may never have checked down there — but some have:

Judith A. McHale was expecting a contentious session with Ansar Abbasi, a Pakistani journalist known for his harsh criticism of American foreign policy, when she sat down for a one-on-one meeting with him in a hotel conference room in Islamabad on Monday. She got that, and a little bit more.

After Ms. McHale, the Obama administration’s new under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, gave her initial polite presentation about building bridges between America and the Muslim world, Mr. Abbasi thanked her politely for meeting with him. Then he told her that he hated her.

“ ‘You should know that we hate all Americans,’ ” Ms. McHale said Mr. Abbasi told her. “ ‘From the bottom of our souls, we hate you.’ ”

. . .

She said that even though she knew that she did not sway Mr. Abbasi, it was good to hear what he thought because she wanted to try to understand the source of much of the anti-Americanism in Pakistan.

Why so-called Conservatives Should Support Health Care Reform

Editor’s note: this is a guest post from long-time reader Sebastian Hernandez.

Point #1:
The vast majority of Americans receive Health Care benefits from their employers, making Health Care one of the, if not the #1 budget item outside of regular operating capital for businesses. Think of it as a voluntary tax.

At the current rate of % increases we will soon hit a breaking point when companies start rationing health benefits to only premier employees. If the Government can offer an alternative that removes the onus for businesses to provide this critical service, it frees businesses from the costs and headaches of managing health care benefits for employees and allows them to focus on their core business. If a mandated government tax for health care (like Social Security and Medicare) replaces their voluntary benefit payout, and promises to rein in costs AND extend health care benefits to every American, how does this not benefit American companies?

A perfect example of how hurtful the current “model” is to competition is the US Automobile business. The burden of Health Care costs is something their European & Japanese competitors do not have to worry about in such a direct manner.

Point #2:

Because Health benefits are so closely tied to jobs, potential entrepreneurs looking to start a business have to think twice because of the prohibitive costs of purchasing health care insurance without the tremendous tax savings and purchasing power offered by pooled plans that most businesses can sign up for. The tax implications are inherently unfair, uncompetitive and anti-free market. You can pretty much forget starting your own business if you have a pre-existing condition that handcuffs you to your job for fear of losing coverage. Exceptions of course would be those lucky to be independently wealthy. With regards to pre-existing conditions, good luck getting a plan to cover you in the first place, and if you do the costs are astronomically prohibitive, hence the so-called ‘golden handcuffs’ of benefits tying people to their jobs.

The only option people ambitious Americans have when they cannot afford to pay individual-based health insurance is to risk and go without health care, or choose plans that will provide some levels of comfort, but ultimately leave them underinsured – something plenty of folks do. Heaven help them if a serious situation occur and they need a doctor, because the aftermath of costs will bury them. You can see this reflected in the rates of bankruptcies directly tied to medical expenses. It is said more than 65% of bankruptcies happen due to medical bills. It should be noted that a not insignificant percentage of these bankruptcies happen to people with medical insurance.

Status quo is an untenable situation that will undoubtedly become worse and drag the economy down further. We know this because it is already happening.

Then why is there so much opposition to reform is a clear indication of:

a) Willful ignorance and fear mongering stirring angry reactions from those unable to see the clear and present dangers of inaction. You see this with blatantly false accusations, dramatic and untrue conclusion jumping, and piggybacking of unrelated issues to the debate (illegal immigration, abortion, destruction of America, etc.)

b) People unable to conceptualize economic situations past the narrow worldview of their own existence (not a knock on individuals but a knock on our nature as humans) to see the volatile ramifications of continuing the status quo; and/or:

d) Fear of change. The so called “devil I know vs. the devil I don’t” strikes fear of the unknown and invites all of the cranks that twist reality with enough distortion that typically logical people no longer know what to believe.

Some of these indicators are understandable for sure. That said, once the facts are laid on the table, no rational person can make a valid argument that involves doing nothing. If they continue to believe this they really do not deserve a seat in the discussion. I’m looking at you Republicans.

This whole scene of anti-reformists hogging the media spotlight is the exact reason the founding fathers created America as a REPUBLIC versus a direct democracy. Generally speaking, our founding fathers understood that the people cannot be trusted, better said – cannot be counted on to do the right thing when faced with difficult situations. That is why the United States of America exists as a representative Democracy, entrusting (for better or worse) our leaders and representatives to make decisions for our communities and nation. It all accounts for a messy and sometimes cringe-inducing process – the proverbial ‘sausage making’ to use cute legislative parlance.

This Generation’s Citizen Kane

Sometime — probably in the very near future — someone will make a biopic of John Hughes’ life. Done correctly, it could win an Academy Award — even if only because A.O. Scott is the right age for it.

When they get around to writing it, the screenwriter will use Molly Ringwald’s op-ed as a starting point:

None of the films that he made subsequently [“Sixteen Candles” and “The Breakfast Club”] had the same kind of personal feeling to me. They were funny, yes, wildly successful, to be sure, but I recognized very little of the John I knew in them, of his youthful, urgent, unmistakable vulnerability. It was like his heart had closed, or at least was no longer open for public view. A darker spin can be gleaned from the words John put into the mouth of Allison in “The Breakfast Club”: “When you grow up … your heart dies.”

I’m speaking metaphorically, of course. Though it does seem sadly poignant that physically, at least, John’s heart really did die. It also seems undeniably meaningful: His was a heavy heart, deeply sensitive, prone to injury — easily broken.

Most people who knew John knew that he was able to hold a grudge longer than anyone — his grudges were almost supernatural things, enduring for years, even decades. Michael suspects that he was never forgiven for turning down parts in “Pretty in Pink” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” I turned down later films as well. Not because I didn’t want to work with John anymore — I loved working with him, more than anyone before or since.

. . .

Eventually, though, I felt that I needed to work with other people as well. I wanted to grow up, something I felt (rightly or wrongly) I couldn’t do while working with John. Sometimes I wonder if that was what he found so unforgivable. We were like the Darling children when they made the decision to leave Neverland. And John was Peter Pan, warning us that if we left we could never come back. And, true to his word, not only were we unable to return, but he went one step further. He did away with Neverland itself.

Salient detail: Ringwald adds that Hughes made “mixed tapes” for the cast . . . the visual of John Hughes hovering over a stereo and affixing a label to a blank cassette tape just about breaks my heart; I say that scene either goes in the first ten minutes (to convey his “eagerness”) or in the last ten minutes (to express something “yearning” about his persona) — take your pick.

30 Years of Conservatism

David Frum trumpets the successes of the last 30 years of conservative politics:

In 1975, the federal government set the price of every airline ticket, every ton of rail freight, every cubic foot of natural gas and every barrel of oil. It controlled the interest rates paid on checking accounts and the commission charged by stockbrokers. If you wanted to ship a crate of lettuce from one state to another, you first had to file a routemap with a federal agency. It was a crime for a private citizen to own a gold coin. The draft had ended only two years before, but not until 1975 itself did Congress formally end the state of emergency (and the special grant of presidential powers) declared at US entry into the First World War.

I have no idea whether the individual claims here are correct. He is, after all, a conservative with an axe to grind. But the larger point is no doubt true: we’ve undergone 30 years of deregulation, much of which has had positive consequences (I strongly disagree with his notion, elsewhere in the piece, that Americans are more “liberated” because of this deregulation, but that’s a separate matter).

When you hear conservatives go apoplectic about the socialism that Obama is supposedly foisting upon all of this, it’s worth keeping Frum’s thoughts in mind. Conservatives had a long, successful (in their estimation) 30-year run. it’s perfectly natural and appropriate for the pendulum to swing back a bit.