Sunday, June 26, 2005

Making peace and progress, one meal at a time

So late in life we learn what we most need to know! I was brought up to stand apart from those with whom I disagreed. Only in recent years have I seen, through studying conflict resolution, that progress often requires better understanding of our adversaries. Here's a useful lesson in that art, from a Colorado scholar named Patricia Limerick Nelson. She writes in the New York Times: Dining with Jeff (You'll need to register, if you haven't already, to read the piece.)

Saturday, June 04, 2005

A voice of reason in the land of illusion

A friend of mine wrote to Dr. Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader, a few days after the bipartisan compromise over the president's appointments of federal judges. I thought it a particularly wise and diplomatic letter, and want to share it with you here. The writer agreed, so here it is:

Thursday morning

Dear Senator,

I think our democracy was founded on several principles, one of which is protection of minority rights. We are a nation that is governed by laws and principles, not governed wholly by the will of the majority and not a nation governed solely by the last vote taken.

When the Democrats were in power in the last decade, Republicans rightly utilized the rules of the Senate to delay or thwart the appointment of many judges. It was the Republicans who, I believe, opposed President Roosevelt's plan to increase the number of Supreme Court justices, thereby packing the Court with nominees who would have supported his partisan views. Republicans preserved our nation by using the rules of the Senate, the same rules you would today deny. Your view is short sighted; one day you again may be the minority party and you will want to represent your 200 million minority followers.

Your actions are ill advised and a threat to the democracy we have built over the last two centuries. Pressing for judicial intervention when it suits you, as in the Shaivo case, and preaching restraint at other times is unprincipled and unwise. I would urge your patience with our process.

Your actions have helped create a most divisive Congress, one in which trust and cooperation are no longer a basis for solving America's problems. Money and religious fanaticism have always influenced our process. With the current greed and the grab for power, these four factors seem to be driving forces on our current political landscape. I sincerely hope you will rein in these four horsemen before they carry you too far afield.


Stephen Karlan

Frist, meanwhile, continues to oppose the 14 senators who put their country and the Senate itself ahead of their parties. If you visit his Senate home page, you will see Frist appropriating an underlay of the Constitution itself for his position.

June 5 update:
Today's NYTimes writes of Frist's effort to step out from behind John McCain's shadow. It's a good read.

Friday, June 03, 2005

A slam at Paul Krugman, and his response

Some of my favorite reading this year and last has been the New York Times columns of economist Paul Krugman. I was astounded, then, when Daniel Okrent fired a rather mean parting shot at Krugman in his final column (May 22) as public editor for the Times.

Krugman naturally demanded particulars. You can find them here Public Editor's Web Journal , along with rebuttal.

It seems to me that Okrent was being picky and petty rather than constructive. What do you think?

There's gold in them chills

An early concern of this blog was our country's stumble in production of flu vaccine. Here's an update that's encouraging. The nut graf: The marketplace for flu vaccines is changing. Higher Medicare reimbursements to physicians, increased media attention each fall (including the 2004 presidential election season) and a burgeoning campaign by immunologists to diminish the threat of a pandemic are creating a more attractive environment for vaccine manufactures.

You can read more at Stock Watch

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

A timely observation

Matt Miller writes for the NYTimes op-ed page:

What if leaders in each party actually did tell their supporters some truths they needed to hear - and thereby exposed the charades each side relies on to wangle the support of half of the half of Americans who bother to vote?

You may need to register to read Beyond Viagra Politics , but it's SO worthwhile.

New home for world news on CNN

I'm encouraged to read that CNN will be doing a daily show compiled from its overseas affiliates. The midday slot mentioned here is hardly prime time, but it's probably realistic given American tastes. Let us hope the show helps broaden the view of the world that seems to prevail here.

As the LATimes headline This is CNN ... still settling on its voice suggests, the writer sees this new show as a sign of some casting about by the programming gurus in Atlanta. That may be, but I think the new show will be a worthwhile experiment. Remember that, during the first Gulf War, after Iraq invaded Kuwait, CNN efficiently telescoped the distance between America and the Middle East and brought the action (or a version of it) into everyone's living room. It was as effective as Ed Murrow's London broadcasts of the air raids in World War II in making us conscious of a distant reality. (I don't remember Murrow's radio days, but my parents spoke of them.)

One could wish that television were as effective with other news as it is with wars and tsunamis. Here will be the great challenge for CNN's new show. In the video culture that invented "If it bleeds, it leads," can cable news communicate without dramatic images and still hold an audience? I'll be hopefully watching.