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Archive for June, 2009

Close, But…

Sigh…From a 2-0 lead at halftime, the US falls to Brazil 3-2 in the Confederations Cup final. (And it really should’ve been 4-2 — The refs missed a Brazil goal in the 62nd minute.) Well, we had a good run, and we’ll always have the Spain win…onto 2010.

Everything looks worse in black and white.

They gave us those nice bright colors, they gave us the greens of summers: By way of Dangerous Meta and to commemorate the recent discontinuing of the famous film, Fortune offers up twenty Kodachrome images from its extensive photo archives, including shots by Ansel Adams, Walker Evans, and William Vandivert. The one above, by W. Eugene Smith, dates to 1957.

Days Bygone and Egon.

“He’s cool. He’s jolly. The funny thing is that when I first met him [the Dalai Lama], the Tibetans were all familiar with Groundhog Day, but they didn’t understand the Dalai Lama speech in Caddyshack. They’re like, ‘The Dalai Lama does not play golf.’ I said, ‘I know, I know. But if he did…’

As part of the Year One roll out, GQ publishes a wide-ranging and worthwhile interview with director Harold Ramis, one that pauses to consider Animal House, Caddyshack, Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, Meatballs, and the strange headspace of Bill Murray. “Everybody has a Bill Murray story. He just punishes people, for reasons they can’t figure out. He was a student of Gurdjieff for a while, the Sufi mystic. Gurdjieff used to act really irrationally to his students, almost as if trying to teach them object lessons.

Blue Sky Mining.

“One of the bill’s co-sponsors, Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), said: ‘The American people wanted change in our energy and climate policy. And this is the change that the people are overwhelmingly asking for.’ He called it ‘the most important energy and environment bill in the history of our country.‘” After much wrangling and a half-hearted GOP attempt at filibuster (which is only a prerogative of the Senate), the House passes the Waxman-Markey climate bill, 219-212. (Eight Republicans voted for it, 44 Dems opposed.) The “cap-and-trade” bill “would establish national limits on greenhouse gases, create a complex trading system for emission permits and provide incentives to alter how individuals and corporations use energy.” [Key provisions.]

There is some concern that the bill has been watered down too much out of political necessity: “While the bill’s targets may seem dramatic, they are in fact less than what the science tells us is required to avoid catastrophic warming. The 2020 target in particular is far too weak and quite easy and cheap for the country to meet with efficiency, conservation, renewables and fuel-switching from coal to natural gas.

Still, environmentalists remain hopeful. “It is worth noting that the original Clean Air Act — first passed in 1963 — also didn’t do enough and was subsequently strengthened many times.” And, while the bill — which (sigh) gives away 85% of the new emission allowances (the heart of the “cap-and-trade” market hopefully soon to emerge) to interested parties — looks to “set off a lobbying feeding frenzy,” groups like the NRDC seem to agree that “[t]his is the best bill that can actually get through committee.”

Of course, now the bill has to get through the Senate, where the usual lions lie in wait. “”Senator Inhofe of Oklahoma said ‘It doesn’t matter,’ he declared flatly, ‘because we’ll kill it in the Senate anyway.'” And even some Dems are fatalistic about its prospects. “Mississippi Rep. Gene Taylor (D) voted against the measure that he says will die in the Senate. ‘A lot of people walked the plank on a bill that will never become law,’ Taylor told The Hill after the gavel came down.” Looks like Sen. Reid has his work cut out for him.

Atlas Hemmed and Hawed.

“Somewhere in literary-character hell, John Galt is spending an eternity getting beat down by Tom Joad & his pick handle.” Ah, Ayn Rand…come for the vaguely kinky sex, stay for the self-serving, thoroughly reprehensible philosophy. Salon‘s Andrew Leonard asks if the recent economic downturn has discredited Rand’s Objectivism once and for all, prompting — as you might expect — a war in the comments section between the true believers and the gleeful cynics.

Among the many funny comments, this one, reposted from here: “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

The “Orphans of Apollo.”

So why do tech geeks love space? Though they may have the resources — a trip to space will now set you back some $45 million — this can’t be the full answer: You don’t see Donald Trump or P. Diddy signing up for an astro-mission. What makes it worth it for the tech geeks?The Big Money‘s Julia Ioffe tries to ascertain why dot.com miliionaires pay out the nose for space travel. Uh, because it’s there?

“‘There’s a documentary called Orphans of Apollo that’s stated this well,’ he explained. ‘There’s a generation of us, who are the tech leaders of today, who were universally inspired to go into science and technology because of the NASA Lunar Space Program. And the reason the movie is called Orphans of Apollo is because, in many ways, we feel orphaned by the fact that the space industry has not done a good job of capitalizing on that momentum of what many of us believed were the first steps into space, carrying the mission of human space flight farther and farther into deep space.’

Forty Years and Counting.

“The cultural climate is far different today, besides. Now, roughly 75 percent of Americans support an end to Don’t Ask, and gay issues are no longer a third rail in American politics. Gay civil rights history is moving faster in the country, including on the once-theoretical front of same-sex marriage, than it is in Washington. If the country needs any Defense of Marriage Act at this point, it would be to defend heterosexual marriage from the right-wing ‘family values’ trinity of Sanford, Ensign and Vitter.”

The NYT’s Frank Rich reflects on the gay rights movement on the 40th anniversary of Stonewall. “No president possesses that magic wand, but Obama’s inaction on gay civil rights is striking. So is his utterly uncharacteristic inarticulateness…It’s a press cliche that ‘gay supporters’ are disappointed with Obama, but we should all be.

The Serpent on the Staff.

“As a society, we trust doctors to be more concerned with the pulse of their patients than the pulse of commerce. Yet the American Medical Association is using that trust to try to block a robust public insurance option as part of health reform. In fact the A.M.A. now represents only 19 percent of practicing physicians…Its membership has declined in part because of its embarrassing historical record: the A.M.A. supported segregation, opposed President Harry Truman’s plans for national health insurance, backed tobacco, denounced Medicare and opposed President Bill Clinton’s health reform plan.

And don’t forget Sheppard-Towner: In his column this week, Nicholas Kristof take aim at the powerful American Medical Association. “‘They’ve always been on the wrong side of things,’ Dr. Scheiner told me, speaking of the A.M.A. ‘They may be protecting their interests, but they’re not protecting the interests of the American public.‘”

Where’s Waldo (the Lobbyist)?

“When 22 senators started working over the first health care overhaul bill on June 17, the news cameras were pointed at them — except for NPR’s photographer, who turned his lens on the lobbyists. Whatever bill emerges from Congress will affect one-sixth of the economy, and stakeholders have mobilized. We’ve begun to identify some of the faces in the hearing room, and we want to keep the process going.” Clever, clever: Also on the health care front, an NPR photographer initiates a game of find-the-health-care-lobbyist. “Know someone in these photos? Let us know who that someone is.

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