Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Opinionator: A blog at the New York Times by Tobin Harshaw & Chris Suellenthorp

  • So, if the United States does pull out of Iraq, what do we think we’ll leave behind? Greg Djerejian at Belgravia Dispatch doesn’t think the Bush administration is doing any better a job planning for this eventuality than it did for the postwar insurgency:

    In earlier days, Wise Men would have corralled Bush and insisted he appoint a James Baker, say, to supplement Tony Blair’s Palestinian institution-building, the better to rush to the region on a non-stop basis to build a regional consensus for an American withdrawal from Iraq that doesn’t leave a massive power vacuum in its wake. Instead, we’re flailing. Badly. It’s amateur hour, and the fires are only growing worse.

    More soon, I hope, on what a sufficiently empowered special envoy of caliber could hope to accomplish, including, per [Senator Chuck] Hagel, a non-American one. But with Bush in power and this approach so unlikely, one is left feeling as if counseling such action is but a waste of time. … The President doesn’t like to listen to critics, alas, and so the folly continues.

  • Bradford Plumer, a reporter and researcher at The New Republic, is interested in studies showing that scientists think lead abatement in the 1980s might have been a major driver in the great crime decline of the 1990s. “On this theory,” writes Plumer on his personal blog, “children who are exposed to lead paint or gasoline fumes are more likely to become violent teenagers. Rick Nevin, an economist, argues that the reduction in lead pollution in the 1970s and 1980s can account for most of the decline in New York City’s crime rate over the past decade.”

    Plumer feels there’s a problem, however:

    “The Bush administration loves lead. Loves it. They want it everywhere. Okay, that’s only a slight exaggeration: Back in 2002, the White House tried to stack an advisory committee on lead regulations with industry types. Last December, the administration announced that it would consider doing away with the standards that cut lead from gasoline, at the behest of battery makers and lead smelters. And its EPA has weakened a rule on removing lead paint from older residences.”

  • When Senators talk about raising their state’s profile, they usually mean they’ll try to bring home prestigious new federal facilities or other pork projects to their voters. Ted Kennedy has more animated plans — involving “The Simpsons” — according to Ryan Kelly at CQPolitics:

    “Last week, Kennedy urged everyone on the e-mail list of his leadership political action organization, the Committee for a Democratic Majority, to vote for Springfield, Mass., in a USA Today contest to determine which of the 14 American cities named Springfield should assume the status of real-world equivalent for the Simpson clan’s hometown.”