Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda
THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
Two dates — two numbers. Read them and weep for what could have, and should have, been. On Sept. 11, 2001, the OPEC basket oil price was $25.50 a barrel. On Nov. 13, 2007, the OPEC basket price was around $90 a barrel.
In the wake of 9/11, some of us pleaded for a “patriot tax” on gasoline of $1 or more a gallon to diminish the transfers of wealth we were making to the very countries who were indirectly financing the ideologies of intolerance that were killing Americans and in order to spur innovation in energy efficiency by U.S. manufacturers.
But no, George Bush and Dick Cheney had a better idea. And the Democrats went along for the ride. They were all going to let the market work and not let our government shape that market — like OPEC does.
You’d think that one person, just one, running for Congress or the Senate would take a flier and say: “Oh, what the heck. I’m going to lose anyway. Why not tell the truth? I’ll support a gasoline tax.”
Not one. Everyone just runs away from the “T-word” and watches our wealth run away to Russia, Venezuela and Iran.
I can’t believe that someone could not win the following debate:
REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE: “My Democratic opponent, true to form, wants to raise your taxes. Yes, now he wants to raise your taxes at the gasoline pump by $1 a gallon. Another tax-and-spend liberal who wants to get into your pocket.”
DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE: “Yes, my opponent is right. I do favor a gasoline tax phased in over 12 months. But let’s get one thing straight: My opponent and I are both for a tax. I just prefer that my taxes go to the U.S. Treasury, and he’s ready to see his go to the Russian, Venezuelan, Saudi and Iranian treasuries. His tax finances people who hate us. Mine would offset some of our payroll taxes, pay down our deficit, strengthen our dollar, stimulate energy efficiency and shore up Social Security. It’s called win-win-win-win-win for America. My opponent’s strategy is sit back, let the market work and watch America lose-lose-lose-lose-lose.” If you can’t win that debate, you don’t belong in politics.
“Think about it,” says Phil Verleger, an energy economist. “We could have replaced the current payroll tax with a gasoline tax. Middle-class consumers would have seen increased take-home pay of between six and nine percent, even though they would have had to pay more at the pump. A stronger foundation for future economic growth would have been laid by keeping more oil revenue home, and we might not now be facing a recession.”
As a higher gas tax discouraged oil consumption, the Harvard University economist and former Bush adviser N. Gregory Mankiw has argued: “the price of oil would fall in world markets. As a result, the price of gas to [U.S.] consumers would rise by less than the increase in the tax. Some of the tax would in effect be paid by Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.”
But U.S. consumers would have known that, with a higher gasoline tax locked in for good, pump prices would never be going back to the old days, adds Mr. Verleger, so they would have a much stronger incentive to switch to more fuel-efficient vehicles and Detroit would have had to make more hybrids to survive. This would have put Detroit five years ahead of where it is now. “It’s called the America wins program,” said Mr. Verleger, “instead of the petro-states win program.”
We simply cannot go on being as dumb as we wanna be. If you hate the war in Iraq, then you want a gasoline tax so you can argue that we can pull out of there without remaining dependent on an even more unstable region. If you want to see us negotiate with Iran, not bomb it, you want a gasoline tax that will give us some real leverage by helping to reduce the income of the ayatollahs.
If you’re a conservative and you believed that the Iraq war was necessary to drive reform in the Middle East, but the war has failed to do that and we need “Plan B” for the same objective, you want a gasoline tax that will reduce the flow of wealth to petrolist leaders who will never change if all they have to do is drill well holes rather than educate and empower their people.
If you want to see America thrive by becoming the most energy productive economy in the world — a title that now belongs to Japan, which doesn’t have a drop of oil in its soil — you want a gasoline tax, which will only spur U.S. innovation in energy efficiency.
President Bush squandered a historic opportunity to put America on a radically different energy course after 9/11. But considering how few Democrats or Republicans are ready to tell the people the truth on this issue, maybe we have the president we deserve. I refuse to believe that, but I’m starting to doubt myself.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Thursday, November 8, 2007
Setting himself up for a sure-fire shut down, Barak Obama makes a swipe for the youth vote to flesh out his slowly dwindling fan base as he sticks it to the political "geezers." In his carefully crafted rhetoric, the sophomoric Senator slams the baby boomers:
"There's no doubt that we represent the kind of change Senator Clinton can't deliver on. And part of it's generational," Obama told FOX News." Senator Clinton and others have been fighting some of the same fights since the '60s. It makes it very difficult for them to bring the country together to get things done. And I think that's what people hunger for."
Way to marginalize the vote Barack, that's how your going to cross those party lines...sounds like audacious hope, or fantastical ignorance. It's clear he's going 'youth is advantagous' argument. I'm sorry Obama - you are no Bill or Kennedy.
Are you going to use that same argument when addressing Israel and Palestine? Iran and Syria? Korea? China? How about stabilizing the economy, funding education, and streamlining social programs like social security. Call me silly, but I think we should approach those issues with the whole team at the table. The older generation may actually know what they're talking about, I mean they've been dealing with these problems since the sixties.
Barack, stop bumbling and get back to your job.
Monday, November 5, 2007
Annie Leibovitz @ the Corcoran Gallery of Art
Let's get this out of the way: Whether you like it or not, Annie Leibovitz is an American Icon. Her intimate portrait photographs of the famous are so pervasive that even if you don't know the name, you're guaranteed to have seen her work, and lots of it. She began her career with Rolling Stone magazine when it was in its infancy, photographing the musically talented, and quickly became known for her deconstruction of human facades. A portrait of famed dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, whose knees had not suffered well the brutality of decades of leaps and pirouettes, shows him being lifted high into the air by a colleague, imitating the peak to which he had brought his artform and the level of respect he continued to earn, even if his body could no longer prove it.
This photo, taken in 1990, marks the historical beginning of the exhibition A Photographer's Life: 1990-2005, opening at the Corcoran Gallery of Art tomorrow. Its conceptualization began a few years prior, when in a very short period of time, both Leibovitz's father and her decade-long lover, Susan Sontag, died, and her three children were born. Leibovitz is candid about the raw emotions that preceded this show, even going so far as to say that if she had the chance to do it over again, she wouldn't.
The answer isn't surprising, given the volume of personal moments included in the exhibit. While half the gallery contains the images by which we know her -- a nude and very pregnant Demi Moore, a cinematically brooding Al Pacino, a stately General Schwarzkopf in spic 'n span whites -- the other half is filled with personal snapshots, from a day at the beach to Sontag's last days as she battled and lost her fight with cancer.
The snapshots could, by themselves, be about as exciting as flipping through your great Aunt's photo album -- unspectacular images of people you don't know, doing mundane activities ("And here's the sandcastle Jimmy made. Isn't it great? A born architect, that one."). But here, nailed to the wall between Brad Pitt and Scarlett Johansson, both of whom are posed laying prostrate in elaborate get-ups and looking at us in some unverifiable degree of uncomfortableness, the snapshots turn her exposing lens around. It's not that we get an inside peek into the life of this American Icon (well, maybe a little), it's that this precisely is her talent, so it's almost a you-got-what's-comin'-to-ya moment, and the fact that it pains her makes it all the more important. If it didn't, the balance would be shattered, and the exhibit would be one of Vanity Fair covers with inexplicable Kodak Moments wedged between, interrupting our superficial feast of the rich and famous.
The exhibit also shows her skill as "one of the foremost documenters of our generation," in her own words. Her portraits and her snapshots capture moments in a timeline, in two different ways. First, let's take the portraits: while the friends and families of these famous people may disagree, their true cultural importance is the moment in time in which they are a celebrity. Marilyn Monroe may still be famous, but pictures of her invoke the 50s and 60s: a moment in time. So Leibovitz has the enviable duty of capturing these culturally relevant moments that mark 1990 (Stormin' Norman), that mark 2005 (The White Stripes). She gives us the sleek, beautiful people in sleek, beautiful photographs on the covers of magazines so we can buy them and take them home and be a part of the whole culture ourselves.
And yet her talent lies in not just checking off dates on the calendar, but enriching the timeline with depth, because she is able to capture the intimate nature of a persona in one, elegant photograph. Leonardo DiCaprio is shown smiling into the camera in a black turtleneck, holding a swan whose neck has curled around his own, entwined with the animal the way he views his life as a whole entwined with all of nature. A portrait of Pres. Bush and his cabinet taken in December 2001 shows the group, not in the Oval Office, as they'd suggested, but in the less formal Cabinet Room. Gathered around the front of the corner of the long table, Condoleezza Rice sits in the center, like the unsure matriarch of the men looming over her from all sides, while Pres. Bush takes up the most space, standing with shoulders squarely to the lens, hands on hips to push his coat back so his Presidential Seal belt buckle glints in the light, cocky grin firmly in place. It looks like a portrait of the Sopranos family. (Oh right, she did that, too.)
Leibovitz's snapshots, on the other hand, are the flip-side. They capture only a fraction of a second in a life. In them we see nothing more than a hiking trip or a lazy afternoon, but displayed together they create her life. Unlike the formal portraits, these must be numerous to show depth, to show the series of events that make up our real, complicated lives that don't fit nicely into a celebrity persona peg made to fit into the culture hole.
A highlight of the exhibit is the series of portraits of the Queen of England, taken just before her sojourn in the States earlier this year for the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement. Since they're so recent, this is the first leg of the exhibit's tour in which they've been displayed. In a rare moment, Leibovitz encouraged the Queen to remove her crown (a nude?) and the result is still a noble woman standing calm and regal on the land she rules, no matter the somewhat tumultuous sky behind her.
The Corcoran Gallery of Art is located at 500 17th Street NW and is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday through Monday, with extended hours until 9 p.m. on Thursdays. See the web site for admission information. A Photographer's Life is currently exhibited alongside the work of another iconic photographer, Ansel Adams.
Top image by Heather Goss. Brad Pitt, Las Vegas, 1994 and Susan at the House on Hedges Lane, Wainscott, Long Island, 1988, chromogenic prints, courtesy the Corcoran Gallery and copyright Annie Leibovitz.
By: Emily CahnHatchet ReporterPosted: 10/15/07
Phlegm and sex do not usually mix, but for Billy Crystal it was a perfect match during this year's Colonials Weekend headline performances at Smith Center.
Crystal, the actor and frequent Oscar host, joked about sex and drugs and played with racial and cultural stereotypes throughout his performances."What happens at the Smith Center stays at the Smith Center," Crystal said during the nearly sold-out show on Friday night.The comedian included many jokes about GW in his act which drew heavy laughter from the crowd. Crystal joked about GW's mascot, the school's colors and the student body composition.
"This is a great school," he said. "I did a lot of research there's 9,700 undergrads here from 130 countries, so it's like dinner time at Angelina Jolie's house."
Crystal said Colonials Weekend is a great tradition at GW, noting that this was the first time many parents had seen their children in five weeks.
"It's hard for your parents when you leave…they're thinking, 'That's the last time I'll see my baby!' and you're thinking, 'I'll move home in about two to three years,'" he said.
Political jokes were also weaved into his act. Crystal joked about how times have not changed much since he went to college in 1965.
"Back then we had a president from Texas who we really didn't like and were involved in a war we really couldn't win," he said.
Crystal, who has hosted the Oscars on eight separate occasions, played a video clip of the opening monologue to the last event he hosted. The clip, a parody of classic movies, was played on Thursday night when he received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, a prestigious comedy honor awarded at the Kennedy Center.
Crystal ended the Friday night show with an interactive scene, where he brought on stage a GW parent, two students and University President Steven Knapp and asked them to make animal noises as if they were in the jungle.
"Dr. Knapp is the greatest sport ever," Crystal said in an interview after the Friday night show. "We had a great time together. The students got to see him in a different way and I think that was really important."
Crystal said he had not done a college show in a while. "Its refreshing, really keeps you on your toes," he said.
Junior Blake Baron said Crystal picked the right jokes for his audience. "I'm Jewish, so the Jewish jokes were hilarious," he said. "Billy Crystal really appealed to students and parents as well. It was fun to watch and I was enthralled the entire time."
Peter Konwerski, assistant vice president of Student and Academic Support Services, said the performances were a success. Friday night's show was nearly sold out, and Saturday's was sold out.The ability to purchase tickets to the performances was opened to the general public this year, which Konwerski said has happened in the past.
About 200 seats were opened to the public so that those who came to see Crystal for the Mark Twain Awards would be able to see his performance at Smith Center, Konwerski said.
"I think people seemed like they were having a great time," he said. "That was the most important thing for all of us."