Saturday Links for the Week – July 21, 2007

Rufus & Quack #4
Rufus & Quack #4

Making Sense Of It All This Week:

Lee Arnold’s Two-Minute YouTube Review of Al Gore’s New Book: The inventor of ecolanguage does it again. Brilliant.

Leaders and Heroes, Proud of Their Obscene Wealth: The great NYT investigative reporter Louis Uchitelle interviews corporate leaders who really believe they’re worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year, and that their donating a bit of it to charity makes them heroes as well as brilliant leaders. Fascinating, nauseating, essential reading.

What We Want for Ourselves, and What We Want for Our Society, are Different: James Surowiecki in The New Yorker makes the most compelling argument yet for why we all need regulation. Extract:

The curious fact is that many people buying three-ton Suburbans for that arduous two-mile trip to the supermarket also want Congress to pass laws making it harder to buy Suburbans at all. Whatís happening here?…

Between 1975, when fuel-economy standards were first introduced, and 1984, average fuel economy improved by sixty-two per cent, without any decline in performance.) This is not because of technological difficulties or a conspiracy on the part of the auto industry. Itís because automakers have listened to car buyers, and put their energy into making vehicles bigger and faster, rather than more efficient. In calling for a law requiring better gas mileage in our cars, then, voters are really saying that theyíre unhappy with the collective result of the choices they make as buyers. [This is echoed in repeated surveys of business leaders showing it’s not regulation they object to, it’s regulation that is not applied across the board or which is unevenly or not enforced.]

Why Michael Moore is So Infuriating: Also in the New Yorker this week, Atul Gawande reviews Sicko and notes “Sicko doesn’t really offer solutions…[yet] the movie is so effective in depicting the inhumanity [of the US healthcare system] that it makes our failure to act seem baffling.” He goes on to explain why Edwards’ and Obama’s universal coverage proposals won’t ever see the light of day, and why “failure to act” isn’t baffling at all once you begin to understand the hazards of reforming complex systems. Moore doesn’t offer solutions because there aren’t any. Things are the way they are for a reason. Only a large-scale crisis — like another Great Depression or The End of Oil — will precipitate needed change.

Natural Work Needs No Sabbatical: Chris Hardie ponders why companies feel the need to offer and require staff to take paid vacations.

Immune System Suppression Won’t Help Us During Pandemics: A paradox of pandemics, poultry flu and some other infectious diseases is that those with the strongest immune systems have the highest mortality rate. This is due to a phenomenon called ‘cytokine storms’, a consequence of hyperactive immune systems that, it was thought, might be worse than the disease it was fighting. Under this theory, suppressing the immune system and preventing these ‘storms’ might reduce mortality during pandemics. Alas, a new study says it isn’t so: It’s the disease, not our body’s reaction to it, that most determinesmortality, and compromising the immune system just makes the disease’s job easier.

Thought for the Week: From an old Neil Young song On Our Way Home:

Though we rush ahead to save our time, we are only what we feel.
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