5 Best Wednesday Columns
Haley Barbour, T. Boone Pickens, and Winnie-the-Pooh
Robert Bryce on Wind Power Overreach The Wall Street Journal columnist examines what exactly went wrong with entrepreneur T. Boone Pickens's plan to turn America into the "Saudi Arabia of wind." Bryce notes that when the campaign began two years ago, "natural gas prices were spiking and Mr. Pickens figured they'd stay high." In retrospect, Pickens "should have shorted wind. Instead, he went long and now he's stuck holding a slew of turbines he can't use because low natural gas prices have made wind energy uneconomic in the U.S." Bryce credits 2010's low natural gas prices to "the drilling industry's newfound ability to unlock methane from shale beds." This development, while great for consumers, is "terrible" for the wind industry. Pickens's only hope of getting back any of his $80 million investment is if he can "foist [unused wind turbines] on ratepayers in Canada, because that country has mandates that require consumers to buy more expensive renewable electricity."
Dana Milbank on 'Playing the Christmas Card' In a busy end to the lame-duck session, Christmas has become a popular excuse among certain members of Congress for refusing to discuss major pieces of legislation. The Washington Post's Dana Milbank refers to these seasonal enthusiasts as the "Petulant Party." He continues: "Of course, the Petulants' objections have little to do with yule. You don't defy the national security judgment of the U.S. military and reject the wisdom of generations of GOP elder statesmen simply because you have concerns related to the Advent calendar." Milbank suggests that they are really motivated not by the sanctity of Christmas but by a narrow desire to defeat the President.
Paul Waldman on That Government Program Feeling Social insurance programs like Medicare and Social Security feel like government programs, explains Waldman at The American Prospect. "If you're on Social Security, you get a monthly check from the federal government. If you're on Medicare, you get all your medical bills paid by the federal government." But Waldman argues that the majority of Americans will be "operating at a distance" from the Affordable Care Act, which could make it harder for Democrats to campaign on health care reform in future elections. "If you get your insurance through your employer, as most people will continue to do, the government's protection will be almost invisible to you," while wealthy individuals "embedded in a private health care and insurance system" will remain there. Democrats are at risk of having a good piece of legislation slip people's minds when it is time to vote. "Americans will benefit from a more secure health insurance system," Waldman explains, "but most won't attribute that security to government."
Howard Kurtz on Barbour and Media Frenzy Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour's memories of the South during the civil rights movement have come under fire following a recent Weekly Standard profile. The Daily Beast's Howard Kurtz acknowledges that Barbour's remarks about the time period--"I just don't remember it being that bad"--were insensitive and perhaps not the best thing for a potential presidential candidate to say, but he wonders if the media is blowing out of proportion Barbour's actions and attitudes from when he was a teenager. Kurtz points out that having to defend one's past, whether during military service, college, high school, or even as far back as birth in the case of Obama, has become standard for anyone considering a presidential bid. "Barbour should certainly be held accountable for the insensitive way he talked about the bad old days of officially sanctioned racial prejudice," Kurtz writes. "His statement today is an acknowledgment of how badly he bobbled the question. But at some point you have to ask: Shouldn't there be a statute of limitations on this stuff?"
Jennifer Finney Boylan on Pooh at 85 Writing in The New York Times, Boylan, a professor of English at Colby College, notes that Friday is the 85th birthday of Winnie-the-Pooh, a milestone that prompts her to reflect on her own interactions with Pooh when she was a copy writer for A. A. Milne's American publisher, E. P. Dutton, in the early 1980s. The "gruesome" job involved assisting the publishing house's director of publicity emeritus, "a crusty septuagenarian named Eliot Graham," in his capacity as "shepherd of the original Pooh stuffed animals--Pooh, Tigger, Kanga, Piglet and Eeyore--which were kept in a glass case in the Dutton lobby on 2 Park Avenue." Boylan and Graham squired the original Pooh stuffed animals to "schools and literary festivals and the sets of early morning news shows." Along the way they would "talk about the Pooh animals together... as if they were members of a rock band, and Eliot their long-suffering manager." In 1985, Dutton was sold and the stuffed animals entered a private collection. After the sale, "the glass case in the E. P. Dutton lobby was empty ... and Eliot Graham had no animals to shepherd any more. Some days you'd see him just standing there, looking into the empty case. It was sad." Boylan quit the job soon after to go back to graduate school. On her last day at work, there was "knock on [her] office door," followed by "a crusty, bearlike voice," announcing the words, "There's someone here who wants to say goodbye to you." It was Eliot Graham and the original Winnie-the-Pooh stuffed animal. "'Go ahead,' he said dryly. 'You can hug him.' So I did. He was soft."