LAST February, a former speechwriter for Bill Clinton was seeing red about how fashion brings new things to the market and people discard some old thing, which itself was the new thing not long before.
“Let's face it: fashion is bad for the environment,” Hannah Steiman wrote for her blog. “I'm not just talking about clothing — I'm talking about our general desire to obtain new things as trends change. How many perfectly good couches ... have been discarded, replaced with new ones that required significant amounts of energy and raw materials to produce?”
Steiman introduced readers to the concept of leasing designer blue jeans instead of buying them. A Dutch company, Mud, is doing this. Customers pay a security deposit and a monthly fee to have a pair of high-dollar denims for a year. They can then buy them, turn them in or exchange them for a new pair with a new agreement.
Leasing blue jeans? This was news to us until The Wall Street Journal wrote about Mud this week. Cash-strapped consumers are reluctant to pay 100 euros (about $135) for a pair of jeans they won't keep long. But they are willing to pay 5 euros a month on a lease.
In this spirit, perhaps we could lease some warmer weather from south Florida. How about leasing genes as well as jeans if you don't like the ones you were born with? We'll stick with leases for cars.
A great man passes
Nelson Mandela, who died this week at 95, began fighting peacefully in the 1950s for an end to apartheid in South Africa — a system in which whites ruled the predominantly black nation, denying blacks the right to vote or choose for themselves where to live. Mandela's fight cost him 27 years of his life, which he spent mostly in a harsh South African prison after he was convicted in 1964 of leading a campaign to sabotage the government. When he was freed in 1990 at age 71, he was internationally known and admired. That only continued in the years ahead. He won the Nobel Peace Price in 1993, along with South Africa's president at the time, for working to end apartheid. Mandela then sought the presidency in democratic elections 1994 and won, becoming the country's first black president. “Let freedom reign,” Mandela said afterward. “The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement.” Adjectives like “great” and “heroic” get thrown around so much that they have just about lost their meaning. Nelson Mandela was indeed a great and heroic figure.
Could be worse
In California, state lawmakers' salaries are set to increase 5.3 percent. Their base pay will rise from $90,526 to $95,291. Those lawmakers note that this is their first raise in six years, and that they actually had their pay reduced during the recession. As with many other issues, this is an instance where California could learn from Oklahoma. Here, partly because lawmakers don't directly set their own salaries, legislative pay hasn't changed since 1998, allowing inflation to effectively cut lawmakers' pay by 30 percent. Oklahoma legislators' base salary is $38,400. In contrast, California's base pay for lawmakers is the highest in the country, and they also get tax-free per diem payments that total around $30,000 annually. (However, they don't have pensions.) Oklahomans, like most citizens nationally, often complain that local politicians are overpaid. But as California makes clear, things could be worse.
Company line — and then some
Give U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., credit for trying to help out his president, even if he looked foolish doing so. During a discussion about Obamacare on a news show last Sunday, Ellison alluded to President Barack Obama's repeated promise that Americans who liked their insurance plans could keep them under the Affordable Care Act. That of course has proved not to be the case. Everything Obama said and did in touting the new law “was in pursuit of trying to get Americans, all Americans, health care,” Ellison said. “So I think even though he may have said, if you like your decent insurance, your insurance that works, then you can keep it, I think that people really get that.” Actually, what Americans get is that Obama never quantified his promise in any way in the two dozen-plus times he made it since 2009. Later, Ellison said, the president “owned it. He said, ‘Look man, if you misunderstood what I was trying to say, I'm sorry about that.' I think that shows integrity.” Desperation is more like it.
Obamacare = 1-year old?
In a recent MSNBC interview, U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., argued for preserving Obamacare in spite of its many problems. “I've got a 1-year-old granddaughter, and on Thanksgiving Day she had a number of little glitches, but we're not ready to throw her away because of a glitch here and there,” Cleaver said. “Most things in the beginning stages are going to be difficult to pull off.” Seriously? Obamacare has deprived cancer patients of their currently affordable insurance policies, increased costs for millions, forced people to subsidize abortion-inducing drugs in violation of their deeply held religious beliefs, and more. And no one seriously expects things to get better as more of the law takes effect in the coming year. The worst you'll get from a 1-year-old is a temper tantrum. Cleaver should apologize to his granddaughter. Even the worst-behaved child is a dream compared with Obamacare.
Politics and religion
State lawmakers' efforts to emphasize religious influence may generate some unintended consequences. House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, has suggested installing a chapel in the Capitol building, an idea criticized for pragmatic reasons (the money could be better spent elsewhere) and constitutional ones (potential violation of state neutrality toward religion). We doubt Shannon expected Adam Soltani, head of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, to tell The Associated Press he supports a chapel and his organization would seek to use it for Islamic prayers. On another front, lawmakers authorized installation of a Ten Commandments monument on Capitol grounds. In a publicity stunt, New York-based Satanic Temple now wants to install a monument to Satan next to it. In both cases, it appears lawmakers' efforts to embrace religion could actually generate increased religious confrontation and division, not broader contemplation of a higher power.
Trolling for dollars
U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, 69, a pack-a-day smoker most of her life, was diagnosed in May with lung cancer. Now she is seeking legal relief from asbestos companies. As New York Times columnist Joe Nocera pointed out, it's difficult to sue tobacco companies because of the well-known dangers of smoking. So more and more lung cancer victims are joining the tort bar's decades-old class-action assault on asbestos, which has bankrupted more than 100 companies and generated billions in damages. McCarthy, D-N.Y., claims that as a youngster, she was exposed to asbestos because her father and brother worked as boiler makers and they all lived in the same home. In addition, she “visited and picked up my father and brother at various work sites, including Navy Yards, Bridges, Hospitals, Schools, Powerhouses, and other sites where I breathed the asbestos dust.” Nocera expects her lawsuit to be cobbled together with other cases in an effort to force a company with no tie to her disease to fork over some cash. While wishing her well in her fight against an awful disease, he says the right thing to do is drop the lawsuit. “All it has really accomplished,” Nocera wrote, “is showing how asbestos litigation is a giant scam.”
Have cause, will file