Six Ideas That Made Us Think

1. Kiev’s Orator-in-Chief

Earlier this month, comedian-turned-politician Volodymyr Zelenskyy gave his inaugural address after winning Ukraine’s presidency. It’s a Kiev stemwinder:

My election only proves that the citizens are tired of the experienced politicians who over the past 28 years created a country of opportunities – opportunities to steal, bribe and loot. Let's build a country of other opportunities. Where everybody is equal before the law and where the rules of the game are honest and transparent, that are the same for everyone. And for this to happen, people who want to serve the nation, need to take office. And please, I really don't want you to hang my portraits on your office walls. Because a president is not an icon and not an idol. A president is not a portrait. Hang pictures of your children.

2. Are There Too Many Doctors?

Ezekiel Emanuel – oncologist, healthcare expert, and leading force behind Obamacare – is full of unconventional wisdom about medicine in America. His wide-ranging interview with Tyler Cowencovers everything from genetic engineering (“I’m no big fan of it”) to vacationing in Norway (“Fantastic for kayaking”). Here’s Emanuel discussing alleged doctor shortages in America: 

If you listen to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the AAMC — the official body, as it were — there’s a shortage. And interestingly, if you go to almost every other country, they say, “There’s a shortage.” The fact is, there’s no shortage at all...If you look at the number of office visits that we have, you look at the number of primary care doctors we have, you actually are quite generous — half an hour a visit, not 12 visits a day — you could easily accommodate all the primary care visits we have, and also all the primary care visits we need, with the current existing doctors.

Emanuel’s job of clarifying healthcare debates in America just got harder. Veteran New York Times reporter Robert Pear, who covered the policy machinations of healthcare for forty years, has died. His obituary is here, and a wonderful, personal reminiscence of “the most important reporter in Washington you have never heard of” is here, by Paul Mirengoff. 

3. San Francisco: Adults Only

Yet another obituary for San Francisco. But this time, Karen Heller adds a shrewd observation about the new demography in the city by the bay:

To take a midday tour downtown is to be enveloped by a jeaned and athleisured army of young workers, mostly white and Asian, and predominantly male. The presence of a boomer or toddler is akin to spotting an endangered species. San Francisco has less of what makes a city dynamic. It has the lowest percentage of children, 13.4 percent, of any major American city, and is home to about as many dogs as humans under the age of 18.

4. Power Lunch

The next time you make a reservation in DC, the restaurant’s management is probably hoping that someone more important than you takes your spot. Washingtonian has the low-down on the pecking order:

All VIPs of Le Diplomate, the French brasserie in Logan Circle, are dubbed “PPX” – personnes particulièrement extraordinaires – and tracked in real time on a kitchen whiteboard as they dine. But some, such as a neighborhood regular, are classified as “TTA,” for Try to Accommodate. Others are “MA,” for Must Accommodate, including Jill Biden; Gérard Araud, the outgoing French ambassador; and Jim Abdo, the developer who basically rebuilt 14th Street. An MA commands a table, stat.

5. Bad Advice

Philosophy professor Agnes Callard offers her thoughts on giving career advice. (Spoiler alert: don’t do it):

When starry-eyed students come to my office to ask for tips and strategies for becoming a philosopher, I find myself cringing in anticipation of the drivel I am about to spout. My advice isn’t “bad” in the sense that it will lead them astray, but it is bad nonetheless, in that it won’t lead them anywhere. It’s as though right before I give the advice, I push a button that sucks all the informational content out of what I’m about to say, and I end up saying basically nothing at all.

Callard contends she’s not alone: “One of the paradoxes of advice seems to be that those most likely to be asked for it are least likely to have taken anyone else’s.”

6. The Failing Economics of Hollywood Writers

The ongoing fight between Hollywood writers and their talent agents has no sign of ending. In Commentary, Rob Long, veteran occupant of television writer rooms, tries to unpack the dispute:

The old agreement between the two groups was decades old, written before cable television, streaming video, Kardashians, and the touch-tone phone…What also happened in the intervening years was that talent agents—once objects of derision and mockery for their small-time greed and flexible ethics—became more than just dealmakers in loud sport coats. From the late 1970s to today, talent agencies have become immensely rich corporations, attracting institutional investors, creating their own film and television production funds, and figuring out more remunerative ways to make a dime than charging their clients 10 percent. The members of the Writers Guild of America are, unfortunately, writers. Emotional, angry, maybe a little bit paranoid – these are excellent qualities in someone who turns his or her daydreams into dollars, but not quite appropriate for seeing the larger economic picture. 

Websites Worth Reading

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Munk Debates: Superb debate on China: Friend or foe?

Feeds We Follow

@MuhammadLila: Spectacular thread about #1 Raptors fan

@HoopsAnalysis: Great NBA clips, plus nostalgia

@KAJ33: Kareem — on everything