Monthly Archives: November 2007

More tales from Washington

It’s remarkable and heartening that there are still courageous, intelligent people in our government after years of the disastrous, shameful Bush administration. Foreign Policy recently solicited comments from within the State Department on the reluctance of Foreign Service Officers to go to Baghdad. It elicited some amazing replies. From Foreign Policy’s blog:

We are called to serve in Iraq in totally unprecedented numbers, and the public should know why. We do. It is because those numbers are artificially inflated, with no justification or reasoning apparent for anyone to see. The requirement for vast numbers of diplomatic officers and specialists is based on the continuation of an ad hoc series of incoherent plans, not on a clear, articulated purpose. This demand for ever-increasing numbers of diplomats is evidently based on a political desire to demonstrate State’s institutional support for an occupation with no articulation of what these numbers will accomplish.

What is most disgraceful about this state of affairs is that the Foreign Service and the rest of the State Department gave this administration an excellent, well-researched and solid set of plans for the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq, shortly before the invasion. Our work and participation was explicitly and dramatically rejected by the Secretary of Defense and the White House, particularly including then-National Security Advisor Rice… Now the very actors who refused to hear the inconvenient counsel of the nation’s diplomatic service blame that service for their own mess.

Why Americans don't want to go to medical school

I thought medical school places were still highly sought after. I was wrong:

Did you know that there are only two applicants for every place in U.S. medical schools?

In Canada, surprisingly, close to four students apply for each opening. The training in the two countries is very similar; indeed, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) accredits medical schools in both countries. And, in the U.S., at the high-end, physicians can hope to earn far more than Canadian doctors.Why then do so few Americans apply to medical school?

The answer is that we have priced a medical education well beyond the reach of most middle-class students. In 2004, tuition and fees at a public medical school averaged $16,153. Students who attended a private school paid $32,588 according to a 2005 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

The author, Dr. Gail Morrison, Vice Dean for Education at University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, tacks on $20,000 to $25,000 a year for living expenses, books and equipment to calculate that the total cost of four years of medical education comes to a heady $140,000 for public schools and $225,000 for private schools. I’d add that, in many American cities, students would be hard-pressed to cover rent, food, clothing, utilities and transportation for $20,000 a year—let alone books and equipment.

No government after 149 days and no one notices

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew they were having political problems in Belgium. But I didn’t expect this:

Financial Times Deutschland takes a look at Belgium where there is still no government after 149 days, a record in the country’s history. There is a big disagreement between the coalition partners about a single electoral district on the outskirts of Brussels, Brussels-Halle-Vilvorde, which the Flemish community wants to be assigned to Flanders, and which would force the Francophone minority having to vote for a Flemish politicians. Brussels is officially the only bilingual part of Belgium.

Jean Quatremer notes in his blog Coulisse de Bruxelles that the latest survey in Flanders makes disturbing reading for the future of Belgium 63% think that Belgium will break up. 86.8% say they are not ready to make any compromises, and 83.8 % say that a reform of the state must be the priority of the new government. And 91% want to cut of the Francophones in a Brussels suburb from a casting a vote.

Things will get better, won't they? Still waiting

Greg Djerejian:

And so the Congress, even with a Democratic majority, continues apace towards rubber-stamping Duma status. Frankly, if we had fewer “constitutionally illiterate” (Bruce Fein’s phrase) representatives, impeachment charges for Dick Cheney would likely be getting drawn up. Instead, we’re confirming as Attorney General of the United States a man who won’t declare water-boarding illegal, and this with the opposition party controlling the Judiciary Committee. We are living through one of the saddest chapters in U.S. history. The question is, how and when will it end?