Category Archives: News and politics

My favorite Buenos Aires blog

There are a lot of foreigners blogging in Buenos Aires, with a correspondingly broad range in the quality of their output.  Of all these, my favorites by far are Ian Mount and Cintra Scott, two journalists living in BA whose writing shows up frequently in places like Gridskipper and the New York Times.  GoodAirs is a joint project between them, and it’s balanced, eloquent, and usually quite funny. It usually covers Argentine current events and the accompanying hubbub in the local press– everything from the just-renewed farm strike to the (former president) Juan D. Perón Institute throwing a tantrum over an episode of The Simpsons

The latest entry covers the 200-ton fruit avalanche that stopped traffic on Avenida 9 de Julio (the huge 16-lane avenue that you see in pictures of BA) for several hours and the brawl that almost ensued.  The youtube video is something to see (especially the guy who almost gets run over fleeing the lemons.)

Blowing the lid off of Lonely Planet

Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?: A Swashbuckling Tale of High Adventures, Questionable Ethics, and Professional Hedonism, by Thomas Kohnstamm

This one has been coming for a while. A news blog I’ve been reading just published a summary of coverage of a former Lonely Planet writer’s tell-all book that has now spread all over the internet. After reading the Kirkus review of this book, I have no desire to read it, as it appears to consist mostly of tales of the author buying drugs and sinking to new lows to get girls to sleep with him. In one highly publicized passage, he described how a restaurant got a positive review:

“The waitress suggests that I come back after she closes down the restaurant, around midnight,” he writes. “We end up having sex in a chair and then on one of the tables in the back corner.

“That performance earned a guidebook entry describing the restaurant as “a pleasant surprise” where “the table service is friendly.

However, most of the other juicy quotes that have arisen have been far more damaging to Lonely Planet, and seem to corroborate grumbles that I’ve been having with their business for a while. Mainly the author claims that “I was not able to go to all the places I needed to go to,” and that he instead would write up a “sort of mosaic job to tie up the loose ends.” He also repeatedly asserts that the advance Lonely Planet gave him (which is supposed to cover travel costs) was far from adequate.

I’m not surprised one bit by all of this. From what I can observe, Lonely Planet has been sitting on top of the travel guide food chain for a while: in the few hostel lobbies and airports I’ve been to, just about every young traveler has had a copy of their blue Argentina guide in hand, whether in English or another language. Being this fat and happy appears has not been good for them, as it seems to inspired a glib tone and complacent editing and updating. Some of the restaurant reviews in the current edition are in a such a glowingly laudatory tone that they sound like publicity penned by the management (“It’s an institution!”); a listing for a campground where I stayed noted its choice location but failed to note that this location happened to be across the street from an open-air nightclub which had already been in operation for several years.  In some entries about Argentina’s national parks, basic information about hiking is absent, but you will find a note that says: “For more information, see Lonely Planet’s Trekking in the Patagonian Andes” ($19.99 retail). To be fair, it would be impossible to include comprehensive trail reports, but some basic information for planning purposes would be easy and appropriate as LP books are supposedly geared towards the active/backpacker set.

As a coda to this story, my parents came to visit and brought me a copy of The Rough Guide to Argentina, which I’ve been using ever since.  It’s not better, but I like it more.

Here’s a link to the NYT blog entry where I first read about this, and from which I lifted several of the links.

The SCHIP entry- and a contest too!

Well, Bush has now officially vetoed  the extension of SCHIP (State Children’s Health Insurance Program), which would expand coverage to 10 million children from the 6.6 million covered now.  This should seem pretty appalling, but it just doesn’t seem right to blindly back an expensive bill because it sounds good and, oh, a bipartisan majority in Congress voted for it.  So, as an intellectual exercise, I searched the internet for cogent arguments against SCHIP. I looked through a lot of pages of Google News Search results, looked for editorials at newspapers with conservative managing boards (The Washington Times and Wall Street Journal), and even took a look at the policy statements at the White House’s Office of Management and Budget.

 So, what did I find?

Nothing, really.  It was hard enough to find anti-SCHIP editorials in major papers in the first place, save for the Journal (the editorial staff of the Washington Times seems to be too busy delivering spittle-flecked anti-immigration tirades to cover this issue).  To summarize, the talking points of Bush and other who oppose the bill are:

  • The specter of government-run health care– Call it HillaryCare, socialism, or what have you, but I don’t find this too alarming.  If a sign that the wealthiest nation in the world is striving to take care of every child is seen as a stumble towards socialism, then something is not right.
  • The fact that Republicans are being too bipartisan in supporting this bill– this showed up a few times in the Journal, where editorials alleged that the Republicans are loosening their commitment to fiscal restraint by backing this bill. Compared with the newest spending bill for the war in Iraq, $35 billion over a few years doesn’t seem all that bad.   
  • That big, ugly $83,000 number– This is the centerpiece of OMB’s pathetic 1.5 paragraph statement of administration policy on SCHIP. Let me quote: “[The bill]… turns a program meant to help low-income children into one that covers children in some households with incomes of up to $83,000 a year.” Bush himself said in his speech today that that “doesn’t sound to poor to me.” This is little more than an appeal to the most callous and willingly ignorant of his supporters. Yes, that figure does sound pretty bad if you’re the type of person who doesn’t like to think about things for more than 5 seconds at a time. If you’re not, you might take the time to find out that this is the highest income cap for those who meet certain criteria, such as having four children and living in states with a very high cost of living, circumstances in which a household income of $83,000 might not go all that far.

So, here’s the fun part.  The last anti-SCHIP point seems to be part of a long tradition of attacking a government aid bill by fomenting resentment toward those who would seem to benefit undeservedly from it; e.g., those lazy middle-class parents who will probably use SCHIP to pay for Timmy’s stitches when he slips in their outdoor, in-ground hot tub (because, you know, people who make $83,000 a year are rich enough to afford that stuff).  One of the best ways to fuel this resentment is with a short, nasty epithet– think of the Reagan-era gem “welfare queen.”  So, I’d like to challenge all 5 of my reader base to come up with a new anti-SCHIP epithet.  I’m looking for something that will crystallize all the resentment that bush is trying to drum up towards the illusion of smug, sort-of-wealthy middle class families who gain a free ride off the government with this new entitlement.  I’m not very creative, but I’ll give it a go just to have an example:

  •  Cruise-SCHIP families (or, those who get a free ride on the cruise SCHIP)
  • Paging Dr. Taxpayer, your freeloader is here to see you

Okay, those are pretty bad.  Got any better ideas?  Please comment.

(Bored bourg bloggers is already taken.)