Friday, November 27, 2009

Marie's Secret?

"In VR [velvet revolution], it is not just the Abbé Sieyès who survives. Louis XVI gets to keep a nice little palace in Versailles, and Marie Antoinette starts a successful line in upmarket lingerie."

Timothy Garton Ash in a recent article in the NY Review of Books, explaining one of the differences between old-style revolutions and velvet revolutions.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tough First Years.

Regarding Obama's first year, Joe Klein makes a good point:

"Stepping back a bit, I do see a metapattern that extends over the 40 years since Richard Nixon's Southern strategy began the drift toward more ideological political parties: Democrats have tough first years in the presidency. Of the past seven Presidents, the two Bushes rank at the top in popularity after one year, while Obama and Bill Clinton rank at the bottom, with Jimmy Carter close by. There is a reason for that. Democrats come to office eager to govern the heck out of the country. They take on impossible issues, like budget-balancing and health care reform. They run into roadblocks — from their own unruly ranks as well as from Republicans. They get lost in the details. A tax cut is much easier to explain than a tax increase. A foreign policy based in bluster — railing against an "axis of evil" — is easier to sell than a foreign policy based in nuance."

Human Inventions.

"All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit."

Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason.

While listening to NPR I came upon a segment with Thomas Frank who has an article in Playboy (slightly unfortunate venue) about Glenn Beck. During the segment he points out the conservatives' reverence for the founding fathers generally and Beck's obsession with Thomas Paine in particular.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

False Choice.

According to Brooks, "we face a brutal choice. Reform would make us a more decent society, but also a less vibrant one. It would ease the anxiety of millions at the cost of future growth. It would heal a wound in the social fabric while piling another expensive and untouchable promise on top of the many such promises we’ve already made. America would be a less youthful, ragged and unforgiving nation, and a more middle-aged, civilized and sedate one. We all have to decide what we want at this moment in history, vitality or security."

It is strange to conclude that reforming health care is a simple trade off between vitality or security from the fact that the current bills do not bend the cost curve (and never could, by Brooks' logic), when the principal reason why this is so is because Republicans, the great conservative minds, did everything in their power to strip serious cost containment out of every version of the bill (eg, independent Medicare payment commission, "death panels", strong public option etc.).

Yes, Brooks is right to point out that the current bills would do little do contain costs, but that doesn't necessarily mean that we should ask ourselves if we want to give up growth for security. The question we should be asking ourselves is if we are willing to give up what he calls "a more decent society" only because the current system is phenomenally resistant to change without even asking ourselves why that is so and what can be done about it.