France warns US on deal with Iran (James Blitz in London, Daniel Dombey in Washington and Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran, October 2 2009, Financial Times)
France is anxious about the Obama administration’s pursuit of a deal on Iran’s nuclear programme, warning that the US must not allow Tehran to expand its uranium enrichment without facing fresh sanctions.
Health Care’s Swiss Solution: Fostering competition among insurers has empowered consumers and controlled costs. (Alphonse Crespo, Philip Stevens, 2 October 2009, City Journal)
U.S. policymakers still enamored of European solutions have better models to choose from. Switzerland enjoys some of the highest quality health care in the world, largely because it has avoided some of the pitfalls of the Franco-German model, allowing a large measure of consumer-driven competition while subsidizing premiums for the indigent with taxpayer dollars. It’s not perfect: mandatory insurance has led to some cartel-like behavior among insurers and given the government increased control over health-care provision, but it has kept a lid on health-care inflation while continuing to offer patients high quality and more choices.
The Dutch have followed suit. The Netherlands for years labored under a Franco-German health-care model that absorbed 30 percent of its GDP growth. In 2006, it shifted to a Swiss-style system in which all citizens must purchase insurance from one of 41 competing private-insurance funds. This introduced a strong element of price competition into the system, with large numbers of switching customers forcing insurers to focus on patients’ needs and increase their back-office efficiency. The new arrangement has injected innovation into the system, too, as insurers seek to steal a march on their competitors. Crucially, costs have been kept under control without rationing. Since the Dutch enacted their reforms, health-care spending inflation has slowed from 4.5 to 3 percent annually, even as quality has improved.
The lessons for the U.S. are clear. Creating a state-subsidized insurer or non-profit co-op to cater to those unable to afford private premiums is the most expensive way of covering the uninsured. As Switzerland and the Netherlands demonstrate, lifting barriers to competition among insurers can provide a more sustainable solution to the cost and access problems that plague American health care. Mandatory insurance, however, needs careful checks on insurance cartel power.
Better still, a uniquely American solution would create universal health-savings accounts (with government subsidies targeted at the poor and high-cost patients) that would encourage consumers to adopt healthy lifestyles and seek care in cost-effective settings—like buying generic drugs at Wal-Mart or seeking basic care from retail clinics. The central insight now lacking in the health-care debate (whether in Europe or the U.S.) is that consumers demand better technology at lower cost from every market where they have “skin in the game”—whether it be electronics or automobiles. A combination of high-deductible catastrophic health insurance and HSAs is the only kind of “universal health care” that will, in the long run, work.
David Hume and the Conservative Tradition (Donald W. Livingston, 10/02/09, First Principles)
Russell Kirk defined the conservative tradition as essentially a critique of ideology in politics, first exemplified in the French Revolution and first exposed and criticized in 1790 by Edmund Burke’s eloquent Reflections on the Revolution in France. In Burke’s view (and Kirk’s) a normal or healthy political society reposes in the enjoyment of inherited traditions and practices. The art of politics is to preserve these general arrangements and, when necessary, to correct them by recourse to principles already intimated in them. An ideological style of politics, however, imagines an alternative order of politicsknown by reason, entirely independent of tradition and expressed in a set of abstract principles. For the ideologue, the task of politics is to instantiate that alternative (and philosophically “correct”) social order.
If we take conservatism to be essentially a critique of ideology, then Hume must be counted as a founding figure in the conservative tradition because he was the first to launch a systematic critique of modern ideologies. The critique is grounded in a distinction Hume makes between “true philosophy” and “false philosophy” that was forged in his first work, A Treatise of Human Nature(1739–40), and that runs throughout all his writings, including his historical writings. What Hume calls “false philosophy” is what we would describe today as “ideology,” a term unavailable to either Hume or Burke. HUME USES “philosophy” and “reason” to mean the same thing; so a critique of philosophy is also a critique of reason. But how can one distinguish between true and corrupt forms of philosophy (or of reason)? Such a critique would itself be another philosophical theory, and how could one know that the critique was not itself of the corrupt sort? This apparent inability of philosophy or reason to throw itself seriously into question led some to think that reason is a self-certifying guide to truth. Descartes, for instance, taught that the cause of error lies in the will,not the intellect. Philosophic reason, rightly conducted, is infallible. Hume, however, taught that philosophic reason contains within itself the seeds of its own corruption. How is this possible?2
According to Hume, the philosophical act of thought is structured by three principles: ultimacy, autonomy, and dominion. First, philosophical claims purport to provide an unconditioned understanding of what is thought to be ultimately real. Second, philosophy is autonomous, i.e., self-determining. The philosopher cannot (without ceasing to be a philosopher) defer to the pre-reflective authorityof custom, tradition, or to the dogmas of priests and poets. Third, philosophical claims about the real, grounded in the philosopher’s autonomous reason, have a title to rule over the domain of the pre-reflective. As Plato said, philosophers should be kings.
What Hume discovered is that these principles of philosophic reason are incompatible with human nature. When cut loose from the authority of the pre-reflective, they are indeterminate and can establish no judgment whatsoever. But philosophers typically do not recognize this; instead, they secretly smuggle in their favorite prejudices from pre-reflective custom and pass them off as universal principles entirely free from the authority of custom. In doing so they deceive themselves and others. And since the aim of philosophical truth is self-knowledge,this form of philosophic reason is falsein the sense of being self-deceptive.
Unsurprisingly, given his achievement, we aren't know for our philosophers. And, revealingly, such as we have are notable for their skepticism and sense of humor about the enterprise.
Obama's Olympic Failure Will Test the Washington Press Corps (Fred Barnes, 10/02/09, Weekly Standard)
Now is the time for the mainstream media to show it’s not totally in President Obama’s pocket. The Washington press corps will never fault Obama for pushing hyper-liberal policies in a moderate-to-conservative country. Ideological criticism by the press is reserved for Republican presidents.
But the media is faced with three facts as a result of Obama’s embarrassing failure in Copenhagen. 1) The failure itself. 2) The incompetence. 3) The lack of persuasive ability. There’s nothing ideological about any of these items.
President Obama not only failed to bring home the gold, he could not even muster the silver or bronze.
A dramatic 20-hour mission across the ocean to persuade the International Olympic Committee to give the 2016 Summer Games to Chicago proved such a miscalculation that his adopted hometown finished fourth of four candidate cities.
Rarely has a president put his credibility on the line on the world stage in such a personal way and been slapped down so sharply in real time. [...]
His decision to become the first president to lobby the Olympic committee in person, just two weeks after saying he was too busy with health care legislation, was a risky gamble from the start. It was predicated on the theory that Mr. Obama’s star power overseas — “the best brand in the world,” as his advisers have put it — was luminescent enough to sway enough committee members to make the difference.
ven before Air Force One made it back to Andrews, political finger-pointing broke out. White House officials insisted that Obama decided to go only after very aggressive lobbying from Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, who offered assurances that the city’s bid was within striking distance of winning.
Many political pros said they wouldn’t even consider letting Obama put his prestige, popularity and time on the line to go to Copenhagen unless he thought Chicago was a lock, or a near-lock. Some even speculated that Obama must have had some inside information about the strength of Chicago’s bid that prompted him to go – something the White House denied.
But at least one Olympics expert said that if the White House aides truly believed Daley’s assurances, they were simply naïve.
“Obama and his advisers have proven to be less smart post-campaign than in the campaign,” said John Hoberman, a University of Texas professor who studies the International Olympic Committee. “The specter of a smart politician like Obama walking into this is not pretty."
The next generation of Brothers Judd have joined the Cub Scouts. Their goal (well mine actually) is to make it further than Uncle Orrin, an esteemed Webelo.
The fall fundraiser is selling popcorn. If you're so moved, you can purchase some from Trails-End online, and their Pack gets the credit.
The Lost Polanski Transcripts : The idea that Roman Polanski was done in by an unscrupulous judge is a myth. Marcia Clark studies the startling transcripts from his 1977 guilty plea.(Marcia Clark, 10/02/09, Daily Beast)
“Mr. Polanski, because this offense involved a girl under the age of 14, it is mandatory that MDSO proceedings be instituted. MDSO means Mentally Disordered Sex Offender. If you are found to be an MDSO, you would have to register that fact with the law enforcement officer of the community in which you resided.”
Gunson then went on to ask: “….on March 10, 1977, the day you had sexual intercourse with the complaining witness, how old did you believe her to be?”
Polanski conferred with his lawyer and then answered: “She was 13.”
Gunson: “Did you understand that she was 13 on March 10, 1977, when you had sexual intercourse with her?”
Again, Polanski conferred with his lawyer, then answered: “Yes.”
So Polanski knew he faced the possibility of becoming a registered sex offender and admitted in open court that he was subject to that penalty because he knowingly had sexual contact with a girl who was 13 years old.
Hug 'em close: How big is Gordon Brown's “big choice” really? (Bagehot, Oct 1st 2009, The Economist)
The headline message was that Britain faces a “big choice” election, like those of 1945 (after which the modern welfare state was created) and 1979 (won by Margaret Thatcher). [...]
The principal debate is no longer about “Labour investment versus Tory cuts”. It is Labour cuts versus Tory cuts. Minister after minister gave warning this week about the inner axe-murderer who would be unleashed should David Cameron become prime minister, to set about massacring teachers and nurses. Labour’s savings, they claimed, would come from “efficiencies” and magically disposable “lower-priority budgets”. There is indeed a disagreement about when the cutting should begin; further contrasts may be drawn in the government’s pre-budget report later this autumn. But the blood-curdling warnings cannot disguise the essential symmetry of the two parties’ positions.
Then there are the vows to keep government fiscally honest. Mr Brown and Alistair Darling, the chancellor, announced plans for a “fiscal-responsibility act” that would make reducing the deficit a legal requirement. Meanwhile, and notwithstanding their professed desire to liquidate quangos as a class, the Tories have proposed to set up a new one to monitor the public finances. One is a watchdog and the other is a law, but both are macho bids to demonstrate seriousness about Britain’s debt burden.
Perhaps the main policy theme of Mr Brown’s own speech was what is clunkingly known as “antisocial behaviour”. He advanced various schemes for dealing with “chaotic families”, teenage mothers and problem boozers. The Tories have a name for this set of problems too: they call it the “broken society”. Mr Brown’s team eschews that crassly denigrating vocabulary, but they evidently feel a need to match the Tories’ emphasis on social dysfunction. Another big target for Mr Brown was bankers and their bonuses. The Tories have also called for bonus restraint, and for the tumbrels to cart financial miscreants out of the City.
Hollywood's Shame (Eugene Robinson, October 2, 2009, Washington Post)
Could it be that the conservative culture warriors who portray Hollywood as a cesspool of moral bankruptcy have been right all along?
Rio Wins Bid for 2016 Olympic Games (JULIET MACUR and LYNN ZINSER, 10/02/09, NY Times)
The announcement was shown live on Rio’s Copacabana beach, where tens of thousands of people had begun the party early in front of a main stage flanked by screens. As the envelope was opened in Copenhagen and the city’s name rang out, a loud scream rose from the crowd. Confetti exploded from the stage, as the people, dressed in shorts and bikinis, jumped to samba music and waved Brazilian flags and balloons of green and yellow, the national colors. The crowd spread to the water’s edge, and more people continued to arrive for a celebration that promised to last well into the night.The scene was different earlier in Chicago as throngs in Daley Plaza gasped in disappointment when Rogge announced that Chicago was out. It was a surprising verdict, especially after President Obama’s whirlwind trip to boost the bid of his adopted city. Mr. Obama was the first American president to make an in-person appeal for a bid city, and the first lady, Michelle Obama, had also come this week to lobby I.O.C. members for votes. The Obamas were flying back to Washington at the time of the vote.
The NS Interview: Robert Harris (Jonathan Derbyshire, 01 October 2009, New Statesman)
Do you agree with Enoch Powell's line about all political careers ending in failure?
I think that's indisputably true, because there is a false assumption built into the whole rhetoric of politics, which is to think that somehow things could ever be solved. Every politician and political party connives in this falsehood. The National Health Service is not a problem that can ever be solved, because people are always going to get sick and die. I have sympathy with the view of François Mitterrand that politics is not a crusade, it is a profession.
That is what attracts me about Cicero: he was a practitioner of the humane art of governance. There were few politicians more skilled, yet he was crushed by the forces around him. [...]
You take the title of the novel from a ritual purification that occurred in Rome every five years. Do we need something similar?
I think so. In Rome, it was seen that this ritual purging, with the census coming in and clearing out the senate every five years, was needed. And yes, we're definitely about to have one.
Although I'm no Conservative, I do think in a way a change of government is to be welcomed, because this lot do seem to have run out of ideas. We need that sort of five-year sacrifice and sweeping away to see whether we can find something new, some fresh way forward. I feel we have now run into a dead end, and I think that there is generally a strong feeling of that
in the country.
The First Counter-revolutionary (Corey Robin, October 19, 2009, The Nation)
The second argument offered in favor of the monarchy, the constitutional royalist position, had deeper roots in English thought and was therefore more difficult to counter. It held that England was a free society because royal power was limited by the common law or shared with Parliament. That combination of the rule of law and shared sovereignty, claimed Sir Walter Raleigh, was what distinguished the free subjects of the king from the benighted slaves of despots in the East. It was this argument and its radical offshoots, Skinner maintains, that quickened Hobbes's most profound and daring reflections about liberty.
Beneath this conception of political liberty lay a distinction between acting for the sake of reason and acting at the behest of passion. The first is a free act; the second is not. "To act out of passion," Skinner explains, "is not to act as a free man, or even distinctively as a man at all; such actions are not an expression of true liberty but of mere licence or animal brutishness." Freedom entails acting upon what we have willed, but will should not be confused with appetite or aversion. As Bramhall put it: "A free act is only that which proceeds from the free election of the rational will." "Where there is no consideration nor use of reason, there is no liberty at all." Being free entails our acting in accordance with reason or, in political terms, living under laws as opposed to arbitrary power.
Like the divine right of kings, the constitutional argument had been rendered anachronistic by recent developments, most notably the fact that no English monarch in the first half of the seventeenth century still believed it. Intent on turning England into a modern state, James and Charles were compelled to advance far more absolutist claims about the nature of their power than the constitutional argument allowed.
More troubling for the regime, however, was how easily the constitutional argument could be turned into a republican one and used against the king. Which it was, in the muted pleas of common lawyers and parliamentary supplicants, who argued that by flouting the common law and Parliament, Charles was threatening to turn England into a tyranny; and in the utopian demands of radicals, who insisted that anything short of a republic or democracy, where men lived under laws they had consented to, constituted a tyranny. All monarchy, in their eyes, was despotism.
Hobbes thought that the latter argument derived from the "Histories, and Philosophy of the Antient Greeks, and Romans," which were so influential among educated opponents of the king. Skinner agrees, and a considerable portion of this book (as well as several of his other books and essays) is devoted to tracing the classical lineage of what he calls the "neo-Roman" or republican argument. That ancient heritage was given new life by Machiavelli's Discorsi, translated into English in 1636, which Skinner suggests may have been Hobbes's ultimate target in his admonition against popular government.
But Skinner also points out that the underlying premise of the republican argument--what distinguishes a free man from a slave is that the former is subject to his own will while the latter is subject to the will of another--could be found, in a "word-for-word" reproduction of "the Digest of Roman law," in English common law as early as the thirteenth century. Likewise, the distinction between will and appetite, liberty and license, was "deeply embedded" in both the scholastic traditions of the Middle Ages and the humanist culture of the Renaissance. It thus found expression not only in the royalist positions of Bramhall and his ilk but also among the radicals and regicides who overthrew the king. A fascinating subtext of Skinner's argument, then, is that beneath the chasm separating royalist and republican lay a deep and volatile bedrock of shared assumption about the nature of liberty. It was Hobbes's genius to recognize that assumption and his ambition to crush it.
While the notion that freedom entails living under laws lent support to the constitutional royalists, who made much of the distinction between lawful monarchs and despotic tyrants, it did not necessarily lead to the conclusion that a free regime had to be a republic or a democracy. To advance that argument, the radicals had to make two additional claims: first, to equate arbitrariness or lawlessness with a will that is not one's own, a will that is external or alien; and second, to equate the decisions of a popular government with a will that is one's own. To be subject to a will that is mine--the laws of a republic or democracy--is to be free; to be subject to a will that is not mine--the edicts of a king or foreign country--is to be a slave.
It's not always clear from Skinner's text how the republicans made these claims; his Liberty Before Liberalism, published in 1998, provides a better map of their maneuvers. But what is clear is that they were aided in these efforts by a peculiar, though popular, understanding of slavery. What made someone a slave, in the eyes of many, was not that he was in chains or that his owner impeded or compelled his movements. It was that he lived and moved under a net--the ever changing, arbitrary will of his master--that might fall upon him at any moment. Even if it never fell--the master never told him what to do or never punished him for not doing it, or he never desired to do something different from what the master told him--the slave was still enslaved. The fact that he "lived in total dependence" on the will of another--that he was under the master's jurisdiction--"was sufficient in itself to guarantee the servility" that the master "expected and despised."
The mere presence of relations of domination and dependence...is held to reduce us from the status of..."free-men" to that of slaves. It is not sufficient, in other words, to enjoy our civic rights and liberties as a matter of fact; if we are to count as free-men, it is necessary to enjoy them in a particular way. We must never hold them merely by the grace or goodwill of anyone else; we must always hold them independently of anyone's arbitrary power to take them away from us.
At the individual level, freedom means being one's own master; politically, it requires a republic or democracy. Only a full sharing in and of the public power will ensure that we enjoy our freedom in the "particular way" freedom requires. It is this movement from the personal to the political--the notion that individual freedom entails political membership and participation, that it is fatally abridged by our not being full citizens of the polity--that is arguably the most radical element of the theory of popular government and, from Hobbes's view, the most dangerous.
MY SPACE: Pomplamoose
Leaving Israel With No Choice? (Michael Gerson, October 2, 2009 , Washington Post)
Obama has injected considerable suspicion into the American-Israeli relationship, picking public fights on issues such as settlements and adopting a tone of neutrality in other controversies. If Israel thinks America is an increasingly unreliable partner, Israel will be more likely to depend on itself alone -- and let the bombers fly. "When someone is trigger-happy," says Zakheim, "the last thing you want to do is make them paranoid."
In the end, it is American leaders who can talk Israeli leaders off the ledge of military confrontation. This is possible only if Israelis trust American goodwill, competence and strength of purpose. The immediate precedent does not encourage confidence. Israelis look at the North Korean crisis and see an example of meticulous, multilateral cooperation resulting in spectacular counterproliferation failure. Why, they wonder, is Iran going to be different? Weak American credibility on North Korea has strengthened the argument for direct Israeli action against Iran.
Here is a paradox for President Obama to ponder while traversing the Iranian minefield: If the Israelis were confident that America would act decisively against the Iranian nuclear threat in the greatest extremity, they would be far less likely to act themselves. Lacking that confidence, they may conclude, once again, that delaying the threat is good enough.
The Left: What's Left of It? (Amir Taheri, 10/02/09, Asharq Alawsat)
A broader look at the major democracies shows that Socialism is not doing well.
Outside the Iberian Peninsula, the European Union is almost entirely blue- the color of conservatism. However, even Iberia may not remain red, the color of socialism, for long as the governing Socialist Workers' Party in Spain seems to be heading for defeat in the next election. As for Britain, where the mildly socialist Labour Party is still in government, most pundits expect a return of the Conservatives in next year's election.
What makes this perceived retreat of the Left more interesting is that it comes when capitalism is experiencing what is supposed to be its gravest crisis since the 1920s.
Obama’s French Lesson: Sarkozy could not conceal his astonishment at Obama’s naïveté. (Charles Krauthammer, 10/02/09, National Review)
On September 24, Obama ostentatiously presided over the Security Council. With 14 heads of state (or government) at the table, with an American president in the chair for the first time ever, with every news camera in the world trained on the meeting, it would garner unprecedented worldwide attention.
Unknown to the world, Obama had in his pocket explosive revelations about an illegal uranium-enrichment facility that the Iranians had been hiding near Qom. The French and the British were urging him to use this most dramatic of settings to stun the world with the revelation and to call for immediate action.
Obama refused. Not only did he say nothing about it, but, reports Le Monde, Sarkozy was forced to scrap the Qom section of his speech. Obama held the news until a day later — in Pittsburgh. I’ve got nothing against Pittsburgh (site of the G-20 summit), but a stacked-with-world-leaders Security Council chamber, it is not.
Why forgo the opportunity? Because Obama wanted the Security Council meeting to be about his own dream of a nuclear-free world. The president, reports the New York Times, citing “White House officials,” did not want to “dilute” his disarmament resolution “by diverting to Iran.”
Diversion? It’s the most serious security issue in the world. A diversion from what? From a worthless U.N. disarmament resolution?
Yes. And from Obama’s star turn as planetary visionary: “The administration told the French,” reports the Wall Street Journal, “that it didn’t want to ‘spoil the image of success’ for Mr. Obama’s debut at the U.N.”
Image? Success? Sarkozy could hardly contain himself. At the council table, with Obama at the chair, he reminded Obama that “we live in a real world, not a virtual world.”
Christie and Corzine trade shots (MICHAEL FALCONE, 10/1/09, Politico)
Corzine largely stood by his record as governor over the last four years, saying that his administration has worked to reduce “the size and scope of government” and accusing his Republican opponent, Chris Christie, of failing to come up with a specific plan to help the state regain its financial footing.
Christie, a former United States attorney vying to be the first Republican to be elected to statewide office in New Jersey in more than a decade, said repeatedly on Thursday that New Jersey voters were “suffocating” under a weighty tax burden that was driving residents and business from the state, and said that Corzine’s high taxes had stalled the state’s economic engine.
“People are leaving this state in droves, business are leaving this state in droves and taking their jobs with them,” Christie said. “That’s why we have the worst unemployment rate in 33 years.”
Climate Bill Would Ease Energy Costs, Senator Says (Juliet Eilperin, 10/02/09, Washington Post)
Senate Democrats will initially devote 70 percent of the pollution allowances in their new climate measure to making it easier for people to pay their energy bills, Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer said in an interview to be aired Sunday on C-SPAN.
Survey: Pro-life views gain under Obama (Julia Duin, 10/02/09, Washington Times)
Popular support for abortion rights has dropped seven points in the past year due in part to the election of a pro-choice Democratic president, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life said Thursday. [...]
Pew's findings square with a similar Gallup Values and Beliefs survey in May that showed more Americans consider themselves to be pro-life (51 percent) than pro-choice (42 percent).
They also square with a Pew survey released in May showing an even larger drop of 8 percentage points - 54 to 46 percent since August 2008 - of abortion rights advocates. The biggest drops in support were among white mainline Protestants and men. Approval among both groups fell by 10 percent. [...]
In a question about President Obama's handling of the issue, 42 percent said they didn't know his stance on abortion....