Did something else happen tonight?

Historian Howard Zinn, best known for writing A People's History of the United States died on Tuesday. He was a very influential activist for a number of important and worthy causes, and inspired untold others to work for these causes as well. Here's why most people should not read his book.

Link due to: Eric.





Remember two days ago when I was praising engaging the arguments of others instead of just making snarky comments? I lied.

Yglesias, “My plan, I suppose, is that the Obama administration should threaten corporations with indefinite detention without trial if he doesn’t like their political contributions. That would presumably get the Supreme Court engaged with this civil liberties problem.”

While it's not the main topic Yglesias is talking about in that linked post, I should say something about Citizens United now, I suppose. It's not a big deal. The role money plays in elections and access to political power is a big deal, but I've been convinced of the hydraulic theory of money, which says that like water, it finds its way through. In which case the argument for
Citizens United being a disaster rests on drastically overstating the effectiveness of the previous regulatory regime under BCRA.




Down in parade, people running like a masquerade

Scott Brown beat Martha Coakley and will become the junior Senator from Massachusetts in the next two to three weeks; here's what that means. Jon Chait said a bunch of true things this morning about what Brown's likely victory meant in terms of Obama's popularity and how Democrats in Congress should react. Most importantly he discussed why this does not mean they should give up on health care reform; the short version is that they've already paid whatever unpopularity costs exist, and that not passing it just means they lose the benefits, not get back the costs. Unfortunately, it's not clear that Democrats see things this way, as I'm going to be explaining in just a few sentences. If you care about health care reform, or the future of the Democratic Party (and, while it's not the same thing, the chances for liberal policies to be passed) over the next couple of years, it's a good time to contact your Congressional representative. One unhelpful thing Chait did is title his piece “PANIC!!!” In this situation telling people not to panic, or making jokes about how they're panicking, or pretty much any other use of the actual word panic seems more likely cause panic than alleviate it.

Anyway, after Brown won, Barney Frank and Jim Webb, two people whom I have positive feelings towards, put out statements which strongly imply that health care is dead. Carolyn Maloney also said earlier in the day that a Brown win meant reform was dead.

Which brings me to my final point. I really don't care about, or put much stock in, speeches. But Barack Obama needs to give a major policy address, and he needs to do it as soon as possible. And in that speech he has to take a risk, by publicly recommitting himself, and the Democratic party which he leads, to passing a health care bill as soon as possible. He has to do this because the main thing House Democrats need to understand is that not passing health care legislation will only decrease their chance of holding their seat this coming November, and Obama giving such a speech will actually tie the Democratic party's fortunes more closely to the passage of the health care bill, and should thereby prevent defections from the voting coalition. Josh Marshall makes the same point, but other than drawing a clever analogy between Bush doubling down with the surge in Iraq after the Democrats took control of Congress in 2006 and a potential Obama move now, I don't think there's much to take away from his post.




On sharing

I just used Google Reader's share feature for these three posts; I don't believe I've ever used it to suggest that other people read an entry before, but plan to start. Those three are all good reads in their own right, and I liked the way that O'Hare brought up a classic of academic literature (which I wasn't familiar with at all) but then didn't just use it as shorthand for the ideas in it, but actually explained them and their relevance. But even more so, I linked them because they reminded me of what blogs used to be like, back before the left- and right- blogging communities had so solidified and people engaged the arguments of the other side people they disagreed with about U.S. politics instead of, or in addition to, making snarky remarks and attributing stupidity/malice/bad faith or some combination of those to their opponents. Which I do too, in real life, and would do if I blogged, but I'm feeling nostalgic. And the debate I'm linking is intra-blog, rather than inter-blog, and not explicitly about a political issue under debate, which is a nice symbol of how things have changed.

One point of disagreement with O'Hare's second post, where he writes:
“White man’s burden” movies like the Indiana Jones series play this message out: the cookie-cutter plot is that a bunch of brown people are having a terrible time and can’t do anything about it until a white guy comes into town and saves them (I haven’t seen it, but have the impression Avatar follows this template).
It's exceedingly strange to use the Indiana Jones series as your example of white man's burden movies, he accurately describes part of the plot of Temple of Doom, but nothing in Raiders or Last Crusade resembles that, and I don't think Crystal Skull does either, though I haven't seen it. I don't know enough to take a side in the debate on culture as a determinant of growth, but I'll be damned if I let a confused film reference by me.

Back on the sort of unifying topic for this post, I suppose Jim Manzi v. Jon Chait and Paul Krugman (with a large supporting cast on each side)
on growth rates and wealth in Europe compared to America was reasonably similar to the days I'm nostalgic for, so maybe I'm just complaining it's own sake.

Posted while I try to ignore Scott Brown's impending election and the attending chaos (doom?) it will bring for health care reform in the United States.