After a nice Geneva-JFK flight, I was supposed to transfer to a flight to DC but they all got canceled on account of the rain. And by the time I got around to it, there were no slots left on the SUPERTRAIN. Fortunately, Chris Hayes was sufficiently un-jetlagged to safely pilot a rental car to DC. And so now I’m back! And tired. But mostly back. And back on to your regularly scheduled blogging.
Meanwhile, many thanks to everyone at the American Swiss Foundation for making my recent trip possible. It was both an extremely enjoyable junket, and also massively informative. And, yes, for readers of the blog this does mean you ought to be scrutinizing every post for a sign of “dual loyalties” or that my policy views are mere cover for the nefarious Swiss agenda. What if, for example, my belief that it would be smart to increase tax rates on richer Americans in order to finance more generous social services is really just part of a plot to increase demand for tax shelters?
In 2006, Media Matters conducted a study on Sunday political talk shows, finding that “Republicans and conservatives have been offered more opportunities to appear on the Sunday shows — in some cases, dramatically so.” From 2001 to 2005, conservative guests outnumbered progressives “by 58 percent to 42 percent.” Atrios notes that tomorrow’s shows will also be dominated by conservative guests:
7 Appearances by Republican current elected officeholders
3 Appearances by Democratic current elected officeholders.
2 Appearances by Republican former elected officeholders.
1 Appearance by a Bush Cabinet Secretary.
T. Boone Pickens
Barack Obama’s first weekly radio address isn’t hugely interesting on its own terms, but the decision to release it as a video on YouTube is a small change, but also a smart and interesting one:
A new technological/media paradigm can empower politicians who are good at using it. Famously, FDR deployed the radio to great effect and though TV existed throughout the Eisenhower years, it was JFK who was the first president to really use it to great effect.
For months, Fox News host Greta Van Susteren has been one of Gov. Sarah Palin’s (R-AK) biggest fans, conducting more intimate interviews with her than any other member of the media. Van Susteren’s most recent series of interviews with Palin revealed little beyond what to do when a mama moose attacks, how many caribou Palin has shot, and what household crafts the Palin children like best.
As News Hounds noted, Van Susteren continued to gush over Palin last night, devoting a segment to showing how popular the Alaskan was at the Republican Governors Association (RGA) convention this past week:
VAN SUSTEREN: The election may be over but governor Sarah Palin is not going anywhere. Senator McCain’s running mate continues to dominate headlines. Governor Palin stole the show this week at the GOP governor’s conference. [...]
VAN SUSTEREN: Not that we measure necessarily who is going to be the best president by whose got the most cameras chasing himself or herself. But when you saw those other governors down walk the hall, Governor Crist and Governor Pawlenty, did they have the paparazzi following them? [...]
VAN SUSTEREN: You know something interesting, Patricia, I don’t remember ever the national media going to one of these Republican Governor Association meetings. Maybe they do, but I just don’t ever remember. Do you know if your paper ever covered one before?
Van Susteren’s guest, Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald, tried to insist that other “rising stars” of the GOP also attracted considerable media attention, but she failed to deter van Susteren from her Palin-mania. Watch it:
It’s not surprising that Palin received considerable media attention last week, since it was one of her first public appearances since the election. However, there was plenty of evidence that many Republicans don’t see her as the rising star that Greta does. Many governors have publicly been reluctant to embrace Palin as a 2012 candidate, saying that she is not the “future of the party.” Others were even reluctant to say whether she helped the McCain ticket in the election.
Additionally, on Thursday, the RGA announced its new leadership lineup, featuring big names such as Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist. Missing from that list? Palin.
I just had the privilege of having been singled out for some Secondary Security Screening Selection at JFK Airport. Interestingly, they actually mark your ticket SSSS when this happens and at least at my terminal it meant I got to stand in a special line specially designated for potential malefactors such as myself. Well, it’s also the special security line for families traveling with kids in strollers. So basically it’s a small children and suspected terrorists, together at last kind of scenario.
The thing of it was that I couldn’t quite tell what the Secondary Security consisted of. I had to stand in a special machine, but it didn’t seem to be one of those machines where they hit you with a burst of air and check for explosive residue. It looked a bit like they were giving me a full-body X-Ray in case I was trying to smuggle a ceramic knife on our something.
Ever since MacArthur crossed the 38th parallel in 1950, US governments have shown a chronic tendency to over-reach themselves, and to squander blood, treasure and international respect as a result. The Vietnam disaster reined in this tendency for a while. But then neoconservatives invented the term ‘Vietnam syndrome’ to describe the perfectly sensible lessons most people learned from the US defeat. In the end, it took the Iraq fiasco to provide a remedial lesson for the slower learners.
It really is remarkable how widespread the term “Vietnam syndrome” managed to become, as if America’s relative reluctance to launch major military operations abroad in the years 1975-1990 caused Communism to triumph during the Cold War. I wonder which countries sundrome-mongers think we should have invaded?
Not that being a CEO is easy, or that they don’t do valuable work; I venture to say that 100% of the commentators who think that running a major company is a matter of riding around on the corporate jet and stealing from the workers and shareholders would be surprised at how quickly the company sank under them if they were thrust into that cushy sinecure.
I think that running a major company is largely a matter of riding around on the corporate jet, etc., etc. But at the same time, I’m 100 percent sure that if you put me in charge of Proctor & Gamble, the company would sink like a stone. But that’s because there’s a big element of bluff to the whole thing. Appointing some random blogger CEO would seem very weird to people, and then it would immediately become clear to all my subordinates that I can’t play the part of CEO very competently. There’d be damaging leaks in the press that this new guy doesn’t know what he’s doing, some top executives might leave and others would start trying to shiv me. Waves of bad vibes would ricochet throughout the corporate structure, and the stock price would start to tank in response. And with the stock tanking, I’d be expected to act as a good front man for the firm and say something very confident and serious sounding. But I’d look like what I am — a 27 year-old political blogger with no interest in running a business — and next thing you know our credit would dry up and the whole thing would collapse.
But that’s different from saying that brilliant CEO decision-making is really crucial to the success of a well-established firm and that people are succeeding because of brilliance rather than good luck. Or in another venue, guys who make a fortune earning commissions off trading in the market do have to have a real skill that most people lack. It’s just not the skill of beating the market through canny stock-picking, it’s the skill of tricking people into thinking they have that skill. That a lot of the people succeeding in business are sort of frauds (needless to say, other people get rich by inventing stuff that turns out to be incredibly lucrative and that’s a whole different sort of thing) doesn’t detract from the fact that the most successful among them are good at being frauds and that most people couldn’t do nearly as well.
Ultimately, though, this sort of issue doesn’t get explored properly because business issues are covered by the business press which needs to be very respectful of the whole enterprise.
I find it a bit amusing that the two Republican politicians I invariably see described as “smart” — Eric Cantor and Bobby Jindal — both hail from major stereotypically smart ethnic groups. So I’ve been asking conservative friends and acquaintances if there’s actual evidence that Cantor is smart aside from the fact that he’s Jewish. They all assure me there is.
The details remain a bit sketchy, but the basic idea seems to be that he’ll move Medicaid patients — and a fair number of the uninsured — into managed care plans that would receive a fixed rate per patient (the rate would vary with health status). That would eliminate the perverse incentives of fee-for-service care, presumably. But in order to ensure high quality outcomes, there would be financial incentives if physicians met certain performance criteria. Medical homes and more coordinated care would be a major part of the transition.
This is quite different from the current conservative vogue for slapdash efforts at “consumer-driven” health care and is aimed, instead, at delivering better health care to people by, to coin a phrase, experimenting with socialism. This is easier to do, ideologically, for a conservative because Medicaid is obviously already a government program so simply shifting its structure in a more socialistic direction doesn’t carry the stigma that creating a new socialistic program would. But if it can be implemented and it performs well, that could clearly lay the groundwork for future expansions of program eligibility, for structural reform to Medicare, for parallel reforms in other states, etc. It’s not a plan that offers the prospect of the sort of short-term system-wide reform that most health care advocates are looking for, but if a workable plan can be developed it has a ton of long-term promise and is compatible with the kind of things progressive reformers are trying to do at the federal level.
On the other hand, Igor Volsky observes that the somewhat vague description is also compatible with some pretty bad scenarios depending on how exactly this outline gets filled in.
Yesterday, President-elect Barack Obama recorded the “Democratic Radio Address” using video as well as audio. The New York Times notes, “It may seem like a political no-brainer in the age of YouTube, but as aides to Mr. Obama pointed out, it is a first for a president or president-elect.” In the message, Obama urges Congress to “pass at least a down-payment on a rescue plan that will create jobs, relieve the squeeze on families, and help get the economy growing again.” Watch it: