Friday, March 26, 2010
So I've had a few people mention that they're surprised I haven't blogged about health care yet. The truth is I've been a bit distracted, and it's pretty hard for me to get too excited about this thing. Most liberals are convinced that this is the first step to a comprehensive reform of the system - that over time we'll get something closer to de facto single payer. That's certainly possible, but I retain my concerns that 1) the subsidies will be inadequate, and almost certainly will be slashed by Republicans, and 2) from now on every thing wrong with health care will be blamed on the D's. And by the way, I'm not in the "Oh, this proves Obama is a genius after all" camp. I thing he snatched a half-loaf from the oven just as it was starting to burn. His political strategy was bungled from the beginning, and I don't see much evidence that he's done anything to halt the trend towards corporatism. And I'm disgusted with the continuing drift of public policy in the anti-choice direction. But we shall see.
Having said that, it's hard for me to care at the moment. In about half an hour I'll be leaving for Spain, where I've wanted to go since I was fifteen. It's hard to express how emotional I am at the prospect. I've dreamed pf walking the streets of Seville and breathing the same air as Ferdinand and Isabella. And now I will.
Ten Influential Books
Sunday, March 21, 2010
There's a meme about telling you to list the 10 most influential books in your life
, which I thought was sufficiently intriguing to rouse me from my blogging torpor. So here goes.
1. Imperial Spain
, by John H. Elliott
This book changed my life. I literally can't conceive of my intellectual development without it.
2. The Count of Monte Cristo
, by Alexandre Dumas
The first real quality novel I ever read, the meaning of it has changed for me as I've grown older - the sign of a great book.
3. Magician: Apprentice
by Raymond E. Feist
The first fantasy novel I ever read - the first of very many - it introduced me to the genre, although I confess nowadays it seems a bit silly.
4. The Power of Iron Man
by David Michelinie and Bob Layton
Yes it's technically a graphic novel, but it inspired me to collect comic books for years and to this day Iron Man (or Tony Stark really) is one of my favorite characters in fiction. I think Robert Downey Jr. did a splendid job, BTW.
5. Rise and Fall of the Great Powers
, by David Kennedy
I read this book in high school when when I was first developing an interest in politics. It really opened up thinking about public affairs in a whole new way.
6. The Art of War in the Western World
, by Archer Jones
The first work on military history I read, I became obsessed with the subject for years.
7. The Prince
, by Machiavelli
8. Robert Kennedy and His Times
, by Arthur Schlesinger
One of the first biographies I remember reading, I became fascinated with the Kennedys.
9. The Federalist Papers
, by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay
I read this in college, and it had a profound effect on my thinking about American history and politics, sparked a lifelong interest in Alexander Hamilton, AND got me interested in philosophy. Pivotal.
10. The First Man in Rome
, by Colleen McCullough
A fantastic piece of historical fiction, I started reading it at my stepmom's over a holiday break and developed an immediate love affair with the classical world.
Why I Don't Want To Buy A House...
Monday, March 08, 2010
...But will probably have to and am cranky about it.
Here's Simon Johnson
at Baseline Scenario putting it more succinctly than I can:
... I’m all for rethinking renting. The key point ... is one that I’ve made to many of my friends thinking of buying houses: buying a house is colossally stupid investment according to the investing textbook, because you are taking on a high degree of leverage and putting more than your net worth not only into a single asset class, but into a single structure on a single piece of land. What makes it sensible, sometimes, are the mortgage interest tax deduction (an extremely regressive subsidy) and the fact that in many places you may want to live there are few viable rental alternatives, so you have to buy.