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How Ronald Reagan Discovered V-8, reklam från 1951.

The Spectator - cartoon by Jonesy

Bild: Jonesy. Fler teckningar på hans hemsida.

ANALYS | I Newsweek berättar Tony Blair om bl.a. sin syn på de problem som demokratier runt om i världen idag står inför.

Newsweek - April 17 2015

En intressant detalj är hans kritik mot hur många regeringar fungerar idag är att de verkar tro att kommunikation kan ersätta behovet av att leda utifrån sin övertygelse.

Innan man vågar ta beslut måste man försöka utröna medborgarnas åsikter innan man vågar fatta några egna beslut – vad Blair kallar “governing by Twitter”.

Detta är inte minst intressant eftersom Blairs tid i Downing Street just utmärktes av ett dagligt behov av att kommunicera minsta lilla, äkta eller påhittade, nyhet man kunde finna.

Det var under Blairs tid som spin och spin doctor blev skällsord för att beskriva hur hans team fungerade vid makten.

Alex Perry skriver:

On 4 December Blair wrote an essay in The New York Times headlined: “Is democracy dead?” He began by stating that democracy was certainly “not in good shape”. US politics were deadlocked in partisanship. European politicians were not delivering a return to growth. The democratic Arab Spring had been largely outmanoeuvred by the old regimes. Democracy was failing, he wrote, and, worse, the challenges before it – extremism, financial crisis, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea – were rising.

Blair had sharpened his ideas about leadership and the failings of democracy in the years since he left power. Democracy, he now concluded, faced an “efficacy challenge”. “Slow, bureaucratic and weak,” it was too often “failing its citizens” and “failing to deliver”. The price was grave, and apparent. Without effective action by democratic governments to stem it, volatility and uncertainty were spreading. Public fear and disillusionment was stoking the return of the far Right in Europe and the United States. “Suddenly, to some, Putinism – the cult of the strong leader who goes in the direction he pleases, seemingly contemptuous of opposition – has its appeal,” wrote Blair. “If we truly believe in democracy, the time has come to improve it.” Every few years, democracy was about the people’s vote. But most of the time, it was about their elected representatives harnessing the machinery of government to effect change on their behalf. Attempts to be a cipher for popular opinion Blair dismissed as “governing by Twitter”. Leaders had to lead.

[…]

“This is a shocking thing to say,” said Blair, “but in modern politics, if you are spending 30% to 40% of your time on your real core priorities, I think you’re lucky. I can think of political leaders and systems who are lucky if they get 5%.” Agendas were more packed than ever, crises came ever thicker and faster and yet leaders were spending all their time “communicating”. The core functions of government were being forgotten, Blair said. All but gone was any time to consider “the big questions”. “You know,” said Blair. “Where are we going? What are we trying to do here? What’s it all about?” Blair viewed the resulting paralysis with disdain. “The wheels are spinning and the vehicle is moving” but the result was often just “driving round in circles”.

Blair said that many veteran leaders agreed “the whole business of government . . . has just got to change radically to be effective”. If politics as usual wasn’t working, then the pragmatist’s response had to be to search for answers outside it. “Democracy is a way of deciding the decision-makers, but it is not a substitute for making the decision,” he wrote in the Guardian in 2013. “Democratic government doesn’t on its own mean effective government. Efficacy is the challenge.”

In Egypt this March, Blair went further, praising the military regime of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, which has restored some stability but at a price of torturing and killing opponents and imprisoning journalists. “Yes, democracy is important, but democracy is not on its own sufficient,” said Blair. “You also need efficacy. You need effective government taking effective decisions. I don’t think you have to be authoritarian. But you have to be direct.”

[…]

His own method in power had been to study an issue, canvass a wide spectrum of opinion, even listen to the press and hold a public referendum; then note the debate, thank its participants, come to his own conclusions, and lead. “It wasn’t that I didn’t have doubt or hesitation or uncertainty,” he said. “You can’t be sure. But I’m for taking that big decision. It’s less to do with certainty than a big solution to a big problem.”

Blair was saying there was a time for talk and a time for action – and that a leader’s duty was to stay the course. “I decided a long time ago that it’s about whether I’m doing the right thing or the wrong thing,” he said. “If it’s the right thing I’m doing, if I’m doing what I think is right, then I should be doing it even though people disagreed, even if I am being attacked for it. If you always worry about why there is so much static, if you live your life by that, you end up not doing very much.”

[…]

Blair accepted that his views could be antagonistic to the democracy he wanted to improve. Partly, he said, that was the inherent tension between executive power and people power. A leader would always face dissent, on any issue. His opponents’ fury was “completely understandable” and they were “absolutely entitled” to their views, he said. But that didn’t make them right. And that meant, obviously, that the results-oriented leader shouldn’t take these views into account. Opposition was the price paid by true leaders. Weathering the storm was the test of them.

Tidskriftsomslag: Newsweek, 17 april 2015.

”Hillary’s running for president because everyday Americans need a champion—and she wants to be that champion.”

USA | Idag ser ingen demokrat ut att kunna utmana Clinton om hon verkligen vill bli demokraternas presidentkandidat.

Time March 23 2015

Att Hillary Clinton har använt sin private dator som utrikesminister, och sedan försökt dölja detta, har dock ställt till det för hennes troliga presidentvalskampanj.

Frågan är bara om det permanent har skadat henne.

Kanske väcker detta ”Emailgate” minnena från hennes mans alla skandaler. Vill amerikanarna verkligen se ännu en Clinton i Vita huset?

David Von Drehle skriver i Time:

As a rule, these are words no politician wants to be speaking in the days leading up to the launch of a major campaign:

“What I did was to direct, you know, my counsel to conduct a thorough investigation …”

“I fully complied with every rule that I was governed by.”

“They were personal and private, about matters that I believed were in the scope of my personal privacy.”

As a rule, a candidate wants to take flight on outstretched wings of hope, not scramble in the dirt on the crabbed limbs of legal compliance. Every day spent saying “Trust me, my lawyer’s O.K. with it” is a bad day – and worse if she appears to be reading from lawyer-vetted notes.

As a rule, these would be dire, perhaps fatal, markers of a campaign crashing on takeoff. But in this case the politician was Hillary Clinton, whose carefully laid plans to unveil her latest presidential bid hit turbulence on March 10 as she fumbled her way through an awkward press conference in a corridor at the U.N. At issue: Clinton’s decision to ignore White House guidance as Secretary of State and instead conduct government business through a private email account hosted on her family’s personal server.

[…]

Along with her husband – the 42nd President of the United States – Hillary Clinton is the co-creator of a soap-operatic political universe in witch documents vanish, words like is take on multiple meanings and foes almost always overplay their hand. Impeachment can be a route to higher approval ratings; the occasional (and rare) defeat merely marks the start of the next campaign. Whatever rules may apply to them, the law of gravity is not one.

[…]

What doesn’t kill Team Clinton only makes it stronger. Will that be the lesson again? Hillary Clinton has a vast lead over any potential challenger for the Democratic nomination, and 86% of Democrats are ready to support her, according to a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. Though her poor handling of the email issue has left party insiders unsure whether she learned anything from her slow-footed and wooden 2008 campaign, insiders don’t control elections. Voters do.

The veteran New York political consultant Hank Sheinkopf, a former adviser to Bill Clinton, is unsure. “These stories will reach critical mass and coverage as she gets closer to any announcement date,” says Sheinkopf, “and they will damage her because they offer a portrayal of someone who plays fast and loose with rules.” But Clinton stories have reached critical mass so many times before. And still, to borrow from Maya Angelou, they rise.

Läs mer: Om Clintons kampanjteam i Michael Scherers ”Go time for Hillary” i Time. Om Clintons krishantering i efterdyningarna av ”Emailgate” i Dylan Byers Hillary Clinton team woos reporters” i Politico

Tidskriftsomslag: Time, 23 mars 2015.

The Spectator - cartoon by Grizelda Grizlingham

Bild: Grizelda Grizlingham i The Spectator. Mer av Grizelda på hennes hemsida.

USA | Nobelpristagaren Paul Krugman, som varit en av Barack Obamas starkaste kritiker på vänsterkanten, har omvärderat presidenten.

Roling Stone - issue 1220 - October 23 2015

I en längre artikel i Rolling Stone om Obamas år i Vita huset lyfter Krugman framför allt fram hälsovårdsreformen, hanteringen av den finansiella krisen och ekonomin som de områden där presidentens politik haft störst positiv effekt.

När det gäller Affordable Care Act, eller Obamacare, skriver han bl.a. följande:

We won’t have the full data on 2014 until next year’s census report, but multiple independent surveys show a sharp drop in the number of Americans without health insurance, probably around 10 million, a number certain to grow greatly over the next two years as more people realize that the program is available and penalties for failure to sign up increase.

It’s true that the Affordable Care Act will still leave millions of people in America uninsured. For one thing, it was never intended to cover undocumented immigrants, who are counted in standard measures of the uninsured.

[…]

Still, Obamacare means a huge improvement in the quality of life for tens of millions of Americans – not just better care, but greater financial security. And even those who were already insured have gained both security and freedom, because they now have a guarantee of coverage if they lose or change jobs.

What about the costs? Here, too, the news is better than anyone expected. In 2014, premiums on the insurance policies offered through the Obamacare exchanges were well below those originally projected by the Congressional Budget Office, and the available data indicates a mix of modest increases and actual reductions for 2015 – which is very good in a sector where premiums normally increase five percent or more each year. More broadly, overall health spending has slowed substantially, with the cost-control features of the ACA probably deserving some of the credit.

In other words, health reform is looking like a major policy success story. It’s a program that is coming in ahead of schedule – and below budget – costing less, and doing more to reduce overall health costs than even its supporters predicted.

Of course, this success story makes nonsense of right-wing predictions of catastrophe. Beyond that, the good news on health costs refutes conservative orthodoxy. It’s a fixed idea on the right, sometimes echoed by ”centrist” commentators, that the only way to limit health costs is to dismantle guarantees of adequate care – for example, that the only way to control Medicare costs is to replace Medicare as we know it, a program that covers major medical expenditures, with vouchers that may or may not be enough to buy adequate insurance. But what we’re actually seeing is what looks like significant cost control via a laundry list of small changes to how we pay for care, with the basic guarantee of adequate coverage not only intact but widened to include Americans of all ages.

Tidskriftsomslag: Rolling Stone den 23 oktober 2014.

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