Monday, March 8, 2010

Technology and Happiness

My friend Matt discusses the interesting relationship between Technology, Excellence and Flow on human happiness. He offers a lot of good insights on the effects of technology and excellence on our sense of well-being and also on the importance of hard work in order to be able to do anything well. Musicians will be especially interested in part 2. Give them a look:



Yuval Levin at NRO clarifies a bit of confusion that surrounds the current debate over what's called "Obamacare." The House of Representatives is going to vote in a couple of weeks on the bill passed by the Senate on Christmas eve. If the House approves it, it will go directly to the President's desk to be signed into law. All the talk about the bill going back to the Senate for a reconciliation vote is something of a red herring. There will be no need for reconciliation if the House passes this bill because it's the same bill the Senate has already approved:

It's worth reiterating something [others] have pointed out: The focus on reconciliation in the past few days confuses things a bit. The question in the health-care debate at the moment is whether Nancy Pelosi can get enough of her members to vote for the version of Obamacare that passed the Senate late last year. If the House passes that bill, it will have passed both houses, will go to the president, and will become law.

Some liberal House Democrats have problems with that bill - especially with some of its tax provisions, though also a few other things. So to get some of their votes, the leadership is now telling them that if they vote for the Senate bill, the House could then pass another bill that amends the Senate bill to fix some of what they don't like about it. The Senate could then pass that amendment bill by reconciliation and it would also become law, and so the sum of the two laws would be closer to what they want.

But that amending bill wouldn't change the basic character of what would be enacted (and to the extent it would change it at the edges, it would be mostly for the worse): Either way, if the House passes the Senate bill then Obamacare would become law, complete with its massive, overbearing, costly, intrusive, inefficient, and clumsy combination of mandates, taxes, subsidies, regulations, and new government programs intended to replace the American health-insurance industry with an enormous federal entitlement while failing to address the problem of costs. Just about everything the public hates about the bill is in both versions. The prospect of reconciliation is just one of the means that the Democratic leadership is employing to persuade members of the House to ignore the public's wishes and their own political future and enact Obamacare.

In other words, any House Democrats who vote for the Senate bill thinking that the Senate will then revisit it to make it more palatable to them, are deluding themselves. Once the House passes this bill there'll be no need for the Senate to do anything. It'll be law.

This puts House Dems who don't want to buck their party but who do want changes made to the bill in the position of having to either vote against the bill, and keep it from becoming law in its present form, or vote for it and trust Obama and the Democratic senators to keep their word that they'll remove some of the more offensive provisions in reconciliation. The House Dems will have to trust that both the Senate and House leadership as well as the White House will work to produce a more moderate bill when in fact all three want a more liberal bill. They have to trust the party leadership even though neither Obama nor the Democrats have anything to gain and much to lose by going through the reconciliation process.

That's a lot of trust to place in politicians.


More on Son of Hamas

Over the weekend I read a book I talked about a little bit last week. The book is titled Son of Hamas and is written by Mosab Yousef the eldest son of one of the founders of Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist organization (though it wasn't founded as a terrorist organization). Yousef became a spy for the Israelis when he was 18 and converted to Christianity shortly after that. It's a fascinating story, but something about it leaves me dissatisfied or maybe curious is a better word.

Yousef never really explains how it was seemingly so easy for him to start working for Shin Bet (the Israeli security service). He was devoted to his father. He admired him and wanted to emulate him yet he betrayed him (His father, as well as the rest of his friends and family, have all since disowned him). He also abandoned his Islamic faith (which his father loved above all else) and embraced Christianity. This spiritual transition was gradual, but nonetheless, for a young Arab living in Ramallah it must have been more wrenching than Yousef makes it appear.

At any rate, there's no doubt that Yousef is a brave man, though he never trumpets his courage, and he certainly saved a lot of lives. Indeed, it was his refusal to assist in the assassination of a group of Hamas terrorists that eventually led to the demise of his career as a spy. Surely his life is at risk now that his story has been published, and, given the sort of people he betrayed, it takes incredible courage to publicly discuss what his former friends and fellow Hamas members will certainly see as treachery.

Indeed, the picture he paints of Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist organizations is exceptionally ugly and brutal - their brutality is one reason he offers for accepting the Israelis' offer to work for them. The Palestinian people have much more to fear from their fellow Palestinians than they do from the Israelis.

The Wall Street Journal has a very fine review of the book, and I encourage any readers who are interested in Yousef's story to check it out. The book itself can be ordered at my favorite bookstore, Hearts and Minds. I highly recommend it.