The View From My Window: Vienna Opera House


Vienna Opera House Steve Clemons June 2011.jpg
(Vienna Opera, June 2011; photo: Steve Clemons; click image for much larger version)
I love Andrew Sullivan‘s “The View from Your/My Window” concept and thank him for letting me borrow the practice for The Washington Note.
This is the Vienna Opera — directly outside my excellent room at the Hotel Bristol, which I highly recommend if you want to be close to the action in Vienna and very comfortable.
One interesting tidbit is that Johann Ritter von Herbeck, once director of the Imperial Opera in Vienna, lived in my room for five years, from 1871-1875.
Thanks to the US Embassy in Austria and Department of State for an excellent set of meetings.
Back to Washington.
— Steve Clemons


5 comments on “The View From My Window: Vienna Opera House

  1. David says:

    Many, many thanks for posting those comments, questions. I’ve been away from TWN (and my other favorite blogs) for a while. Good to get back, and good to read your thoughts on these issues.


  2. questions says:

    In the news….
    The report about life expectancy in the US is just one more example of our most fundamental social problem — we have divvied up the goods so unevenly that we don’t seem to be able to find any kind of common interest sufficient to shape good public policy.
    Some people live long and happy lives with sufficient wealth and comfort and gov’t support. They don’t want to be taxed to help the rest of us who live shorter and more miserable lives.
    Life expectancy is geographically distributed. The very unevenness of it makes it extremely hard to manage.
    The Little Depression we’re in is also unevenly distributed.
    The effects of the housing bubble are unevenly distributed.
    Unless and until we figure our way through this, we shall be a mess of a nation.
    We don’t need to have all things in common, or much in common at all. We just need to be a little kinder towards those whose good we could actually support. And we need to vote that way.
    Thoma and Konczal have up interesting stuff, and DeLong as well, esp. the tortoise website thing. Republicans are professionals at bashing good spending and not being held accountable for their foolishness. Let not the Dems end up trying this crap as well. There are good and wise ways to budget, and foolish and shortsighted ways to budget. And there are nonsensical ways to budget. Let’s not get into the demonization game. Anything in the budget is there because someone thought it was worth doing, enough so to get it through Congress. It takes a whole lot of work to get stuff through Congress. It might seem as foolish as, say, FEMA or volcano monitoring or nuclear power plant safety, but maybe it’s not really dumb?????
    Pakistan’s arrests of CIA informants is profoundly interesting. Is this for internal show, is it to teach the US a lesson? Is it internal governance concerns? You can’t really run a gov’t if everyone is leaking stuff all the time, and you can’t really ever run “Pakistan” as currently formulated. Wonder if this was worked out in private, or if it’s really a surprise. With our oddball relations with Pakistan, who knows.
    The Warmth of Other Suns continues to be a beautiful book, and one in which social resentment is so well contextualized that one wonders why anyone wonders that this resentment guides much of our national ideology.
    New Deal Democrat over at Bonddad thinks the housing market is less bad than conventional wisdom thinks. Here’s hoping. With graphs and charts.
    Great sentences from Jonathan Bernstein:
    “Nope. It’s highly unlikely that voters really care that Republicans are blocking Commerce Secretary nominees (in addition to the CFPB and NLRB that Kuttner mentions). And for swing voters, loud complaints about GOP obstruction are just as likely to be interpreted as whining about losing as they are “leadership and toughness.” ”
    “To the extent that dessert-always was the true essence of Bushism, I think the current GOP field is embracing, not rejecting, Bush’s legacy.”
    (“Dessert-always” is all the fun stuff, and none of the pain.)
    “I’m wondering whether it’s an Iron Law of Politics that any time someone says some variation of “nobody supports…” it will turn out that someone is, in fact, supporting that thing, or proposing that bill, or promoting that program. And I don’t mean someone as in some yahoo on the intertubes somewhere; I mean someone as in a governor, or a Member of Congress, or even (as was the case here) the President of the United States of America.
    Oh, and there’s a corollary: whenever anyone complains that if only the president would say [X] then all his problems would go away, the odds are high that the president has, in fact, already said [X].”
    “Last point: none of this is a bad thing. It’s perfectly fine that lots of us act as partisans, that we take issue positions on most things by trusting opinion leaders instead of through rigorous substantive analysis, that we don’t see it happening when we do it. It’s just how politics works, or at least the politics of mass opinion and mass electorates. However, it’s quite important to know. Next time you’re tempted to think that Barack Obama (or Paul Ryan) could win the debate over some issue by using the right phrase or giving the right speech, think of Bob Wilson, and remember just how severe the limits are on how much that sort of thing can possibly matter. ”
    This last one is really important. For whatever reason, a lot of informed political discourse assumes that information makes the world go ’round, and ignores political feeling, or partisanship.
    Ain’t so, apparently.
    Getting up and speechifying won’t make people vote for the dudes who raise taxes.
    Speechiness won’t let us love the party that helps the undeserving.
    Talketyness won’t help us vote for the guy who makes us feel loss, and won’t convince us that we aren’t losing even when we’re gaining.
    What a political mess we’ve created for ourselves.
    Somewhere out there are several reports about the US CoC’s ensuring that the debt ceiling will get raised. Boehner is being granted some power over the frosh Tea Party set. The CoC will back primaries against them as needed. This will be very interesting as it plays out. Can the CoC make incumbency disappear as an advantage? Will Boehner allow the frosh Tea Set some decent cover for their political rear ends? Will the dems let the Tea Party take the hard votes, or will the dems lend a helping hand to the people who smushed the dem majority by carping about Mediscare and the PPACA in most fictional ways?
    And seriously, does the CoC have this much oomph in its pocketses?
    Time will tell.


  3. questions says:

    And then there’s this bit of probably not useful policy:
    10,000 engineers trained every year….


  4. questions says:

    Thoma pastes in Reich:
    And Reich doesn’t seem to emphasize the right thing.
    It’s not that there’s “no urgency” regarding jobs jobs jobs, it’s that the Republicans, and really, let’s face it, the voters, have so totally and decisively pushed for no jobs jobs jobs that the dems have no room for maneuver.
    The midterm elections are what killed any hope of a jobs program. We, the voters of this country, either stayed home or supported the Republicans all across the country. We undid 2008 and 2006 and we have no one to blame but ourselves.
    We put in solid Republican control in multiple states, and those state legislatures are doing what Republicans out of control do — in the face of recalls, Wisc. is going for an emergency session to dump collective bargaining. In Florida, Rick Scott is awful. Voter ID laws all over the place, anti-labor activity all over the place.
    If all of this anti-worker activity is being supported at the state level, then why would anyone think Congress could possibly act?
    Remember,there’s no move in Paul Ryan’s district to dump him, or at least none I’ve come across. Some people actually do approve of his “vision.”
    After the Republican debate last night, which I avoided watching but have read about, how could anyone think Congress/Obama have room to get a jobs jobs jobs agenda through? Obama and big gov’t seem to be the biggest demons eveh.
    It’s a shame that we voters got so freaked by the health care debate that we decided we could no longer stand the government’s ever again doing anything at all. I think it all falls under the punctuated equilibrium read — we had such revolutionary policy with health care that we are not just in normal policy mode for a while, but in anti-policy mode.
    We’re staggering around, half-convinced we’ll never see another doctor again as long as we live, and we’ll likely die trying. What a strange response to an expansion of access, but it seems to be our national response.
    On the left, we’re all dying because there’s not enough access and it costs any money at all to see a doctor, and on the right we’re all dying because there’s too much access, the waiting times are too long, and it doesn’t cost enough to see a doctor.
    Until we’ve all been to the doctor several times, and we start to see that the PPACA is just not that awful, we’re going to be in anti-policy mode.
    Until the all-red states get a face full of Republican gov’t and lose huge amounts of their public sector and really really face the falsity of their political beliefs, we will be in an anti-policy mode.
    If the dems manage to recall the Republicans, and if Walker is recalled, and Kasich and Rick Scott and Snyder and the rest all so totally disgust the electorate, we’ll swing again and maybe just maybe we’ll have a jobs program in a few years.
    For now, Congress is stuck, the admin is stuck, we’re all stuck. Time for a quorum call.
    Because we still think the deficit matters and you can’t bully-pulpit this one.
    We still think the debt ceiling shouldn’t be raised (even though it will be eventually).
    We still use the wrong metaphors for thinking about the US economy, about responsibility, and about who deserves and who doesn’t deserve support.
    Any program that gets through will have to have the Tea Party’s permission.
    And what are the chances of that?
    The only other way I see through this is an infrastructure bank that takes in overseas money tax free (see, the Tea Party can get behind the tax free thing), and the investors get some say in the projects that are built (public-private cooperation — the Tea Party can groove), and indeed jobs will arise out of the spending/investment.
    But anything like this is a long term thing, subject to huge amounts of regional and local battling. And battling there will be.
    In the short term, the way to do jobs jobs jobs is to rehire every single gov’t worker laid off or fired. Umm, that “increases government.” Oh, well.
    And hire back every teacher. That strengthens unions. Oh well.
    And fix the more obvious public sphere things that don’t take huge amounts of time to get approval for (pot holes and sidewalks, street lights and government building roofs). But that’s public sphere spending. Oh well.
    Or we could send gov’t checks to everyone. But Obama is in the White House. Oh, well.


  5. questions says:

    Since everything is moderated for now, this will get vetted and have official permission…..
    This is from Lawyers Guns and Money, a fabulous blog that is all over the map with an interesting po[s]tpourri of material. Like my brain! Totally recommend spending some time there. Lots of issues, several front page bloggers, really fine!
    Charli Carpenter’s work on agenda setting in transnational networks.
    Agenda setting is fascinating stuff at every level, from the individual through the international. What catches our imagination, what plays in Peoria, how someone’s idea translates into some kind of coalition-supported action. All of this is the real stuff of politics and policy, and, in my current reading, doesn’t seem to be completely well understood.
    There are re-reads of neurology (the mirror neuron work is being recast), re-reads in policy models, and even programs like DARE get rethought occasionally when it turns out that they have been ineffective. So from the individual to the political, we don’t really know why we do what we do, and this lack of knowledge impacts the way we work, shows our inability to know how to pitch programs, and shows the underlying problems with programmatic design. If we don’t have our basic motivations down, we don’t really know what to do. The failures of programs can exacerbate distrust of government, and thus can reduce the realm of governance so that the Republican Way of Being seems reasonable to a lot of people.
    And Thoma is working on the structural/cyclical issue and finding ever more complexities:
    I get the feeling there are ways to cast all non-spending as a structural mismatch between what people are willing to spend on and what the market is willing to provide. If the spending is structural, is the resultant unemployment also structural? Do these concepts really hold as well as they should, or is there some fundamental problem with trying to distinguish them?
    Thoma writes:
    “The bottom line is that to measure structural unemployment in a recession, it’s not enough to simply survey the labor market and count the mismatches. You have to know if those mismatches would persist at a level of demand consistent with full employment. To the extent that the mismatch problem is due to lack of demand, and wages and prices that are too low to induce resource movements to their best use, the problem is cyclical, not structural.”
    So, much of the unemployment problem collapses into the cyclical, because the cyclical is the dumping ground for price issues as opposed to issues concerning raw availability. I think, at any rate.
    So if the main point of the distinction here is availability-at-all for structural issues (that’s the whole people in the wrong place or with the wrong skills), and availability for a price for cyclical unemployment, (that’s the, it’s-there-but-no-one-will-pay-for-it) — it all seems to collapse. I mean, you can always spend more money to buy the skills from somewhere on the planet, or you can charge a whole lot of money for the product to make up for the lack of supply. So everything is cyclical?
    Or, you can refuse to pay the premium to have the work done, and then over time there aren’t any workers, and so the whole problem is structural?
    Structural issues would seem to be perhaps still related to price as you can simply pay a lot more money to buy the talent or move the people or change the job description. Not enough computer programmers early on in the field? Pay for them to do 3 month intensive training. You can certainly buy brilliant people with enough money. So then we’re back to a money issue. So nothing is structural?
    Or, on the other hand, pay them, create the labor supply with lots of money, and then you have to charge more than the product is worth, and then there’s no demand. And then it looks cyclical, when really the problem is that you had to overpay labor to create the product. So your fix for the structural problem created the cyclical problem. That is, your use of extra cash bonuses for labor created the high prices that killed the demand.
    If Thoma can suggest that it’s structural only at full employment, maybe we need to wonder if it’s cyclical only at prices we want to pay.
    I think what really is at the heart of this debate is, again, something about “natural” conditions. Structural unemployment is a natural mismatch that cannot be fixed by money, incentives or anything but time and tide. But maybe this really never happens. Cyclical unemployment can be fixed by price work or by redistributing wealth so that we can afford a higher price point, but maybe this, too, can’t happen as the amount of money that it might take to clear a market is thought to be absurd.
    But what if neither category is really the right way to talk about unemployment? The issue isn’t really one of a lack of skills or geographic displacement — those can always be fixed with a little more financial inducement.
    And the problem really isn’t one of lack of demand either.
    It’s lack of demand at a price.
    At any rate, I will keep on reading….
    And as a book note, from over at Thoma, a regular poster, Anne, noted that The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wlkerson, on the Great Migration, is a wonderful book. Couldn’t agree more! I highly recommend it. Beautifully written, a real sense of the humanity of the people who fled the south, 6 million of them from 1915-1970. It so makes Rand Paul look as foolish as he is for thinking Jim Crow was just dandy……


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