Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Remember when President Reagan sold all those weapons to Iran and then funneled the proceeds to a Latin American paramilitary group? Good times. It's been on my mind for a couple of reasons. First, Reagan has been absolutely lionized by the right, especially since his death. And it seems that this shameful episode has been completely white-washed. When the Iran-Contra hearings were taking place I was just old enough to begin to have an awareness of politics and political figures. I remember seeing him on the TV every day, saying "I don't recall, I don't recall" and I was absolutely bewildered that you could just lie and get away with it. I didn't have any concept of left-wing and right-wing, or even Democrat and Republican. It was just the audacity of him pretending not to know anything about it that struck me. I was so incredulous that I remember asking my folks about it - "You can just lie and get away with it?" Maybe this first impression of Reagan is one reason why I've never been able to idolize him.

A second reason it's on my mind is that I was imagining what the reaction would be if Obama had authorized such acts. A little thought-experiment for right-wingers: if you woke up tomorrow morning and read that Obama had sold weapons to Iran and funneled the proceeds to a left-wing paramilitary group in Latin America (say, FARC), what would your reaction be?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Canadian Healthcare

A favorite tactic of Republicans opposed to healthcare reform is to find a few scare stories from Canada and the UK to try to put the fear of change into the American people. Nevermind that it's easier to find healthcare horror stories from the US. The fact is that Canadians and Britons like their healthcare and don't particularly appreciate having it misrepresented, even if they do see ways that it could be improved. In the Globe and Mail today, a Canadian economist and a former health policy adviser succinctly lay out the reasons why the Canadian system is better. Here's the gist:
So to sum up. We live longer than the Americans do. We are less likely to die at or soon after birth than the Americans are. All Canadians have medical insurance, whereas a huge number of Americans don't. And we pay less as a society for health care than they do in the United States. Four numbers paint a stark picture. And when you strip away the anti-medicare ideological rants and falsehoods on display in Washington, Canada's approach to health insurance would probably sound pretty good to many Americans.

I don't see how anyone could look at these facts and conclude that the US system is better.

Chait on Ayn Rand & Co.

This TNR piece by Jonathan Chait is excellent. He gives an overview of Rand's background and beliefs, including some very unusual details about her and her original followers, then procedes to eviscerate her political philosophy. It gets especially good near the end.
The economic right may believe religiously in their moral view of wealth, but we do not have to respect it as we might respect religious faith. For it does not transcend--perhaps no religion should transcend--empirical scrutiny. On the contrary, this conservative view, the Randian inversion of the Marxist worldview, rests upon a series of propositions that can be falsified by data.

He then goes on to show exactly how the Randian worldview fails. This reminds me just how good Chait can be.