Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Dishonesty on both sides

My favorite scientist, Neil de Grasse Tyson (astrophysicist), has said, "There's hot air at both ends of the political spectrum." The health care debate has showed this statement to be absolutely true. Major leftist myth: there are 50 million insured. This number is phony as there are many people who do not buy insurance who can afford it. Also, this number includes millions of noncitizens. So people who support national health insurance (myself included) should not use this dubious number when debating this issue.

The right, too, isn't being honest in this discussion. Frequently a conservative will compare the mortality rates or waiting lines of the U.S. to Britain or Canada. This is a weak argument for two reasons: 1. these countries spend far less than the U.S. on health care, so they have to ration care, and 2. there are many countries in Europe with government systems that do better than the U.S. and do not have waiting lists(e.g. France).

My solution: either a public-private mix like France or a plan this book proposes, where every American is given a voucher for private insurance equivalent to the plans federal employees already have.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Torture, I mean enhanced interrogation, in Iran

From the Los Angeles Times comes a good argument against torture. Let me quote the author, Zarah Ghahramani:

Over that month in Evin, I was beaten, lashed, tied to a chair in a stress position for what must have been 12 hours or more, kept in solitary confinement, tormented with tales of what was being done to fellow students who'd marched with me in the street. My head was shorn down to bare skin. I was told to admit to all sorts of dire things -- that I'd spied for America, betrayed my native land, chased boys -- all of which were nonsense, and all of which I confessed to (emphasis added). Torture works. But it doesn't produce truth.

Are you paying attention, Fox News?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Knee-jerk opposition

This is from a speech the President made in April in France (source is Joshua Muravchik at Commentary):

We spend so much time talking about democracy—and obviously we should be promoting democracy everywhere we can. But democracy, a well-functioning society that promotes liberty and equality and fraternity, does not just depend on going to the ballot box. It also means that you’re not going to be shaken down by police because the police aren’t getting properly paid. It also means that if you want to start a business, you don’t have to pay a bribe. I mean, there are a whole host of other factors that people need . . . to recognize in building a civil society that allows a country to be successful.

This is supposedly an example, as Muravchik says, of Obama "echoing a theme first propounded long ago by Soviet propagandists and later sung in many variations by all manner of Third World dictators, Left to Right."

But if you look at the paragraph Muravchik quotes fairly, there's nothing really sinister there. There's not one word that doesn't make sense. This is simply a Glenn Beckish unfair attack on Obama, with no good argument behind it. Scaremongering. Look! The Obama administration hates democracy (and probably by extension so do all Democrats). I'm sorry, I just don't see the anti-democratic intent behind the speech.

Obama is not actually a Communist, believe it or not

I recently sent this letter to my local paper:

On July 10, there were no less than three letters denouncing Barack Obama as a radical leftist who is just waiting to take away our constitutional rights. While these writers are no doubt sincere in their belief, they're dead wrong. Want evidence? Fair enough. Let's look at a few of Obama's recent positions:

1. Has recently sent 20,000 more troops to Afghanistan.

2. Refused to end "no-ask, no-tell" in the military.

3. Called for the completion of the border fence with Mexico (see

4. Has defended the Defense of Marriage Act in court.

I wish the angry letter writers would actually visit a legitimate left-wing website. They would see that real leftists don't like or trust him.

(Not in letter): this is by no means a straw man, it is a common belief, one that much of my family holds. It is none the less false for being widely believed. One more example for my argument: Obama has refused to abandon the missile defense program.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Health care reform going badly

It looks like the health care companies are winning the battle on Capitol Hill. The public option they opposed is looking less and less likely to pass. Now, the talk is forcing people to buy health insurance on the private market. If not, they will be fined heavily! This mandate was tried in Massachusetts under Mitt Romney and was a dismal failure. I hate to say it, but maybe no reform at all is better than what's being proposed. It's hard to believe that every other industrialized country can get all of their people insured and we can't. Maybe campaign finance reform is needed before any health care reform can pass. I fear that too many politicians have been bought out by the insurance companies.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Don't resign, Governor

The South Carolina legislature apparently is calling for Mark Sanford's resignation. (He's a Republican, contra Fox News). But, why? Sure, he betrayed his wife. But what does that have to do with being an effective Governor? Does the South Carolina Constitution have a morals clause? I don't get it.

Really bad argument lampooned

I'm not a big fan of Air America Radio, but this clip is great.

Letter I submitted to Wall Street Journal

Call Scott Adams' Analogy Police! An economist in the Wall Street Journal actually asks why there are no government run supermarkets since food is as important as health care. My response:

This is in response to George Newman's op-ed July 1, "Parsing the Health Reform Arguments." He makes a ridiculous argument against health care reform, asking why we don't have government run supermarkets. This analogy is absurd. No grocery store clerk or manager has ever raised my prices or denied me food for a pre-existing eating condition. I'm not aware of millions of people being barred from Albertson's or Publix for an eating disorder. Mr. Newman says he is an economist. I believe him. As physicist Steven Weinberg has said: You have to be very learned to be that wrong.

What CNN considers important (not sure why).