Socialised healthcare? Yes please!

Since I commented on Barack Obama’s difficulties last week things have improved for him considerably, with his healthcare reforms finally signed into law.

The final bill may not be entirely what many on the left were hoping for but given the entrenched interests he was battling against and the wholly dishonest and unprincipled disinformation campaign by his opponents (“death panels” etc) this is still a considerable achievement.

Unsurprisingly there has been a rather hysterical reaction from opponents on the right, for example this from GOP congressman Devin Nunes

Today we are turning back the clock. For most of the 21st century, people fled the ghosts of communist dictators and now you’re bringing the ghost back into this chamber. With passage of this bill, they will haunt Americans for generations. Your multi-trillion dollar health care bill continues the Soviets, failed Soviet socialist experiment. It gives the federal government absolute control over healthcare in America.

Well quite, why would Americans want a socialised, communist even, system like that in the UK – where the state exerts so much control over our healthcare, spending our tax dollars (or rather pounds) with abandon?

P.S. According to the OECD, public spending on health in 2007 as a proportion of GDP was -

UK – 6.86%
USA – 7.26%

Gordon’s revenge

It’s good to see that Labour has taken such quick and decisive action against the former ministers caught up in the lobbying sting. It would be nice to think that this is a purely principled reaction and the start of a crackdown on political lobbying and on former ministers filling their boots by taking lucrative jobs either with lobbying firms or companies which had dealings with their departments while they were ministers (see here for example).
Or just possibly it has someting to do with the fact that two of the ministers, Hewitt and Hoon, were involved in the abortive coup against Brown earlier this year.
Either way, given the sheer useless they displayed during their ministerial careers it is difficult to have any sympathy for Hoon and Hewitt.

Return of the undead

It has been another difficult week for Barack Obama, with his little problem with Israel. What with his problems getting his healthcare reforms through congress and in finding a way to close Guantanamo Bay it might be understandable if Liberals on both sides of the pond were getting slightly frustrated, so it is fitting that in the last few days we have been given a reminder of why, whatever Obama’s faults, we should at least be truly grateful that the Republicans, or specifically the particular faction represented by Bush and his cronies, are out of power.

First we have Bush’s chief political strategist Karl Rove doing the rounds, touting his book and defending the use of waterboarding on terrorist subjects.

“I’m proud that we used techniques that broke the will of these terrorists and gave us valuable information that allowed us to foil plots such as flying aeroplanes into Heathrow and into London, bringing down aircraft over the Pacific, flying an aeroplane into the tallest building in Los Angeles and other plots,” he said.
“Yes, I’m proud that we kept the world safer than it was, by the use of these techniques. They’re appropriate, they’re in conformity with our international requirements and with US law.”

All very noble sounding of course, but even if one accepts that waterboarding does not constitute torture (and that requires a rather wide stretch of the imagination) we should be aware that this was only one kind of abuse which was suffered by detainees and remember the practice of extraordinary rendition, the black prison network and the outsourcing of torture to regimes less concerned with their international obligations and legal niceties. Continue reading