J.K.G. R.I.P.

We’ve lost a giant:

John Kenneth Galbraith, the iconoclastic economist, teacher and diplomat and an unapologetically liberal member of the political and academic establishment that he needled in prolific writings for more than half a century, died yesterday at a hospital in Cambridge, Mass. He was 97.

He lived a long and important life. As Ezra points out, his countervailing powers theory is one of the most provocative and vital notions of the modern age.

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Darfur ≠ Iraq

Ezra’s right; this Hit & Run post by Tim Cavanaugh is just awful:

I think military intervention in Darfur is a non-starter, and I’m glad about that. But what’s the clear categorical distinction between intervening in Iraq (which I think it’s fair to say Clooney and many other Darfur hawks opposed) and this one? Why does it always seem like progressives support any intervention that clearly does not advance any American interests? (I don’t think invading Iraq advanced our national interests, but people made that case, which you definitely can’t in the case of Sudan.)

The difference between humanitarian intervention in Iraq and humanitarian intervention in Darfur is that intervention in Darfur is (a) more justified and (b) easier. Darfur is the only area where clear, unadulterated genocide is taking place. Hundreds of thousands have died. Iraq, on the other hand, was a mere dictatorship, which was killing people, but at nowhere near that magnitude. It wasn’t even the most brutal dictatorship at that time; North Korea or the government in Khartoum are better candidates. Intervention in Darfur in 2003 would have saved countless more lives than the intervention in Iraq has, especially considering the toll of the insurgency.
Which brings me to my second point: actions like those we took in Bosnia and Kosovo are a heck of a lot easier than nation-building is. The Balkans operations ended genocides, and thus saved many lives, in mere months. The Iraq war has taken over three years, and resulted in more death, and a failed state. Sure, some positive outcomes from Bosnia and Kosovo were the results of dumb luck – the move toward freedom in Serbia, for instance. Indeed, international involvement may have retarded Bosnia’s political development. But it’s hard to argue against the premise that the Bosnia and Kosovo operations were more moral, easier, and more effective than the operation in Iraq.

The Party of Crime

As if a prostitutes-for-votes scandal implicating several members of Congress and the director of the CIA wasn’t enough, just today it was revealed that the former F.D.A. director is being investigated by a grand jury for false statements to congress and financial misdealings, the FBI is investigating potential political patronage by the governor of Missouri (the House Majority Whip’s son), a major right-wing talk radio host enters a plea bargain about his pill-popping, and a senior Republican congressman is revealed to be investigated not just for bribery but for many other crimes. But Democrats are criminals too. Oh yeah…

Who the Mass Plan Really Helps

When Massachusetts made health insurance mandatory, I was skeptical. I thought it was a huge payout to the insurance industry. If you think that’s mad, take a looksie at this op-ed in today’s L.A. Times. It’s a gushing endorsement of the Massachusetts plan, and a call for it to be repeated in California. The op-ed’s author? The chairman, president, and CEO of the Blue Cross of California.

Atlas Shrugged

So there’s a movie of it coming out. I generally agree with Scott Lemeiux’s assessment:

I dunno about you, but to me a film based on an interminable novel that consists almost entirely of position-paper wielding characters (and occasionally the narrator) expostulating a silly philosophical framework and its null-hypothesis strawmen ranks somewhere between “A new five-part George Lucas cycle based on vanity press Star Wars novelizations” and “Patch Adams 2” on my “films I’d like to see go into production” list.

My only experience with Ayn Rand came a few years ago when I was on a quest to read every dystopian novel ever written (Zamyatin and Orwell are all you really need; Huxley is overrated, in my opinion) and happened upon Anthem. My God, that is an awful book. It was 150 pages of her saying “and that’s another reason collectivism is bad”, with a plot that, er, doesn’t exist. We and 1984show the perils of totalitarianism. Rand just says that communism (and socialism, and mixed economies, and regulated capitalism) is the root of all evil in society, and leaves it at that. She’s a horrible writer, a worse thinker, and a lesion on American political theory.

Hookergate

I haven’t covered it thus far, but now that it’s both implicating the director of the CIA and involves hookers (wonks are people too), I’m interested. Steve Benen has a good overview here. The best part, for me at least? Some of the Congressional frat boy partying happened at the Watergate hotel. Yes, that Watergate hotel. That place is just a scandal magnet!