Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Little Lighter

Alright, so the last post was pretty angry. That's been building for a while. I want to add a little something to maybe lighten the mood, brighten your day, or maybe just give you an example of someone who understands what it means to be human. I give you, Tom Waits:



Monday, August 24, 2009

Republican "Bipartisanship" is Letting Republicans Get Their Way


It really never ends in this country. Probably nowhere else, either, but as that I live here, it's my current primary concern. I'm talking about this. A delightful little argument about how Democrats can achieve bipartisan cooperation. The undertone, of course, is taken straight from the Rush Limbaugh play book, which can be seen in this four-part series from his 2009 RNC CPAC address. Now, Limbaugh is, in my opinion, the very definition of repugnant. His entire show focuses on thinly veiled racism, sexism, and outright bigotry and hatred. Yes, he does indeed want Obama to fail, and I can't honestly bring myself to believe that he means just Obama's policies. Now, the one good thing about Rush that I can say is that he's often honest about his viewpoints. I say often, because like everyone else, there's always an element of obfuscation somewhere.

Anyway, Rush's idea of "compromise" and "bipartisanship" is really "we get what we want all the time." The Republicans are clearly in his pocket in this, which is why those of us on the more progressive front have a hard time understanding why the liberals in Congress and the White House are paying them any attention at all. They've made it clear that they're not going to go for anything supported by a liberal, ever, and after all this effort of reaching across the aisle, the Democrats will get, oh, about zero Republican votes. They've drawn their wagons, done their poll research, created their talking points, and they're doing what they do best - turtling and jamming their fingers in their ears, crying because it's THEIR birthday, dammit, and it'll be their way or the highway.

No, I'm sorry Rush, I don't have any respect left for you and your kind. You yell and scream that this is not the America that you grew up in like that's a bad thing. I'm sorry, but I think we've improved a lot since your toddler days - we've made some inroads into ending segregation and discrimination (I'm sorry that it offends you that there is anyone other than older white males in America); we have passed legislation that improves the quality of health care received by seniors (ah, yes, Medicare...that burr in your side!); we, despite our previous president's best efforts, have made major progress in the sciences (I know, reality really encroaches on your worldviews, but...there it is); and, I suppose most importantly for you, a majority of the American people decided they didn't like doing things your way anymore and voted a bunch of your guys out of Congress, and perhaps more importantly, voted for a president who promised to bring radical change. You want to talk about a mandate? There is was. Maybe you missed it.

Now, my vitriol isn't entirely directed against Mr. Limbaugh. No, he has plenty of cronies and plenty of others who think just like him anyway. You see, they have a sense of entitlement - they're conservative, they represent the "true America," so even when the majority of us vote against them, they're still entitled to have only their policies passed. See, when they were in power, they could do whatever they wanted, and now that they're out of power, they're still supposed to be able to do whatever they want, didn't you know?!

And, no, I'm no bleeding heart begging "can't we all just get along?" I'm ready to go for a more progressive agenda. We've got the power now, let's use it people.

I'm tired of all the talking points and rhetoric. I'm tired of the cliches in this. I'm tired of seeing people on or about to go on Medicare yell that the government should have nothing to do with health care. I'm tired people arguing that the government should have no right to interfere with a person's health decisions, and then try to legislate anti-abortion laws. I'm tired of having Republicans propose Advanced Care Planning and then other Republicans calling it death panels and having it removed. I'm tired of Republicans saying that they'd be happy to compromise, and then for every compromise they say "it's not enough. It's not our policy yet." I'm tired of the ignorance, of the outright stupidity, of the hypocrisy. I'm tired of this. I'm tired of old rich white men say that they're being put-upon and how hard it is to afford their multi-million dollar mansions with all these taxes while people starve to death or die because they can't afford health care. And sorry, yes, I am a white man myself, though nowhere near as wealthy as these guys.

But let me tell you something honestly, if I were making enough to be able to afford to cover myself and my family with health insurance, I would consider it an honor and a civic duty to thank the country that gave me the opportunity to do so, and to thank those who support the base of our country, and give back a little in taxes towards covering them. Because, let's be honest. You're already giving tax dollars to cover people who don't have health insurance - they use emergency rooms, which are quite expensive, and the funding for emergency rooms comes from...ah, that's right...tax dollars. So, your choice is - pay for very expensive treatments with your tax dollars, or maybe contribute to a more efficient and cheaper health insurance for other people. But that's the ultimate problem with the upper echelon conservatives. They honestly believe that they have reached where they are with absolutely no help. They don't drive on roads that are paid with by tax dollars. They didn't attend public schools. They never had an emergency operation. They have always grown and cooked their own food. They didn't have family members or friends who know people or had contacts. They were never on food stamps or welfare. They will never go on Medicare. They were never protected by police. They never had to use any medications that were created by research generated from public funds. No, they have never needed anybody, and they're not willing to part with their hard earned cash. Now, the truth of the matter is that a lot of them have very good lawyers who can get them out of paying a lot of their taxes anyway, so they don't have to fear that they might be contributing to someone else's benefit...no, because that would be just awful.

Part of me hopes that the health care bill does eventually get a real vote. Let the Republicans vote against it. It won't matter. They'd never have voted for it anyway. Let the blue dogs vote it down too. That's fine. More people will die or go bankrupt. They really don't care. But maybe, just maybe, in a few people's minds, a small inkling will start to appear that these guys are all crazy hypocrites, that they have only their own self-interest and pay-checks in mind, and that they really don't represent the people. Maybe, after that, or, failing that, years from now when the present generation of conservatives die off, maybe there will be actual reform. Progress always comes in small incremental steps, usually long overdue. We'll get health care reform eventually, probably long after many of those who could have used it most have passed away, but it will come. That's the problem with conservatives, why they always have to fear - the world is always changing, and slowly...painfully slowly, we're beginning to wake up from their nightmare and realize that maybe, just maybe we should treat people equitably. Maybe someday we'll have a little compassion and realize that it's the nice thing, the moral thing, the ethical thing, hell, the Christian thing to do to help those who are less fortunate. My advice for those conservatives out there who are so for their own wealth and so for "morality" but are so against health care or any sort of social services...read your damn Bible. It's not my damn Bible, and I don't consider myself bound by it. It's your damn book. Either follow it, or quit spouting it and pretending to believe a word of it.


Friday, August 21, 2009

How I wish I had those squidly tentacles of doom...

So I'm just going to link to PZ at Pharyngula for this post on the age of the earth. It's too well done and too good of a take-down for me to really try to add anything to it other than "Snaps!" and, perhaps, "Boo-yah!"

Ah, science. Helping people more closely approximate reality for over 300 years.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Converting Poe

I have every reason to believe that this is a clear example of Poe's Law. But that's part of the reason it cuts so close - I've had these kinds of arguments, online and in person. In each of them, you take a second, turn your head, and say "Wait...really? You...REALLY...believe that?" I've always wondered if some of the people I've had discussions with were actually trolling/Poeing...but most of them seemed sincere enough afterward.

Anyway, watch, cringe, facepalm, laugh.


Monday, August 10, 2009

The Inherent Contradictions of Conservative Opposition to the Public Option

Political hypocrisy is nothing new. We've all seen it, heard it, and lived it from pretty much every politician...ever. At this point it's really the degree that matters. Do you go with the politician who is always going to be lying, or the one who is only going to disappoint sometimes. Jaded? Perhaps.

But let's consider this issue in regards to say, the public option that the Obama administration has proposed for health care reform. We already know that the public option is a compromise from a single-payer system, as in, in committee, the public option was hammered out as an acceptable compromise. Now, of course, the conservative voices in Congress are saying that the public option should be compromised, revealing a few things - first, that of course they never intended to actually work with the idea of a public option, but were waiting for the public option to be revealed as "the plan" instead of as "already a compromise," and secondly, that these guys are in the pockets of the health care industry. The Young Turks have a good commentary on a Keith Olbermann special comment that nicely sums that up:

In fact, I'm just going to go ahead and link you to The Young Turks in general. They're fairly excellent.

Anyway, the point of this post was really to look at the conservative position and see if it stands up to itself.

To me, it seems to break down to three points of contention:

1) Government control
2) Free market economics
3) Government ineffectiveness.

Let's think about these things. These are all talking points of the conservatives, in one way or another, and you hear them all the time from these "town-hall meetings." We'll get to those in a second.

First, we have the issue of "Government Control." Conservatives, naturally, want government to keep its hands off of their health care and medical issues. This has led to the rather ironic statement being yelled "You tell the government to keep its hands off my Medicare." Pause for blinks and awkward laughs. OF COURSE Medicare is government-run health care. OF COURSE it has been since the 60's...um, right. But, anyway, we'll go back to medicare later. If you main point is that you want to keep government out of your health care and medicine, then OF COURSE you must support the right for a woman to choose to have an abortion, and OF COURSE you must support the right for a person to remove a family member from life-support, and OF COURSE you must support the right for researchers to work with stem-cells....Oh...right. We're only against government interference in health care in some issues.

Our second issue to consider is the whole issue of the free market. A frequent conservative talking point is that the public option is actually a nationalization of health care, or that it would out-compete any private insurance and drive them out of business. On the first point, no, the public option is not a nationalization of health care insurance. It is a public INSURANCE OPTION. Which, basically means, you have the OPTION to get your health INSURANCE from a government source. The government is not taking over hospitals or doctors. It is merely an insurance option. Yes, this does mean that someone will have to determine exactly what the public option will cover and which health care suppliers are preferred. But is that any different from a private insurance company? No. Another thing that people say is that they're happy with their employer insurance and don't want to be forced to go with a public option. Well, first off, you're not forced to go to the public option. Secondly, the only reason that most people really like their employer insurance (i.e., cannot discriminate for pre-existing conditions like private insurance can) is because of a government mandate. Already, the hand of government has intruded into your health care. Now, the other problem is the whole "driving private insurance out of business" or "dominating the market." As this is a public OPTION, you would assume, perhaps, that one would be in favor of having yet another competitor in the market, especially when private insurance companies tend to dominate entire states. In most projections, the public option would drive down costs across the board, because, yes, the government can do it for cheaper overall and would be a competitor in the market. Would they drive out other companies? Well, even if they did, would this not be the utter definition of a market economy? The better option prevails unless the private insurance companies can compete? Also, since so many claim that a government program would fail miserably, it's surprising to hear so many say that it would out compete private options. But that dovetails into our last point.

Third, the common refrain is that government cannot run health care. You hear this on Fox News talking points - the government can't run Cash for Clunkers (which it can and is an example of a program that is almost TOO successful), so how can it run health care? Well, part of the problem, already mentioned, is that the government does run health care - Medicare and Veterans' programs. That's right. Medicare, considered one of the best programs by the people insured under it, is government run. Likewise, conservatives always talk about the top quality care that our armed forces receive (partially in compensation for lower wages), and that too is government run. An excellent take down of this point can be seen here, in a interview between Jon Stewart and Bill Kristol:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Bill Kristol Extended Interview
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So, if you're going to claim that Medicare and Veterans' care work, which conservatives tend to do (and just try to maintain any political capitol when you say you are going to take away Medicare), then it's very hard to say that government cannot run a health care program with a straight face. Also, again, the general contradiction of saying that government programs would out-compete private companies and would also be horribly run and an utter failure.

Lastly, the trope of of "nameless, faceless bureaucrats between you and your doctor." How this is different from the nameless faceless people in my insurance companies, I don't know, but regardless. Most of the rhetoric is outright lies, such as the "nationalization of health care" and "death panels," but let's also go back to Medicare. People on Medicare tend to like it. They like it a lot. So, if we already have a well-running program to cover people over 65, why not extend it back to 55? Why not 45? 25? Why not everyone? Granted, a legitimate question is "how are we going to pay for this," and that is an issue we should talk about, but it is also clear that nearly 50 million Americans are uninsured, and preventative care can do a great deal to lower costs overall, in the long run.

This issue has been made a clearly political one - conservatives want to stop Obama, and want to pocket the money that insurance companies are providing for them. We know that public options can work - we have examples from around the world. Unfortunately, the conversations we should be having are not the ones that are going on. There are jokes of town-hall meetings going on around the country because conservative groups are funding, educating, and shipping people around to these town halls to protest, fill up the front rows and disrupt the meeting so that the senator or representative cannot talk or offer counterpoints. Now, if they wanted to ship people in to go up to the mic and voice their concerns and allow a rational debate, then that's fine. That's democracy. However, as it stands, they are not allowing anyone else to talk but themselves. They're trying to drown out every voice but their own and ignore any rational points, as well as the more-than-majority number of Americans who want major reforms (a la Gallup polls). That's not democracy. Sorry.

I promise this will be the last point - you often hear conservatives state that we have "the best health care system in the world." What they don't tell you is that this is based on an opinion poll. The World Health Organization has a different idea. We spend more money than almost any country, and yet have lower quality of care, ranked 37 in a WHO assessment. Are there problems with this measurement? Of course it's arguable. But at least it's more objective than a simple opinion poll.

Anyway, that's my two-cents. I'm not saying the public option is perfect, but I can't stand anymore to hear the utter hypocrisy from the conservative side and listen to the constant contradictions. They don't even have a leg to stand on, if this is the way they're going to be arguing. I'm sure Jason could offer more, and tell me where I'm bullshitting, and I fully welcome that. Any thoughts?