Health care is broken in this country. It is a hard fact to swallow for those born and bred in American triumphalism. Among industrialized nations, the United States is well down the list. Longevity, infant mortality, time lost due to illness, cost of care, number of bankruptcies due to medical costs: each measurement shows our nation paying more and more with less and less to show for it. What the country does have is the most well compensated health care middlemen in the world. Those who stand between ordinary folks and quality medical care are the best paid in the history of mankind.
Changing the system would be to the benefit of those on the left, on the right, and in the perpetually uncertain middle. Cost would go down. Care would go up. What's not to want?
The voluntary hordes are led by insurance company lackeys, some even forgetting to remove their corporate tee-shirts as they quarterback the fury. But those being led are voluntary hordes none-the-less. Most all are a half-step from medical catastrophe, like the rest of us. Health insurers will not cut them a break as little Johnny lies in the hospital and bills mount.
Certainly they are duped:
- Health care reform will kill old folks. False
- Private Insurance will be lost, or even banned. False
- Immigrants are the real beneficiaries. False
- Private Insurers would be forced to cover abortions, or public funds would finance abortions. Regrettably false
- Medicare will be cut. False
- It will result in rationing of care. False
The list of deception goes on and on. But ordinary citizens have unprecedented access to information. Surely they have some responsibility at least to attempt to know the truth about what they protest. Curiosity the size of a mustard seed would expose each lie in seconds. They are willfully deceived. Why do they do it?
It is not entirely anger and suspicion at a black President. They are also bribed by a form of non-monetary compensation.
It is, at least partly, a hunger for local celebrity: a sense of glory ordinarily denied to members of the teabag brigade. A young mother gets a round of approval. A shoe salesman gets shouts of support. Anyone can stand before an assembly and say something, anything. It doesn't matter what, really, as long it gets applause. Truth is incidental.
The allure is irresistible to a small unstable few, unnoticed, unappreciated in ordinary life. The price of admission is small. They need only learn a chant to yell at the right times: "Liar! liar! liar!" Later comes the reward.
Look Ma! I'm on television.
I have no time and no patience to deal with political gamesmanship and rhetoric and extremist points of view. We live in the real world.
Charles Darwin was meticulous in his research. He came to his theory of the Origin of Species as a result of careful observations on the Galapagos Archipelago. He concluded that the varieties of animal species on that volcanic string of Pacific islands made sense only if they had evolved over time through natural selection. He speculated that each species passed traits to succeeding generations, and that some traits contributed more than other traits to the survival of each generation. So, over many generations, the survivors passed on the successful traits. Evolution was the end result.
The theory created a bit of an uproar. Religious folk had long embraced creationism as a Biblical fact. One had calculated the age of the earth based on begats and life spans taken from scripture. The earth was calculated to have been created about 4,000 years before Christ walked the planet. Evolution contradicted that belief on two counts. Evolution had to have occurred over a much longer period of time. And creation could not have all happened in a week, with each species created on the same day.
Galapagos is off the western coast of South America. It was a bit of an arduous journey in the early 1800s. Darwin made the trip on a small ship called the H.M.S. Beagle. The Beagle had made many scientific trips to the Pacific side of South America before. Each trip took years. One captain became so distraught by the desolate journey that he committed suicide. His Lieutenant, Robert FitzRoy, was promoted to Captain.
On a later trip, FitzRoy was delighted at the company of a new educated passenger, a scientist named Charles Darwin. The trip took five years and they became friends. Well at least some of the time they were friends. Darwin shared his findings, and his first tentative conclusions, with the captain on the way back.
Conversation was wide ranging. But, on at least one occasion, religion became a sensitive topic. And Captain FitzRoy was a profoundly religious man. In fact, he furiously banished Darwin from his sight. One account has FitzRoy threatening to cast the scientist adrift.
He was deeply offended by an assertion by Darwin. It had nothing to do with evolution. In fact, FitzRoy was enthusiastic about the germ of an idea Darwin was developing. The conflict came from Darwin's opposition to slavery. Darwin believed there was no innate superiority of one race over another. The captain fervently believed with his whole heart that slavery was the will of God. He was shocked that his guest would contradict the main tenet supporting ownership of black folks by whites. Darwin was telling him to his face that the races were fundamentally equal.
The captain was a mercurial sort. He quickly recovered, apologizing for his temper. But the incident is emblematic of a sad fact. For some, then as now, religious belief is less a quest for spiritual Truth, than it is a mad thumbing through scripture for selective readings to support social prejudices.
Geology shows that fossils are of different ages. Paleontology shows a fossil sequence, the list of species represented changes through time. Taxonomy shows biological relationships among species. Evolution is the explanation that threads it all together. Creationism is the practice of squeezing one's eyes shut and wailing "does not!"
- - Dr.Pepper@f241.n103.z1.fidonet.org in a pseudononymous posting
I recently saw this quote on a bumpersticker: “I Love My Country—But I Hate My Government.” Where does one acquire such a plaque?
- - Frederick Park, January 2, 2008
John McCain has an idea for revitalizing the moribund Republican Party.
We Republicans have to recruit and elect Hispanics to office. And I don't mean just because they're Hispanics, but they represent a big part of the growing population in America. And we have a lot of work to do there. And I am of the belief that unless we reverse the trend of Hispanic voter registration, we have a very, very deep hole that we've got to come out of.
Demographics support his point. Spanish speaking Americans with ancestry to the south of the US are a growing part of the nation. Many are culturally conservative, and a good number have a history of supporting the GOP. But that support is largely swinging to Democrats.
So it would seem that Republicans like McCain would have no trouble making their case. Notables like Representative Henry Bonilla, strategist Frank Guerra and others join McCain's cause. But conservative groups like the Buchanan founded American Cause aren't having it. They refuse to “pander to pro-amnesty Hispanics and swing voters,” as chairman Marcus Epstein put it. Other activists are more explicit:
“Most Americans don’t mind a little ethnic food, some Asian math whizzes, or a few Mariachi dancers — as long as these trends do not overwhelm the dominant culture.” That is the former editor of Forbes, Peter Brimelow.
Instances of intolerance by conservative leaders are not difficult to find. The Sotomayor nomination put them front and center. Newt Gingrich joined Tom Tancredo and Rush Limbaugh in accusing her of backing what Tancredo called a "Latino KKK" because of her willingness to agree with the goals of a noted civil rights group. Nativist bigotry is brought to bear on every issue.
Why do they do it? It has always worked. "When these illegals come here it's like they won the lottery," said one angry protester to a reporter. "They drop babies all over the place. Then they go back and bring in another bunch. They murder, they rape, they steal. They hurt us."
The GOP has been tapping such anger for a generation. Though Hispanics may be put off by anti-immigrant bigotry, the Buchanans of the political world point out that American descendants of Europeans still outnumber Hispanics. They are correct in those numbers.
But there is a flaw in Republican calculations. The electoral danger is amplified by one fact not covered by demographics. Not all white folks are evil at the core. Not all black voters are put off only by racial hatred. Non-Hispanics of good will, those of all races, are also repulsed by nativist bigotry. The GOP plays with fire that is not entirely Spanish speaking.
Describing Reform of Health Care:
A denial of how God designed and created our economic and social systems to actually work in the real world.
The company was in an uproar. The aging President had decided that profits were not nearly enough, and planned to double and triple prices. We were a manufacturer of neck wear. I was the newest manager, leading a small sales team targeting corporations needing distinctive clothing for special events.
The weekly meeting was grim. Managers presented their case against the move. Some were quite emotional. The company might not survive. With each presentation, the old man was more adamant. He would not be moved. At last he asked me for my opinion. I suggested that our responsibility was to maximize return. "We are not in the tie business. We are in the profits business." The President nodded approvingly.
We needed to set a price that would give us the greatest bottom line. It was clear that a price of zero would put us out of business, since we would lose money on each tie. But a price of a thousand dollars per tie would also put us out of business because nobody would buy our ties at that price. The most profitable price would be somewhere in between. I proposed a short term analysis involving each manager and the corporate accountant to find a price level resulting in the most return. I became briefly popular as the fellow who had saved the company from a disastrously impetuous move.
Supply side economics was not invented by Arthur Laffer. Economist John Maynard Keynes knew that, in some extreme situations, lower tax rates could increase revenues. But Laffer presented it over dinner to Don Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney as the secret of the ages. He sketched a bell curve on a napkin. Lower taxes would always result in higher revenue. Republicans at that historic meeting forever fell under the magic spell of that enchanted napkin. The national consequence has been horrible. The Bush depression-lite was only the culmination of the GOP fantasy.
But economics is a strange twisted business of hypothetical theories. Arthur Laffer remains the Emperor of a persistent movement.
I drive an elderly lady to and from worship service each Sunday. It is my contribution to public safety. I laughed inwardly at her comment that government had better not get mixed up in her Social Security. I thought of her when President Obama mentioned a letter he had gotten opposing government involvement in Medicare. It is in such moments that we see both the influence of Republican policy arguments and their absurdity.
I thought again of the innocent outrage of my friend as I read of the most recent wisdom of the sage of Supply Side. The Emperor of the movement had this to say: "If you like the Post Office and the Department of Motor Vehicles and you think they're run well, just wait till you see Medicare, Medicaid and health care done by the government."
Does the Emperor have no clothes? Evidence shows Professor Laffer was in his underwear from the calamitous night of that apocalyptic dinner meeting.
In sorrow about the overturning of teaching Creationism as Science
We've been attacked by the intelligent, educated segment of our culture.
They call it AstroTurf. It is a fake grassroots effort funded by big money. The idea is to intimidate decision makers in the only way they should be intimidated: by a majority of voters. But the majority is faked.
In the past, corporations have ginned up a majority with advertising, word of mouth, successful slogans, and, all too often, misinformation and lies. In the 1960s Medicare was the big socialism scare. I remember a relative talking about a dentist ready with the needle of anesthetic, stopping to ask his patient about whether she was as opposed to socialized medicine as he was. Instead of a convert, he lost a patient. Medicare is with us today.
In the December, 1970, President Nixon asked the silent majority of Americans to write in support of his war policies. Letters to newspapers and congressional representatives followed. One began this way: “I write this letter, not in any sense of anger but simply out of sorrow… that you and your colleagues had utterly struck out when you tried to take the president on in his press conference.” That letter and others were traced back to the White House. It turned out the GOP had been faking support from the public.
Those were different times. The expectation was that debate, even that which could not really be considered debate, would at least be genuine. You could count on talking to someone who was actually mouthing their own words. So folks were put out by the faked letters. It was uncalled for.
Now, it turns out, such tactics are considered routine. Representatives in Congress have been getting angry letters from the NAACP and a local Hispanic civil rights group. It seems these groups don't much care for President Obama's plans to protect the environment from corporate polluters.
But it turns out the letters were fakes, written by right wingers funded by coal companies. One Congressional representative dug through and found a half dozen such letters. The organizations are kind of ticked off. The question is how many more were written as if from other groups without their knowledge. The AARP found similar tactics paid for by pharmacological companies opposed to plans to help the elderly get drugs at less cost. AstroTurf.
Conservative activists have been marshaling their efforts to disrupt public meetings with protesters bused in with instructions to pretend they are local residents. A memo from Robert MacGuffie was revealing. The behind the scenes effort seems to be well coordinated and well funded. AstroTurf.
It brings back memories. Al Gore got more votes in 2000 but still lost, failing in the quirkiness of the electoral college. A friend of mine was quite animated about defending the intent of the original founders. He pointed to their distrust of the passions of common folk, their greatest fear being mob rule.
Conservatives today no longer have qualms about mob rule, but they do distrust actual voters. Some traditions survive.
Repeatedly preventing discussion about Health Care at a Town Meeting
You're lying to me. Just because I don't have sophisticated language, I can recognize a liar when I see one.
- - Don Jeror, Conservative Activist screaming at Representative Steny Hoyer
The internet is abuzz with the latest proof that Obama is not really President. The birthers, lost souls who believe in their hearts that the man who was elected President of the United States last November was not eligible to become President, base their argument on their faith that Obama was not born in the United States. Article II Section 1 of the Constitution is quite clear, although an extra comma sort of messes up the syntax.
No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President;
A person, unnamed for fear of death from well known goon squads (we all know what happened to Vince Foster and Kathleen Willey's pet cat), has turned over a photo of a document to the head birther herself, Orly Taitz, the Dentist, lawyer, real estate agent, and conservative activist.
Skeptics will never be convinced, of course. They nitpick this clear proof because of a few petty details. For example, the date of the birth certificate is three years after little Barack's actual birth. It is on a document from the "Republic of Kenya" which, at the time the document is dated, did not exist by that name. And the document is photographed rather than reproduced by reliable methods. Picky, picky, picky.
Actually, this latest fantasy does merit our attention. It shows a structural problem that is transforming the GOP to a regional party. The country at large does not believe the birther theory. 77 percent are sure the President is actually an American. About the same, I think, as believe the Earth revolves around the sun. 11 percent say he is not, and 12 percent are not sure. But among Republicans, the story is different. A majority have doubts. Only 42 percent of the GOP say the President is an American.
The dichotomy puts pressure on those office holders who are 1) Republican and 2) sane. The GOP base fervently believes that health care is all about murdering our grandmothers, that Democrats intend to confiscate all guns, that conservatives are about to be banished from radio, and (I'm not making this up) that "Barack Obama" is, with a few substituted consonants, the ancient Hebrew pronunciation for the spawn of Satan. The base, in meeting after meeting, is furious with the few GOP turncoats who maintain that any of these conspiracies do not exist. But the electorate at large tends to view such opinions as kind of crazy. It's a no-win situation for GOP legislators.
The only forceful response so far is from Eric Cantor (R-VA). He maintains that the birther conspiracy was actually generated by the White House to discredit Republicans. Which pretty much explains it.
You see, the conspiracy theories are all part of a conspiracy.
...about four out of five Americans (79%) correctly respond that the earth revolves around the sun, while 18% say it is the other way around.
Serious problems need to be solved, and government is deadlocked by party zeal. This is what we abhor when we think of partisanship. We consider the pointless enmity of party bickering over petty issues. For a while, that described California's efforts to remain functional.
The reputation of the Golden State as the center of national partisanship died a quick death when New York took over the honor. Republicans had held the New York State Senate since Hector was a pup. But that changed in November, 2008. Democrats got a razor thin majority. That meant more than power. The majority ran committee investigations. And decades of GOP rule left a lot to uncover. But a couple of Democrats decided to vote with the Republicans, giving the GOP a one vote majority. Oh my.
So Republicans took over for a nanosecond. Then one Senator switched back, producing a tie. Usually such a tie would be broken by the Lieutenant Governor. Except New York doesn't have one. Governor Eliot Spitzer had been caught dallying with prostitutes, the same group he had been putting in jail with enthusiasm as a prosecutor before his election. He had resigned and David Paterson, the Lieutenant Governor became Governor, leaving the office of Lieutenant vacant.
And so the Hounds of Hell were loosed. It was a soap opera of locked doors, a proposed session on a summer lawn, and purloined keys. The deadlock was broken only when the lone renegade Democratic Senator was bribed into switching back. His reward was becoming Senate Majority Leader.
Over the last few years, we have seen legislative party loyalty result in bitter enmity and petty bickering. The civility and courage we associate with independence has been missing from politics. We crave the dispassionate judgment and nonpartisan decision making that we imagine the founders having intended. We do not normally associate courage and patriotism with politicians unless it is clothed in bipartisanship.
Lack of GOP cooperation is the reason given by such luminaries as columnist David Broder for criticizing President Obama's efforts to enact health care reform. Broder has no substantive objections, but he opposes the effort for a lack of bipartisanship. The President is accused of proceeding without GOP votes.
Max Baucus (D-MT), chair of the Senate Finance committee, is a Broder believer. He has been blocking passage of health care reform while he negotiates away heavy lifting already done by the House. He is dealing for a few Republican votes. There are 40 Republicans left in the Senate after the public had their say last November. The Baucus-Broder approach has given this legislative minority unexpected veto power. Not only can they say no, but Broder types will blame the President for their rejectionism.
Bipartisanship is turning into a pretty good deal for conservatives.
Health security is an issue that affects all of us. Every person has a fundamental human right to quality healthcare --- healthcare that is affordable, accessible, and compassionate.
- - Catholic Healthcare West in Health Security Index, Spring 2007