JMyste, our occasional fount of wisdom, responds to thoughts on Health Care Reform with typical objectivity. Sadly, his agnosticism regarding the complexities of the issue is misplaced.
The Republican Party has a position and the Democratic Party has one, and overall, most people who belong to their respective parties agree with the dogma of the party. The real issues involved (other than Judge Hudson's illogical position), are too complex and require too much knowledge for the common man to really have a legitimate opinion about what the truth is. Even if he had the knowledge, lots of the data is then a religion opinion. Each side can go back and forth with augments and stats and then counter arguments and status. Each person is using a its own data store. Of course they see things differently.
The issues are way too complex and one would have to devote his life to the study of each one to have a well-reasoned opinion.
Oh well. Throughout my adult life, I have pretty much taken it for granted that intellectual honesty required some attempt at fidelity to factual truth. How odd to find that I've had it wrong all these years.
In some cases, factual investigation is too much for a single individual to undertake. I cannot provide a coherent analysis of Einsteinian relativity. Distortions of time and space are constructs that are beyond my imagination. So, like pretty much everyone else, I hire experts by proxy. My tax dollars pay a part of the cost of expertise. Those who ought to know assure me the numbers are sound. The Michelson–Morley experiments of 1887 that got the whole ball rolling have implications of something way beyond Newton. The total eclipse of 1919 provided the first of several confirmations. Atomic bombs explode on schedule. The sun works. The ellipses within ellipses in the sky collapse on Occam's Razor and the earth orbits the sun after all. I do not grasp the finer points of involved math, but I can rely on those who do.
The minutia of demonstrated facts on which opinion is based are ascertainable. What we don't know, we can often find out. Opinion is dependent on many things besides fact, of course. Philosophical principle can be a firm foundation. But fact is not based on opinion.
I can think of several legitimate conservative arguments against most liberal proposals, including health care. Those arguments are philosophically based and do not rely on death panels, made up figures, or bogus deficits. Such things are fictitious and are worthwhile mostly for their entertainment value.
For example, one conservative talking point is that the supposed budget deficit reduction produced by Obamacare is flimflam. The benefits are rolled in after 4 years. So ten year projections by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office are a comparison of 10 years of cost to cover 6 years of benefits. Aha!! Those clever liberals have gamed Congressional budget figures, tricking the CBO into calculating a barrel of apples against half a barrel of oranges.
Problem with that argument is that the CBO wasn't gamed at all. They projected savings wayyyy beyond the decade conservatives complain about. The conservative complaint is a made up "fact." In less polite days we would have called it a ... how to put it ... a lie.
It's possible the figures are all wrong. Just as it's possible Michelson and Morley both had the springs in their stopwatches go wrong at the same time. But the argument of apples and oranges and 6 years versus ten is a phony accusation. Think financial death panels.
The late Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously expressed his own impatience with another case of policy dishonesty. "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion," he scolded an opponent, "but not his own facts."
The intellectual bankruptcy of contemporary conservatism, at least in this case, is the inability to dream up an opposing case that does not rest on the shaky foundation of demonstrable, sandy, falsehood.
When truth is ascertainable, we ought to ascertain it.
About 3 minutes in he notices his parents.
When Republicans put together their "Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act" it was a new demonstration of political skill at presenting, in a clear, concise, easy to understand way, the direct opposite of the truth. In fact, repeal of Health Care will kill jobs because it will increase health care costs to small businesses. But, as a purely political exercise, it has several virtues.
It is intuitive. Everyone knows Democrats, especially liberal Democrats, are big spenders, right? If the Congressional Budget Office says Health Care reform will actually reduce the deficit by making health care better and cheaper, well, something must be wrong. So Republicans come up with a series of plausible sounding explanations that can bring nods from ordinary people. Analysts are comparing ten years of savings with 5 years of cost. Ah, that's it. We knew there was something fishy there. Except that turns out to be untrue.
It is repeatable. And it is repeated by the conservative echo machine. Fox News even now presents a calculator to tell you how much Health Care reform costs you, depending on your income. It looks precise and quite scientific. And the narrative is pounded like a drum. That's their story, and they're sticking to it.
It is simple. Benefits come with costs, right? If you're going to pay for health care for people not now getting it, it has to cost someone something. Now, in reality, cost cutting measures are tried and true. They involve increasing competition, cost controls, and incentives to increasing health rather than the number of medical procedures. But these things are for policy wonks. The MEGO effect, My Eyes Glaze Over, competes very effectively with complicated sounding truth. Easier to believe it's all mumbo-jumbo.
Republicans have toyed with the idea of a change, following the Arizona murders and attempted murders. They have talked about changing the name of their bill to the "Repealing the Job-Crushing Health Care Law Act" or maybe the "Repealing the Job-Destroying Health Care Law Act." A kinder, gentler falsehood.
Democrats are fighting back with something Republicans scoff at: the truth. They suggest dividing the votes into specific provisions the Republicans might hesitate to approve. Like allowing discrimination based on pre-existing conditions. Or taking away the right of parents to put children on their policies up into their mid-twenties. Or removing cost containment benefits for seniors who know very well what "donut hole" means.
The strategy is helped by a GOP contradiction. Republicans say they don't simply want to repeal. "Repeal and Replace" is the current phrase. But, when pressed for what the "replace" part might consist of, GOP leadership defers to committees that have yet to meet, plans that have not yet been devised, and broad principles that are as insubstantial as a summer breeze.
Both sides, I suspect, are missing the central lesson of the election. Health Reform was a very good idea. The opposition was split between those who wanted less and those who thought it should have been stronger. But the core resentment, the fuel for volcanic anger, was the feeling that Congress and the President were living in their own little world, debating the minutia of a "good idea" while real people, good people, hard working people, suffered. The what-the-hell-are-they-thinking-about reaction was understandable. Your hair is on fire? How about a nice foot massage?
Democrats are fighting the "Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act" with a little rebranding of their own. They have taken to calling the GOP repeal program the "the Patient's Rights Repeal Act." Catchy, huh?
I have a better suggestion. How about the Oh-My-God-You-Want-To-Put-America-Through-This-Dumb-Complicated-Argument-All-Over-Again-When-We-Need-Jobs Act?
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow Americans:
Tonight I want to begin by congratulating the men and women of the 112th Congress, as well as your new Speaker, John Boehner. And as we mark this occasion, we are also mindful of the empty chair in this Chamber, and pray for the health of our colleague - and our friend - Gabby Giffords.
It's no secret that those of us here tonight have had our differences over the last two years. The debates have been contentious; we have fought fiercely for our beliefs. And that's a good thing. That's what a robust democracy demands. That's what helps set us apart as a nation.
But there's a reason the tragedy in Tucson gave us pause. Amid all the noise and passions and rancor of our public debate, Tucson reminded us that no matter who we are or where we come from, each of us is a part of something greater - something more consequential than party or political preference.
We are part of the American family. We believe that in a country where every race and faith and point of view can be found, we are still bound together as one people; that we share common hopes and a common creed; that the dreams of a little girl in Tucson are not so different than those of our own children, and that they all deserve the chance to be fulfilled.
That, too, is what sets us apart as a nation.
Now, by itself, this simple recognition won't usher in a new era of cooperation. What comes of this moment is up to us. What comes of this moment will be determined not by whether we can sit together tonight, but whether we can work together tomorrow.
I believe we can. I believe we must. That's what the people who sent us here expect of us. With their votes, they've determined that governing will now be a shared responsibility between parties. New laws will only pass with support from Democrats and Republicans. We will move forward together, or not at all - for the challenges we face are bigger than party, and bigger than politics.
At stake right now is not who wins the next election - after all, we just had an election. At stake is whether new jobs and industries take root in this country, or somewhere else. It's whether the hard work and industry of our people is rewarded. It's whether we sustain the leadership that has made America not just a place on a map, but a light to the world.
We are poised for progress. Two years after the worst recession most of us have ever known, the stock market has come roaring back. Corporate profits are up. The economy is growing again.
But we have never measured progress by these yardsticks alone. We measure progress by the success of our people. By the jobs they can find and the quality of life those jobs offer. By the prospects of a small business owner who dreams of turning a good idea into a thriving enterprise. By the opportunities for a better life that we pass on to our children.
That's the project the American people want us to work on. Together.
Good evening. I’m Congressman Paul Ryan from Janesville, Wisconsin – and Chairman here at the House Budget Committee.
President Obama just addressed a Congressional chamber filled with many new faces. One face we did not see tonight was that of our friend and colleague, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona. We all miss Gabby and her cheerful spirit; and we are praying for her return to the House Chamber.
Earlier this month, President Obama spoke movingly at a memorial event for the six people who died on that violent morning in Tucson. Still, there are no words that can lift the sorrow that now engulfs the families and friends of the fallen.
What we can do is assure them that the nation is praying for them; that, in the words of the Psalmist, the Lord heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds; and that over time grace will replace grief.
As Gabby continues to make encouraging progress, we must keep her and the others in our thoughts as we attend to the work now before us.
Tonight, the President focused a lot of attention on our economy in general – and on our deficit and debt in particular.
He was right to do so, and some of his words were reassuring. As Chairman of the House Budget Committee, I assure you that we want to work with the President to restrain federal spending.
In one of our first acts in the new majority, House Republicans voted to cut Congress’s own budget. And just today, the House voted to restore the spending discipline that Washington sorely needs.
The reason is simple.
A few years ago, reducing spending was important. Today, it’s imperative. Here’s why.
We face a crushing burden of debt. The debt will soon eclipse our entire economy, and grow to catastrophic levels in the years ahead.
On this current path, when my three children – who are now 6, 7, and 8 years old – are raising their own children, the Federal government will double in size, and so will the taxes they pay.
No economy can sustain such high levels of debt and taxation. The next generation will inherit a stagnant economy and a diminished country.
Frankly, it’s one of my greatest concerns as a parent – and I know many of you feel the same way.
Our debt is the product of acts by many presidents and many Congresses over many years. No one person or party is responsible for it.
There is no doubt the President came into office facing a severe fiscal and economic situation.
I also would have steered clear of politics. I'm grateful for the opportunities God gave me to minister to people in high places; people in power have spiritual and personal needs like everyone else, and often they have no one to talk to. But looking back I know I sometimes crossed the line, and I wouldn't do that now.
- - Reverend Billy Graham, January 21, 2011
It was not done with malice, and if I had known that that made-up word would be connoted as a racial insult I would not have said it.
- - Former Senator George Allen (R-VA), January 24, 2011
Still maintaining the French word was never intended as a racial slur
Do Republicans really want to vote to repeal the ban on preexisting conditions?
Do they really want to repeal the guidelines that allow young adults who have graduated college and are just entering the workforce to stay on their parents' insurance until age 26?
Do they really want to repeal the fix to the Medicare donut hole that will save seniors 50 percent on the cost of their prescription drugs?
Do they really want to repeal free checkups for seniors that save taxpayers billions of dollars through better prevention?
- - Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), January 23, 2011
Well I think it’s most important that I stand upon the principles that people elected me to go to Washington, DC and represent them on Capitol Hill.
So that when you run into someone that is counter, or someone that really does represent the antithesis of the principles upon which this country was established, you’ve got to be able to defeat them intellectually in debate and discourse, and you to just have to be able to challenge each and every one of their assertions very wisely and very forthright.
- - Representative Allen West (R-FL), January 24, 2011
On his approach to Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN), who is Muslim
It was a frustrating Christmas season. A fledgling contemporary service had made great strides in 2010. Attendance was up, the church was experiencing the first growth in years.
There had been some resistance to more modern music and a less rigid routine. But the church changed one of its two traditional services, the later one, to a more contemporary style. There were disagreements even among those who had pushed for a service that might better speak to current struggles involving real people. There were discussions about how large the band should be, and who should be asked to join. The pastor first reluctantly acquiesced to allowing others, members of the band, to introduce songs. He eventually warmed to the idea, then became an enthusiastic advocate. Conflicts among professional staff led to the departure of a key member. But we persevered and the congregation kept growing.
Then Christmas crept up. We had discussed how to approach the season as much as a year before. Promises were postponed, then forgotten as committees changed membership. There were traditions that must be honored. A musical program centered around seasonal hymns had been a part of the service about forever. The choir always worked hard on a traditional presentation of the Christmas story. Service times had always been changed, congregations joined, to see the presentations.
The issue was a simple one to some of us. The success of the new venture depended a lot on consistency. Those who visited a new contemporary service would, as one might anticipate, expect a modern, forward looking service. It was important that new visitors coming each week see a vivid demonstration that worship of our Creator did not need to be confined to ancient rituals, 200 year old songs, and Elizabethan English thrown randomly about for a holiness effect.
The compromise was what one might expect from conservative committees trying hard to understand. The issue was addressed as one of hurt feelings that must be soothed. Contemporary band members would be invited to participate in singing spirituals, or in announcing some of the traditional songs. A joint service would be offered as "blended" worship, a combination of old and new. The old turned out to be all the hymns and structure of the traditional, and the new was accompaniment by a guitar.
Contemporary band members held informal caucus meetings, curbside conferences, coffee shop conclaves. A consensus emerged. Our attitude should be one of gratitude. We were not self-sustaining, although we had made strides. We were a child of the larger congregation who had already made huge concessions, turning one of their traditional services over to this new worship idea.
The analogy to MSNBC is far from perfect. Keith Olbermann's Countdown was more than self-sustaining. The link is gratitude.
I recall when Olbermann seemed to be the sole ray of light in an otherwise dark stage. The news was a simple choice between the Fox-News spin machine and hand wringing never-call-anyone-on-anything CNN. "Many math experts feel that 1 + 1 = 2. Other voices rise in disagreement." Olbermann was willing to present a fact-based liberal case in unapologetic tones. He was the only one. At first.
And I was grateful, not only to Olbermann himself, but to the sponsorship by MSNBC. The news network had been willing to take a risk on a liberal voice. His sponsorship of Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz, and Lawrence O'Donnell increased my admiration both for Olbermann and MSNBC.
The network still presents half a loaf. Switching channels to get the latest on some breaking item, I often will find Fox-spin, CNN temporizing, and MSNBC doing what? A cheap show of life behind prison bars, or the latest humiliation of some sexual predator. The hours that Fox goes unrebutted give me heartburn. But MSNBC does provide a few hours of opportunity for liberal fact-based views.
Now Olbermann has left in circumstances yet to be explained by anyone. Some personality conflict seems to be at play. Rumors were that some management types tried to pressure him to tone down some segments. Worst Person was supposed to be part truth, part joke, fellows.
So I am left with mixed feelings. I am grateful, MSNBC, grateful for the Maddow, Schultz, O'Donnell hours. I am grateful even for Matthews. I am grateful for the contrast with the evil empire of Fox-Ailes-Murdoch. I am grateful for an alternative to the CNN very-pretty-airhead anchors of the weekend.
I am completely grateful. You clueless bumblers. Grateful.
Tim McGaha at Tim's Thoughtful Spot weighs in, obliquely, on the historical controversy of whether President Buchanan was guilty of provoking the Civil War through inaction or rash preemptiveness in supplying Fort Sumter. He looks at a last second abortive attempt at compromise and why it failed.
At Chuck Thinks Right, Chuck is shocked, just shocked, at welfare costs generated by illegal aliens. He's so shocked he lacks the strength to click over to snopes to find it's a hoary old myth. False. Untrue.
- At Mad Mike's America, friend John Myste visits trial by court.
Belgian phone companies have a reputation for terrible customer service. Everyone hates the phone company. But one enterprising group became an overnight sensation by providing the phone company with customer service . . . modeled after the phone company.
Yesterday, conservative David Frum featured prominently on his website an article by another conservative with a suggestion for Arizona Congressional Representative Gabrielle Giffords. Giffords is recovering from the bullet that passed through her brain in the murder and attempted murder in Arizona. Doctors are calling her progress a medical miracle.
The suggestion is a simple one.
Stepping down from one’s office is nothing to be ashamed of. In actuality, the shame lies in not being honest with one’s own self about the responsibilities that voters have entrusted in one and the expectations they have. Constituents should expect that an official will either be appointed or a special election held within six months, not years. This current Congress should take this issue up immediately and in consultation with Giffords’ family and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer come to an appropriate remedy.
So the desperately wounded Giffords, having fought her way back to probable, but not certain, long term survival, still fighting for complete recovery, owes it to Arizona to quit making excuses and get out of the way. And if she does not quit, then she should be ashamed for her personal dishonesty and for betraying the trust of voters, who expect her to buck up and get back to work or move aside.
If Gabby won't do the right thing, Governor Brewer should take action. She should petition Congress and gently pressure the Giffords family to help push the stubborn one out of the way.
"After all," says the conservative writer, "Rep. Giffords is not the only person suffering in Arizona."
The writer, John S. Wilson has bounced around Virginia Republican circles for a while in state government. He writes for HipHopRepublican and TheLoop21, and is a leading contender for this year's National Richard Cheney Conservative Compassion in Action Award.
Okay, I made up that last part.
It wasn't easy for anyone of any decency to watch the tragic violence in Tucson, each bit of news carrying more horrible weight. A judge killed, a congressional representative shot through the brain, a husband taking fatal bullets in the back while shielding his wife, all sobering, shocking. Then the crushing news of a nine year old girl, precocious, curious, being treated to her first glimpse of how government ... in America ... really ... works.
How much worse it must have been to imagine millions whispering to each other that you may have been responsible. Imagine the serious burden suddenly carried by a completely innocent public figure unfairly attacked by an evil enemy willing to use anything, even a tragedy of this magnitude. They had cynically declared war on her, even attacking her for the timing of her eventual response, then for the follow up response. It was evil, unfair, breaking every rule of decency. Damn them, damn them, oh damn them all.
Time to call them out on their unfair and heartless tactics. They are evil, so say so. They are self-serving, so call them on it. They are spiteful, so give them another dose of mama grizzly. The best defense is attack and attack some more. I'm not gonna take it.
They wanted to blame her for the killings. They wanted to demonize her. Just when the nation needed voices of calm, when the only important thing was the death of innocent victims, they were trying to take advantage. And if they succeeded in silencing her, as well as those like her, they would be many steps closer to their ultimate goal of destroying the nation. Besides the killer was probably a liberal.
It all was less strategy than eruption. The contradictions were amplified by the echo chamber that makes up the world of professional figures. Encouragement is what paid flatterers and comrades-in-arms are expected to give. Slights are boosted into travesties, criticisms are exaggerated into attacks, and attacks are threatening to the core. How dare they!! Even partisans had to struggle to keep up. Few Americans who had watched criticisms of Palin witnessed the dramatic she's-guilty-of-murder accusations. The attacks most saw were more along the lines of she's-guilty-of-very-bad-taste. "Toxic rhetoric" seemed to many like a fair critique.
The white hot eruption of Sarah Palin had no internal check, except what was demanded for internal consistency. When that crumbled, what was left was the vitriol for which she was criticized to begin with. Casting the enemy as evil for their supposed tactics, while using the same evil tactics against them created a weird presentation for many viewers. It was startling.
"Using such a tragedy for what appeared to be, right off the bat, some political gain," was clearly wrong, and the murderer was "an apolitical or perhaps even left-leaning criminal who killed these innocents." Demonizing those who dare to disagree is dishonest, "we should be respectful, we should be civil," and they are trying to silence her in order to bring down America. "And if they ever were to succeed in doing that, then our republic will be destroyed." Acting as if ordinary people are lesser beings because they have a message the establishment doesn't like is immoral, and it usually done by those who aren't real Americans with real American values, since "those on the left if it weren't for their double standards, they'd have no standards."
For me, it was a time warp. I saw a variation of a former Vice President's "Won't have Dick Nixon to kick around" extemporaneous speech in 1962. After losing his bid to become governor of California, Richard Nixon artlessly intermingled his blurted hurt with cautious rhetorical backsteps. It was like watching a robot controlled remotely by some inept amateur. Jerk forward, jerk back, stop, go, reverse. You guys are all out to get me, not that I'm not for a free press, it's not fair, but I'm taking it like a man, you stabbed me in the back, but I understand the game, no hard feelings, you unethical soulless manipulators. The extreme emotion checked then released then checked again, then erupting. The internal contest must have been titanic, the volcanic force of a lifetime of frustrated resentment struggling against decades of well honed political calculation.
Pundits have invested much thought dissecting Palin's colloquy with Sean Hannity. She roused the faithful. Did she miss the opportunity she was after to expand her influence beyond her little band of followers?
The picture she presented was not a strategic self portrait. It was not a miscalculation. It was unselfconscious venting. The pure meanness of it was completely genuine. The real thing.
It was all Sarah. Shining for the American public to see.