Thursday, August 30, 2007

In Defense of Canadian Healthcare

R. Bobak who is purportedly a Canadian who started blogging recently on healthcare (and who seems unfamiliar with the concept of links, as he failed to link to my post) wrote a post entitled "doctor biobrain's" healthcare wise-cracks (Bobak is apparently also unfamiliar with the proper use of capitalization and quotation marks) as a response to my Healthcare for Dummies post.

But as was to be expected, my post was little more than a background prop enabling Bobak to repeat the same litany of attacks against the Canadian system, while entirely ignoring what I wrote. Even the parts that he quotes in his post were then ignored for a retread of the same old stuff. Just as with Socialized Medicine-hater Jim Campbell, what I wrote really wasn't of any importance. All they knew was they didn't like what I was getting at, and that makes me wrong; even if they can't explain why I'm wrong.

What's Wrong with Canada

And first off, just like Campbell, Bobak fails to mention a significant detail when comparing our system with Canada's: We pay about twice as much per person as they do; including a larger percentage of our GDP. And it's obvious why they can't mention this; because it undermines much of what they're saying. There's always this implied idea that Canada's system is both less efficient and more expensive than our system. Or at a minimum, as if they're getting less for the same money.

But instead, it seems as if Canada's problem is that they're just not willing to fund the system properly. Bobak seems to agree with that, but then insists that the problem is lack of competition and free-markets. But it looks to me like the problem is that they're just not willing to pay for what they need. Otherwise, their system doesn't look that different from ours; except that we pay a whole lot more.

And sure, how the healthcare is paid for is different. But whether it's being paid by taxes, or by employers, or by individuals; it all adds up to the same thing. Conservatives treat "taxes" as if they're an inherently evil thing that makes it worse than other means of money collection, but it's not. If we're paying twice as much, we're still paying twice as much; no matter how the money is collected.

Knowing the Basics

Beyond that, it seems as if Bobak doesn't understand how our system works, or his own Canadian system for that matter. Because first off, Canada doesn't have the dreaded Socialized Medicine. Their doctors don't work for the government. They have private practices, just as we do. The primary differences between their system and ours is who pays the doctors and that their system doesn't allow for people to pay for their own care (though that is slowly changing).

But otherwise, their system is just like what we do for Medicare, Medicaid, HMO's, PPO's, and other systems. I suppose there are rich people who just pay for their own expenses directly (which is far more expensive), and we do have non-HMO-style insurance with huge deductibles, which seem fairly pointless to me; but as far as I know, our system is very similar to Canada's.

And that's the thing: They don't seem to understand how our system works at all. For all their talk about "free choice" in our system, I just don't see it. I don't get to pick my insurance provider. My wife's employer does that. When she has an employer willing to pay for a good provider, we have good insurance (like right now). And if they're cheap, we get crappy insurance. So if we can't afford to buy our own insurance (which most people can't), I don't see how I have any choice in the matter.

And even within insurance providers, we have little choice. They have agreements with certain doctors for how much they'll pay for services and I'm limited to seeing the doctors they have agreements with. And then I pick one of those doctors and am stuck seeing that one doctor; as well as any specialist that one doctor sends me to, who also must have an agreement with my insurance provider. Sure, I can see other doctors, but I'd have to pay a whole bunch for it and my insurance might not cover it at all. And emergency visits are very expensive and I have to get permission before I can go there.

On top of this, I pay a $20 co-pay for every visit and have to pay a deductible for drug purchases. In the one and a half years I've had this insurance, only one person in my family has had their drug deductible paid in full; which means I've been paying full price for the few prescriptions I've had.

And for awhile, we didn't have health insurance, and so my kids got on the CHIP program here in Texas. It's government-paid healthcare just like Canada's, but let me tell you, it worked exactly like my current insurance does. We had a $20 co-pay (though poorer people had a lower one or no co-pay), as well as a drug co-pay, though we had no deductible for this (which is better than we have now). It also gave us a list of doctors to choose from, and seemed no different from my current insurance at all.

And the best part was that it didn't change just because we changed jobs; meaning that we weren't tied to our jobs just to keep the kids insured. And that's great. My wife and I rarely visit the doctor, but anyone with kids will tell you that you WILL take them to the doctor.

Healthcare Hell

And I've had much crappier insurance than CHIP or what I have now. One company kept trying to make me pay for things they were supposed to cover, kept lying to me about this, and dragged their feet for a year and a half before they finally paid them. I've had my account sent to collectors on two occasions for bills that the insurance company was supposed to pay, forcing me to pay the bill in the meantime. And when it all gets settled, I didn't get so much as an apology, and in the second case, never got reimbursed. And I've heard other horror stories much worse from this provider and others.

And how much choice do I get in this? Zero. In America, when your employer decides to get a cheaper health insurance provider, you're just screwed. If the new insurance plan doesn't have an agreement with your doctor or pediatrician, you have to find a new one (something that's happened to us on several occasions). And there's no way to evaluate a doctor beforehand, so it's just a matter of taking a blind stab at trying to find a new doctor who is good. And it was all based upon what her employer felt like paying for insurance, not on my choice.

But even the lousy insurance providers worked the same as the good ones. I've never had insurance that allowed me to see whoever I wanted. I've never been able to evaluate a doctor and pick the cheapest or best one. I like the place I go to now, but have had bad doctors in the past. And there really isn't anything you can do about it. If your company decides to change their insurance provider, you go with what they say.

In all of my adult life, I've never seen the "free-market" healthcare system that conservatives keep describing to me. Well, except for the part where if you don't have insurance, you don't see the doctor. I've seen that one a few times, and it totally sucked. I'm generally a healthy person, so health insurance is too expensive for me to pay for. But I'm always damn glad when I have it.

Fixing Canada

And to my knowledge, this is how the Canadian system works, but they've got it better. As I said, their biggest problem is that they refuse to pay as much as they should. Remember, we pay about twice as much as they do. So it's quite possible that if they paid 50% more than they do, they'd have a superior system to ours that was still cheaper. And for the millions of uninsured we have, a waiting list is still better than nothing.

But unless I'm mistaken, the conservatives who want private healthcare in Canada are the same ones who don't want to properly fund their system. Once again, it appears that conservatives are intent on proving that government doesn't work by sabotaging it. I'll admit that I'm no expert on Canadian politics, but unless someone can explain this to me otherwise, this will be my take on it. But as I said, many of the details Bobak gave match what I'm saying. The only difference is that he's got a different conclusion in mind, so he refuses to see it.

And for as much as people like Bobak complain about the Canadian system "rationing" care, that's exactly what they admire about our system. But rather than the government rationing it, they prefer it to be rationed according to wealth. The poorer you are, the less healthcare you get. They never say this explicitly, but that's exactly what they're talking about. They fear that if everyone gets insured that our services will go down because more people can see the doctor.

I find that simply disgusting. Everyone deserves good health. Not only is it good for society, but it's the right thing to do. As they say, a society should be judged by how they treat their lowest citizens; not their most powerful.

Conclusion-Based People

Bobak even took issue when I insisted that single-payer insurance should be called insurance, rather than "tax". But why? If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a duck. And if single-payer insurance acts just like regular insurance, what's the difference? Why does it matter who pays for it, if it acts the same way? And the difference is obvious: "Taxes" are a dirty word, so if they call it that rather than "insurance," they'll think they scored a point. But I have no problem calling it Taxpayer-Funded Insurance. Again, if it acts just like insurance, it's insurance.

But conservatives have got a different way of thinking: If you don't like the duck, call it a cockroach and squish it. Same deal with why they keep saying Canada has "Socialized Medicine" when it doesn't. They don't care if it's accurate. They just want a name that sounds bad because they don't like it. And "free-market" sounds a lot better than "Every Man For Himself," which is what they really want.

But again, this is all just weird. These people don't seem to understand how our system or the Canadian system works. They've got this weird fantasy that Canadians lack choice, while we get to have whatever we want. And they refuse to acknowledge that our system has many glaring inefficiencies and is extremely expensive; or that their system is underfunded. Overall, it's like they're so hung-up on the idea that the free-market is better that they refuse to acknowledge reality at all. But this has nothing to do with the free-market, and everything to do with selfishness.

But again, there's nothing new here. This is how they treat everything. They've got their fantasies and they'll be damned if they let any facts get in the way. And if Bobak gets around to responding to this post, he'll do the same as Jim Campbell and ignore what I wrote and insist that I'm too ignorant to understand what he's saying. Jim also refused to allow my comments to be posted on his blog, including my links rebutting his posts. I guess Jim just didn't like what I had to say. We'll see if Bobak is any different.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Advice to a Senator: Embrace teh Gay

Bathroom sex. Perhaps I’m just a prude, but bathroom sex seems weird to me. Particularly anonymous bathroom sex with people you’re not planning to see again. But then again, perhaps you wouldn’t want to see anyone after bathroom sex. I don’t know that I would. Perhaps that just depends on the bathroom.

And the thing is, I don’t know much about gay culture. I’m not gay. Haven’t been gay. Haven’t had gay sex. But I can’t imagine that it would be all that hard to arrange to have gay sex in a non-bathroom setting. Particularly not for a rich-guy Senator who can easily afford hotel rooms. In fact, bathroom sex seems like one of the more risky ways to go about it.

So I’m wondering if perhaps Senator Craig’s bathroom peccadilloes aren’t necessarily a result of his homosexuality, but rather that he really liked it that way. That it wasn’t enough to just have gay sex. He liked anonymous gay sex in bathrooms. Hell, it’s possible that he just liked anonymous bathroom sex, but couldn’t find any girls in the bathrooms he frequents. I never do.

And it’s not just him. It seems like all the closeted gay Republican leaders are into the freaky stuff. Or maybe not. Like I said, I don’t know much about gay culture, so maybe the stuff they’re into is just standard. Off the top of my head, I’m thinking of Craig in the bathroom. The Rev. Haggard always on bottom. Congressman Foley and his barely pubescent boys. (Many of those Catholic priests also liked them young.) Then there’s Florida Congressman Bob Allen, who claimed he offered a “pretty stocky black guy” money and a BJ because he was scared he was “about to be a statistic.”

And it’s not limited to gay Republicans. Self-righteous Congressman Vitter apparently had some diaper fetish or something. And then there’s anti-sex-abuse crusader and former South Dakota legislator Ted Klaudt who got caught molesting his foster children; including performing medical “exams” on them so they could sell their eggs to a fertility clinic. I’d go on, but I’m about to vomit just thinking about that last one.

And it just seems that there’s something more for these “family values” hypocrites than just sex. This isn’t just gayness or adultery. It’s something naughty. Something perverted. I mean, I’ve been in a few nice bathrooms in my time. Some which were even nicer than quite a few motel rooms I’ve stayed in. But all the same, bathroom sex just doesn’t seem like a normal activity if sex was all you were really after. That’s not to knock any of you, if that’s your thing. I’m just saying that there seems to be more to this than just a convenient location.

Going Negative

And I can certainly understand why Craig lied about it. I can even understand why Craig was anti-gay in public. At a minimum, it’s always a good way of getting rightwing support; akin to kissing babies and ridiculing any macacas who might be in the crowd. Especially as I believe a politician’s job is to represent their constituents, and not impose their own values upon them. I don’t care if a Dem politician opposes abortion, just as long as they don’t try to stop anyone else from having one. And while I’m not cool with Craig making America worse for gay people, I’m not cool with straight politicians doing that either.

And this might have just been part of Craig’s big kick. Perhaps he really enjoyed being a naughty hypocrite. Someone who likes his gayness to be all sly and perverted. Again, that’s not to knock anyone who does what he does. As long as it’s consensual, I don’t really have a problem with it (assuming I’m not in the same bathroom at the time, of course).

But once he got caught, he really needed to just go with it. One of the biggest contributions Rove taught us was that you should not only embrace your negatives, but you should flaunt them. For example, if your candidate is so irredeemably stupid that he can’t form complete sentences without hurting himself, then just put a cowboy hat on him, buy him a ranch, and have him talk with a stupid accent. And if his running mate is a bullshitty secretive bastard with a scowl problem, tell everyone he’s the weighty big daddy who will keep the moron in line with his “gravitas.” The more their opponents try to take advantage of these flaws, the more they say “Yep, that’s right. Just an average Joe and his dad’s serious friend.” Works every time.

And the same goes for Craig. If he wanted to fight this, he really needed to do it in court and not have pled guilty. I don’t know about you, but if my wide bathroom stance and habit of tap dancing and high-fiving people while taking a dump ever got me arrested, I’d fight it. But for whatever reason, he pled guilty. And now he’s done for. Time for fighting is over. It’s time for him to embrace teh gay.

The Gay Neighbor

And how he needs to go about this is to insist that there’s nothing wrong with being gay and that homosexuality doesn’t hurt families. I know, that’s a stretch to think this would work against Republicans, but it’s his only hope. To come out, stand on his record, and loudly proclaim “This is the political record of a gay man. A gay man served Idaho proudly for almost eighteen years, and he’ll continue to do so."

Do I think this will save his career? If played right, it’s unlikely, but possible. Because I don’t think the anti-gay thing is nearly as strong as people believe. In fact, I know several Republicans whose rhetoric is anti-gay, but who have no problem with specific gay people they know and like. And that’s all he’s really fighting for: to get people to admit that, even if they don’t like gay men, they like this gay man. Sure, there are many people who truly hate gay people, but I think those are a much smaller minority than anyone realizes. And seeing as how many of the loudest anti-gay people turn out to be gay, even the gay haters might not be as big of a problem as we imagine.

Most of what you hear is simply rightwing rhetoric that people don’t really believe. It’s all about denouncing “special rights” and nonsensical arguments on how gay marriage destroys families. But when you get back to reality, many of them don’t really believe this stuff. They’re not saying it necessarily because they hate gays. They say it because they’re Republicans, and Republicans usually follow the script they're given. They do it because they’re against Democrats and the “Gay Agenda.” But it really doesn’t have anything to do with actual gay people or reality. As I said, some of the strongest anti-gay people are gay.

But the bigger issue is that he’s probably finished in any case. Conservatives are already denouncing him in droves and his denials won’t stop that. And so the only chance he has is to come out proudly. If he goes down, he should at least go down in style. He should apologize for the deception and insist that he’s happier now that he got it out of the way. And it’s possible that he could actually get the Idahoans who supported him to realize that they always supported a gay man, and that’s alright. And who knows, after that, maybe he could start using hotel rooms. Assuming he’s into that kind of thing.

Healthcare Apology

I owe a big apology to all of my readers for my last post on healthcare: Free-Lunch Healthcare. Due to my egregious ignorance on all issues pertaining to healthcare, I made a huge blunder in that post. As a recap, I had critiqued a post from anti-Socialized Medicine guru Jim Campbell for his post entitled Health Care Vouchers: a Market-Based Approach that Would Cost Nothing.

After reading it, I was entirely confused as to how this could work and pointed out what I imagined to be biting criticisms of his post which rendered it entirely pointless. Rather than being some brilliant scheme to solve our healthcare woes, it almost seemed as if Campbell's free-lunch proposal was little more than a disinformation campaign designed only to undermine more respectable proposals which he opposes (ie, Socialized Medicine).

But as it turns out, when Campbell suggested that Health Care Vouchers were “a Market-Based Approach that Would Cost Nothing,” he wasn’t offering a plan. Rather, this was, as they say in the healthcare lexicon, mental masturbation of the highest order. Or to put it in laymen’s terms, he was talking out of his beer ass. But then again, I don’t know that Jim is a drinking man, so it’s quite possible he’s just like that normally.

And had I been more knowledgeable regarding healthcare issues, I would have known this. His post lacked the minimum level of details which were required to know if his “plan” was even remotely workable, and the few figures he provided were entirely nonsensical. And even based upon the low level of information he provided, it appeared on the surface that this voucher idea was completely absurd with little chance of gaining traction with either liberals or conservatives. His post seemed so bad, in fact, that I had somehow imagined that Jim had made a horrendous mistake by allowing anyone to read it.

But no. There was no mistake. Jim hasn't offered the slightest explanation or correction for what he wrote. Nor did he correct or clarify anything I wrote. As he wrote in his gentle rebuke:
"Hey: You have totally misrepresented everything on my page. I don't claim to have a plan, I'm looking for one since it seem we are going to have one forced upon us?"

So you see, I got it all wrong. When he wrote a 600-word post with the provocative title: "Health Care Vouchers: a Market-Based Approach that Would Cost Nothing", he wasn't actually suggesting that vouchers were a market-based approach that would cost nothing. He was just...well, by that he meant...or maybe....ok, I still don't get it. If he wasn't suggesting he had found a decent solution to our problem, I have no idea why he wrote what he did.

It's obvious I'm much too ignorant to understand anything he wrote. Or to know why he used meaningless numbers, or incomparable insurance plans, or why he had to attack Michael Moore. All this is just way over my head. I plead ignorance and will swear to never write another post on healthcare again. It's obvious I'm just no good at it.

So here's my concession speech: Jim Campbell, you have bested me. Sure, you never explained one thing I was wrong about or made a lick of sense, but I guess you never had to. Your thirty-four years as a clinical research liaison is clearly enough to reduce my arguments to a quivering mess. You sir, are truly a healthcare guru. And with your patented All Insults style of debate, I also proclaim you to be an argumentative genius extraordinaire. Well done!

In the future, I have decided to take Jim's sage advice and will now go to bed and suck my thumb. Who knows, maybe after a few years of this, I can be as brilliant a healthcare expert as Jim. One can always hope.

P.S. I would also like to thank Jim for not including the link to my post I had left in his comments section. God forbid one of his high level expert readers ever stumble upon that embarrassment I wrote. Thanks again, Jim!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Using Al

Poor Alberto Gonzales. At one point, he was considered a top pick for Bush to anoint to the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, Al happened to make the mistake of having the wrong colored skin, and that's a big no-no in the Republican Party. Dumb, Al. Just dumb.

And so with the top court out of reach he got totally screwed over by being appointed Attorney General. I don't know if he knew it was a dumb move at the time, but it was. Because the Bushies didn't give him the job because they thought he was Mr. Legal Eagle or would know how to effectively run the DOJ. They wanted a Yes-Man. Someone to do their dirty work for him. And Al did it. Whatever he was told.

For as much as people have attacked Gonzales, he really never did anything wrong. He was always a spineless Yes-Man and that's how he filled the role. What choice did he have? Once they asked him, he had to say yes. Can you say to a rainbow "Hey, stop being a rainbow for a second?" No. Such was Gonzales. Besides, they wouldn't have given him the job otherwise. God knows they couldn't risk hiring another loose cannon like Ashcroft. He actually said no to them a few times!

And so I find it funny to read Bush say this:
It’s sad that we live in a time when a talented, honorable person like Alberto Gonzales is impeded from doing important work because his good name was dragged through the mud for political reasons.”

And that's funny because there was a group of people who dragged Gonzales through the mud for political reason, and Bush was the head of that group. They were the ones who made him do the things that get him in trouble. His only mistake was being born without a spine, but he was just following orders. And so this is all Bush's fault. And the people who surround Bush. If he doesn't like the treatment Gonzales got, he needs only to look in the mirror to see where the blame lies.

And I don't doubt at all that Bush is upset to lose Gonzales. First off, he's a bully who hates being bullied, so that's got to sting. And secondly, I'm sure he considers Al to be a good friend. Because bullies like Bush like people they can use, and he used Al extensively. That's what got them both in trouble. Like most bullies, Bush needs someone to make him take his medicine, and his attorney general needed to be one of those guys. But instead, he got someone who couldn't say "YES" fast enough, and is now in all kinds of trouble a more spineful AG could have kept him out of.

And now he's "resigning". But it's obvious this wasn't his decision, and I'm sure Bush is pissed about it. And so the final irony is seeing Al fall on his own sword which, as usual, he wasn't even holding; and simply to protect a president who doesn't even have the brains to know he needs protection.

Question: If someone's trimming all the diseased wood from the Bush Administration, shouldn't Cheney be next? I wonder how impossible it would be to stage a convenient "heart attack" for the guy. You know, one he could go back to Wyoming and recover from; while Bush appoints a more likable replacement. Just a thought.

The Rumors were True

Alright, now that the big news is finally out, I can finally confirm the rumors: Yes, I'm replacing both Alberto Gonzalez as Attorney General as well as Al-Maliki as Iraq's new Strongman (my official Iraqi title will be Generalissimo Saddam Supremo (my idea)). They actually wanted me to replace Bush too, but I'm not that dumb. I'll leave the job of fixing all his screw-ups to some other sucker.

And let me tell you, I've got big plans for both jobs. BIG plans. But I'm not going to spoil the surprise just yet. And don't worry, I'll keep blogging. I might even have some juicy stories to tell once I get the speaker set-up that connects to all the listening devices in America and Iraq. From what I understand, they also read thoughts. Should be interesting. I'll keep you updated.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Free-Lunch Healthcare

In my last post Free-Market Healthcare for Dummies, conservative blogger Jim Campbell who hosts a blog with the snappy title: U.S. Health Care System is the Best in the World. But it Could be a bit Better left me a comment, saying:
Dude: You are seriously funny. Talk about somebody that has no clue about what he is talking about? You take the cake. I challenge you to go to my website Unlike you, I'm not in the attack mode, I've matured to understand that in the U.S. we can do it better...

And what was it that I wrote that was wrong? I have no idea. He wouldn't tell me. Instead, he insults me for being clueless, tells me I'm in "attack mode," and implies that I'm immature. Yet unlike me, he's not in attack mode. Right. We've had a few exchanges since then, and his insults have just gotten thicker.

In fact, Jim has now written a total of six comments on that post, and yet has still failed to explain anything he thinks I was wrong about. Instead, he seems to believe it's simply a matter of insulting me enough until it finally sinks in. His last comment included a reposting of Stossel's entire piece. And let me tell you, that really did it. I now see the err of my ways. All it took was for him to repeat himself enough times without ever explaining anything. And it worked. I'm now a convert.

And this reminds me of something I wrote in the post he hated so much.
But with conservatism egging them on, they bound ass-first into a world they haven’t the ability or inclination to understand. Rather than ever attempting to find out what the hell is going on, they prefer instead to tell everyone else what’s going on and act really annoyed when nobody else knows what the hell they’re talking about.

It seems Jim Campbell has set-out to prove me right on that one. Thanks Jim, but it really wasn't necessary.

Constructive Insults

And I'll admit it, I insulted John Stossel, as well as many conservatives. I do that all the time and have no problem with it. After all, conservatives almost never read my insult, so I'm not really being rude. And beyond that, I always explain why I'm insulting them. This isn't just "John Stossel is a poopy head" stuff. Or "I'm better than Jim Campbell, the clueless attack dog". I always explain what I'm talking about. That's what this blog is about.

And what's worse is when guys like Jim don't even understand how rude they are. When they denounce us for throwing insults, but throw insults at us to do it. And if we return fire, they seem honestly surprised by the natural reaction they get, as they have no clue as to how they appear to other people. They'd need empathy for that kind of thing, and that's not really their strong suit.

I'll admit that Jim's comments weren't the rudest I've read, but it always bugs me when I get insulted without any explanation for why I'm being insulted. And hell, while I insult people, I generally avoid doing so if I think the person I'm talking about might read it. I'll insult John Stossel because he's not likely to read this stuff. But I'm much less likely to insult Jim, as he's likely to read this. (Hi Jim!)

And just to show what a nice guy I am, I'll go ahead and perform my magic on one of his posts. This is for you, Jim. A demonstration on how it's done. Unfortunately, there wasn't too much for me to critique him on, as much of the post I chose is little more than pixie dust and wishful thinking. But I've found it difficult to get much more than that out of any conservative. Once you brush aside the huff and fantasy, there really isn't much left behind.

Vouching for our Healthcare

Jim has a post titled Health Care Vouchers: a Market-Based Approach that Would Cost Nothing, in which he explains his way of solving our healthcare problem. And what is it? As far as I can tell, it involves having the government give us tax credits to cover the cost of purchasing insurance from insurance companies. These credits would not only be a dollar-for-dollar reimbursement for the insurance, but would even go towards people who paid no income tax. This is, of course, in contrast to Giuliani's lame scheme, which was only a tax exemption, and not a tax credit.

Of course, I've never really understood this approach. Why the middle-man? Insurance companies have many expenses that the government doesn't have. Is it really possible that they're so much more efficient that it more than offsets the cost of these extra expenses? I find that doubtful. But if someone can show me how this is true, I really might warm-up to this voucher approach.

But one thing is clear: Jim's post did absolutely nothing to show me otherwise, and that's really what he needed to do to make his point. And I have an admission, I had a really difficult time understanding what Jim was saying. So it's quite possible that I'm making some big mistakes in my analysis. But as I said in the previous post, conservatives usually only make sense to themselves, so it's quite likely he really isn't making sense.

My Analysis

And regarding his voucher system, I'm not necessarily against it. I play no favorites and will support anything that provides decent healthcare for everyone. I've got a pretty good insurance plan now, but I've gone without any insurance, and it totally sucks. But before I'll sign on with his plan, he needs to show how it's a better system than what we could have from other systems; including the "Socialized Medicine" approach he's so against. So is it? Based on his post, I have no idea.

First off, I don't see how this wouldn't be hugely expensive. As it is, the government allows businesses to deduct health insurance premiums as they do with other business expenses. But instead, it looks like Jim wants the government to absorb the entire cost, which would be hugely expensive. And then he wants to add insurance coverage to the uninsured, which would surely be even more expensive.

So how much would all this cost? I have no idea. Jim never says. He's advocating a position, yet is entirely fuzzy on any details. He doesn't even give a ballpark figure for how expensive this would be. The only assurance he gives is that it won't cost more than what the government is already paying. Having read his post, I feel less than assured.

Covering Everyone

As he says:
This would not cost taxpayers a dime because Medicare, Medicaid, government employee plans and the corporate tax deduction exceed the total cost of a tax credit that would cover everyone.

Ok, well that explains everything...wait a minute! It explains nothing. Unless I'm just completely missing the mark, there's no way he's correct. Or if he is, he didn't bother explaining how this could be possible. Before he can assert that this won't cost us a dime, he needs to give us the numbers for Medicare, Medicaid, government employee plans, and corporate tax deductions; as well as giving us a ballpark figure for how much his plan is going to cost us. I'm not asking for a detailed breakdown; but he needs to give us something to go on. Otherwise, his plan sounds like complete fantasy; which I think it is.

The only number he provides regarding this is when he suggests that we could afford $7500 per person and still be cheaper than what we're currently doing. Yet my calculation of that amount, based on a rounded 300 million citizens, comes out at $2.25 trillion a year. This compares to $784 billion he cites for Medicare and Medicaid, and he never mentions how much the government pays for anything else. But unless it's more than $1.47 trillion, he's totally wrong.

To be honest, I have no idea if this is what Jim is really saying. All I'm saying is that I read his post, I'm a smart guy, and this is the best I could do. And I strongly suspect that I am getting this right and that Jim's the one who's confused on this.

It seems that most of Jim's point rests on the assumption that insurance companies always do things better than the government. It's just one of those magical things that must be true. This is so obvious, in fact, that he never has to explain how any of this works. Jim needs only to assert that insurance companies would have magical savings, and we're not even supposed to question any of this. It's not just that we'd get better healthcare, but it would cost us nothing more than what we pay now...if only we trusted the free-markets instead of the blasted government.

That's not to say that Jim doesn't provide other numbers. But I didn't understand what they said or why he provided them.

Apples & Oranges

One big mistake seems to be that he compares things that are so dissimilar that they cannot be compared. For instance, in a later post, he blasts the Canadian system for not providing care that is as good as ours. And while it's possible that our system is superior, we'd never know. Because we spend WAAAY more per person than the Canadians do, and it's quite possible that if they spent as much as we did, their system could be as good, or better.

I don't have the time to find the most recent numbers, but this PDF from the Kaiser Family Foundation (p.4) shows that we spent $6037 per person in 2004. In contrast, the Canadian system that he dogs so hard spent a mere $3161 per person; $2876 less than what we spend per person. Yes, we spent almost twice what they spent. Yet I'm not sure if Jim ever mentions this extremely crucial fact.

Now, maybe it truly is our free-market competition that allows us to reign supreme over Canada's monopoly healthcare; but I suspect that this spending difference might be part of the story. Can anyone really suggest that Canada's system wouldn't improve if it spent as much per person as we did? Of course not. So why is he comparing us to Canada? If anything, there's this hidden assumption in his posts as if the Canadian system is more expensive than ours; or even comparable in price. But it obviously isn't. We pay almost twice as much per person, yet many Americans still lack basic health insurance and only seek medical attention in dire emergencies.

And again, this seems to go unmentioned in his posts on Canada's system; at least in the handful of posts I read. Yet I don't see how you can discuss the issue properly without mentioning the spending differences.

At this point, I feel compelled to explain that I have not, I repeat not offered a justification of Canada's system, nor attacked our own. I have merely shown a gaping flaw in Jim's thinking. And there's nothing wrong with that. It's what I do.

Apples and Orangutans

Getting back to his voucher post, he starts crunching some numbers on how much we spend on Medicaid and Medicare. But for the life of me, I can't fathom why he crunches these numbers. I think he was trying to show us how expensive Medicaid and Medicare are. And so he's trying to show us how much we spend on these programs per capita.

But for this to make sense, he'd need to show how much we spent per recipient. But he doesn't. He shows us how much each citizen pays for these programs. We comes out with $784 billion in spending divided by 305 million people; giving $2570 per capita. But how is that a meaningful number? What does it have to do with anything? Again, this number isn't how much we're paying for each person to be in these programs. It's how much each American pays for the programs. Huh?

My only guess is that he crunched the wrong number, as he seems to then try to compare this number with an estimate that Cigna Insurance gave him a few months back. They apparently quoted him a rate of $2376 that an individual could get insurance. But again, he's not using the same basis for this number as the previous one, so these aren't even close to being comparable.

And beyond that, what does this anonymous Cigna plan cover? Is it comparable to Medicaid or Medicare? Could an elderly person with cancer get this plan? I find that extremely doubtful. Does it have a huge deductible that Medicaid doesn't? Probably. But Jim never mentions any of this. He just tosses out some unnamed insurance plan and tries to compare it with Medicare/Medicaid numbers that aren't comparable.

I'm honestly having trouble grasping how any "expert" could make these glaring mistakes.

If All Else Fails, Attack Michael Moore

He even then tries to compare his Medicare/Medicaid numbers with Cuba's $250 per capita healthcare spending. Yet I think that covers all Cubans, and not merely the people in a certain program. So again, he's using the wrong number if he's trying to compare Medicaid/Medicare with Cuba. And honestly, this whole Cuba thing had nothing to do with his voucher plan, and just seemed like an unnecessary attack on Democrats and the dreaded Michael Moore. As if he's got such a case of Michael Moore Fever that he has trouble talking about healthcare without bashing the guy.

His whole point on this is to attack Moore for saying we don't do enough to help our poor people; as compared with how much Cuba pays. But these systems aren't comparable by price. You'd have to compare these by the level of health of the recipients; not by the dollars spent. So his unnecessary attack on Democrats and Michael Moore isn't even valid. If Cuba can provide comparable health for less money, that still doesn't mean that we're providing good enough healthcare for our poor people. Particularly in that our health system is money-based, and Cuba's isn't.

In our system, good healthcare is expensive. And people like John Stossel and Jim Campbell like it that way, and consider it a huge plus. They want the newest technology and expensive drugs, and they're perfectly happy with paying profits to middlemen for processing our paperwork. And they hate the idea that the government could cap how much they'll pay for a service or drugs. But then they get all confused by the fact that our system is so expensive and when people complain that they can't afford it. Well, with the good comes the bad. Deal with it.

Soaring Costs

He also quotes Newsmax saying:
"The soaring costs of Medicaid - which will more than double this year to close to $330 billion since 1999 - is largely due to legislation that extended Medicaid coverage to many Americans who have low-paying jobs."

Oh, no! Medicaid costs are now soaring because it's covering more people. Now, I suppose that's a valid argument for someone who doesn't think poor people deserve good health or should be alive; ie, the typical Newsmax reader. But if you're trying to cover all citizens, as Jim is trying to do, then the costs will "soar" even more. It's as if Jim didn't understand why Newsmax was saying Medicaid costs were soaring, and imagined it was due to bureaucratic waste, rather than the reason Newsmax said it soared. But believe it or not, if Medicaid covers more people, it will cost more. Just as it costs will soar under Jim's plan.

It really seems as if Jim doesn't understand why conservatives hate Medicaid and Medicare. It's not that they think the government is bad at providing healthcare (though they also think that). It's that they just don't want to have to pay for other people's healthcare and are perfectly fine if people get sick and die. The whole talk about "free markets" and being "cost conscious" are just rationalizations to attack the basic principle: They don't give a damn about other people and don't want to pay for their healthcare. That's all this is really about.

Yet that's the main point of Jim's healthcare plan. He's planning to have the government cover EVERYONE'S healthcare. Heck, even I don't think that's necessary, and I'm a devout liberal. I'm willing to accept it if that's our best option, but Jim's got a lot more work to do to make me a believer.

Apples to Apples

At this point, I'd like to show Jim what his post should have said. To make his point that we should switch to vouchers, he needs to first show us how much the government currently spends on healthcare. Then he needs to show us how much it would cost the government to pay for these insurance plans. And this insurance would have to be comparable to what Medicaid and Medicare cover; and not some unnamed plan from Cigna that certainly wouldn't apply to most Medicare recipients. We also need to be sure that old people and the chronically ill aren't forced to pay more than they currently pay.

And if he wants to include magical free-market savings, he needs to give us some ballpark figures for how much he's talking about in savings and to explain why these are realistic numbers and not magical. I'm not asking for too much. Just some facts to back-up his assertions. In other words, if he thinks we can afford the $2.25 trillion plan I think he was suggesting, he needs to explain how that's possible.

And that's all his post needs to say. It doesn't need to mention Cuba or Michael Moore. Nor does it need to show how much we're spending on Medicaid and Medicare per American. He just needs to show us that his system can provide decent medical coverage to everyone at a reasonable price. It's that simple and is the minimum he can provide for him to make his argument. And it's obvious that he failed to do that in his post.

Proved my Point

But as things are, Jim seems to have confirmed exactly what I was saying about conservatives. He's mimicking what real people do, providing numbers and suggestions and whatnot, but none of it makes any sense. He never explains the parts that need to be explained, and includes unnecessary attacks. Yet because he calls it a "market based approach" and insists it's a free lunch, I'm sure many conservatives will find his argument undeniable. It just feels right.

Well, except for the fact that these people don't want to pay for other people's insurance, so I really don't know how well this will go over with conservatives either. Overall, it seems like he picked this simply as an alternative to the dreaded "Socialized Medicine" he's so intent on stopping. If anything, I could imagine him as a liberal pretending to be a Socialized Medicine basher who hates Hillary, Michael Moore, and Canada in order to get conservatives to take their medicine. And if that's the case, the guy's a lot smarter than I've given him credit for. But he'd still need to provide better numbers.

And the weirdest thing about all this is that, if his plan was as inexpensive as he asserts it is, I don't think anyone would object to it. It's so obvious, in fact, that I find it impossible that it isn't already being done if it could be. Hell, not only is this a free lunch, he's throwing in a week's worth of desserts. Even the insurance companies would love it. How could it be that nobody figured this out before?

And it's my guess that nobody figured it out because it doesn't work. And if Jim actually provided the basic numbers he needs to provide, I'm sure he'd figure that out too. As usual, a conservative sees the free-market as some sort of magical free-lunch that has huge benefits and little downside. We just tighten our belt a little, add some competition into the works, get rid of those "unnecessary treatments and bureaucracy" and viola!, healthcare for everyone.

Free-Magic System

Another thing to highlight is the reason why it's so difficult to understand conservatives. Because they have so many hidden assumptions, which are often entirely baseless, that you really can't follow their "logic" at all. Only people that also have these hidden assumptions can understand what they're trying to say. But they never make these assumptions explicit. Nor can they. If they actually said these things outloud, they'd get totally laughed at. And even still, they get laughed at. They just make lots of bold assertions without any regard for having to explain any of them, and don't understand why we can't understand their undeniable logic.

And Jim's post was a perfect example of that. He tosses out a few meaningless numbers, makes lots of baseless assertions, and imagines that he's designed some awesome healthcare plan that will solve everything for less money than we spend now. As I said in my last post, these people don't even really seem able to grasp what the free-market is, beyond some all-purpose magic theory that solves any problem you want solved.

For John Stossel, it means that you need to make people pay for more of their own medical bills. For Jim Campbell, it means that you can pay for everyone's healthcare for less money than you pay for a smaller group's healthcare. In both cases, the free-market solves the exact problem they want solved. Magic!

In Jim's defense, he at least has huge improvements over the idiot John Stossel's argument, who refused to even acknowledge that lack of healthcare was a problem; as well as failing to understand how his "solution" would only make that problem worse. And that's a huge first hurdle for conservatives to get over. But now we've just got to get Jim passed the idea of the free lunch.

Sorry Jim, but the free-market ain't free. We can give everyone healthcare, but someone's going to have to pay for it. But I'd be happy to have him prove me wrong.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Free-Market Healthcare for Dummies

While conservativism doesn’t cause idiocy, it does provide idiots with the necessary tools to feel secure in exposing their idiocy to the rest of the world. Without the backdrop of conservatism, idiots would have no interest in discussing issues they knew nothing about, and would instead focus their energies on matters which are more within the boundaries of their mental capabilities; such as staring at the sun and breathing.

But with conservatism egging them on, they bound ass-first into a world they haven’t the ability or inclination to understand. Rather than ever attempting to find out what the hell is going on, they prefer instead to tell everyone else what’s going on and act really annoyed when nobody else knows what the hell they’re talking about.

Of course, there is one group who knows what these flakes are talking about, and that would be other conservatives. And that's only because conservatives are so dumb that they imagine that they already understand what everyone’s trying to say, so they have no problem assuming that the other conservatives are making as much sense as they imagine they must be making. But even they don't truly understand what they're saying, because there's nothing to understand.

To understand conservatism is to debunk conservatisim. The solid ground they imagine they're standing on is just smoke & mirrors; a handy delusion intended to justify selfishness, greed, and ignorance. And even still, the only people they allow to act selfishly, greedy, or ignorant are those who help each specific conservative in their quest to acting selfish, greedy, and dumb. But if your selfishness, greed, or ignorance causes you to act in ways that hurt them, then you are the enemy and must be stopped. Hypocrisy isn't a separate flaw in conservatives. It's a prerequisite.

The Me-First Market System

Healthcare is just one of many issues that conservatives know so little about that they have no problem with exposing their complete ignorance on the subject. Moreover, it exposes how little they know about the "free-market system" they're always espousing. For them, "free-market" means nothing more than that they're free to do whatever benefits them the most; and everyone else should do the same thing, just as long as it doesn't stop these people from doing what they want to. Beyond that, things get a little fuzzy.

I already covered one free-market health-care wiz a few posts ago, and via Ron Chusid of Liberal Values, I stumbled upon an embarrassing piece of free-market healthcare advocacy from the idiot John Stossel. This time around, John's upset that the World Health Organization ranked countries in healthcare according to criteria that John disagrees with. And why does John disagree with it? Why else: Because it ranked America low, and that wasn't what he wanted to hear. So if it contradicted John Stossel, it must be wrong.

And why does John dislike this kind of talk? Well he never says it, but it's obvious that he has excellent healthcare and never has to worry about this stuff. So any changes to our system can't possibly make his healthcare improve, and might make it worse. And what's the point of that? He's already taken care of; let everyone else do the same. Somehow it hasn't occurred to these schmucks that we are trying to take care of everyone else's healthcare, using the government as a tool for this. I guess that's considered cheating.

His analysis never really goes deeper than insisting that the highest level of healthcare in America is better than anywhere else, and this trumps any problems people might have with our system. I mean, not only does he refuse to acknowledge that lack of healthcare is a problem in America; he insists that this is an unfair standard to hold America to. As if "socialized medicine" was just some gimmick to improve a country's ranking with WHO, rather than a real solution to a real problem.

Other People's Money

Now, that's not to suggest that Stossel doesn't find any problems with our system. He sees one big problem: We don't rely on the free-market enough. Yes, he actually said that. And the biggest flaw that John finds is that we're not spending enough of our own money on healthcare. And as he quotes from the All-Mighty Milton Friedman: "no one spends other people's money as carefully as he spends his own".

But note the subtle message in that quote. Friedman's not saying that Joe Blow always spends his own money more carefully than other people spend Joe Blow's money. He's saying that Joe Blow will spend his own money more carefully than he spends someone else's. I don't necessarily agree with that, but don't find it particularly objectionable. But nothing in this quote suggests that Joe Blow is always the best person for knowing how to spend his money.

Yet that's exactly how Stossel is using the quote. But everyone knows this is complete poppycock, and I say that as someone who doesn't use that word lightly. Because some people are complete fools with their own money. Like the dummies who give money to Linda Chavez's PAC's, which really only funds Linda Chavez and the people who raise money for her PAC's. I have no doubt that I could spend these people's money more wisely than they are. And the first thing I'd do would be to have them stop giving it to Linda Chavez.

But seriously, it's an indisputable fact that people can be quite careless with their money. They get conned by Nigerian princes. They buy stupid stuff they see on infomericals. They buy stocks based on "feelings". There are apparently even people who have given their money to Alan Keyes so he could run for political office...on six separate occasions! (Yes, I know!) People carelessly blow their money on all kinds of idiotic things. And conservatives know that. That's the only way many of them can make any money.

And people trust their money with other people all the time. They use stockbrokers who actually understand how the markets works. They hire people like me to balance their books and take care of the payroll. They hire professionals to buy them fancy stuff at auctions. And it makes sense. There is such a thing as expertise in this world and just because you own the money doesn't mean that you know what to do with it. Most likely, there's someone else who can handle your money more wisely than you can.

And there's no way Stossel isn't aware of any of this. When he misinterpreted the Friedman quote, it wasn't the misinterpretation that threw him off the track. He was just looking for some sort of quickie quote to add authority to his absurd claim and really hadn't thought about the quote at all. He doesn't really believe that people always know how best to spend their money. He was just bullshitting. What a surprise.

Third-Party Spending

The reason why Stossel mentioned that quote was because he said the "most important" problem with our system is that "six out of seven health-care dollars are spent by third parties, which means that most consumers exercise no cost-consciousness." But exactly who's money is being spent? Obviously not the patient's. In many cases, it's the insurance company's. So Stossel is suggesting that these company's can't be trusted to spend their own money? Huh?

It's a fact that these companies negotiate prices with doctors and hospitals that would be impossible for any of us to do. They also have strict guidelines about which doctors you can see, which services they'll pay for, and what procedure you need to follow to have this stuff done. We pay them so they'll take the risks we don't want to worry about. So when they spend money, it's their money being spent. Not ours. And they're very cost-conscious.

In fact, the big problem I've had with insurance companies was never that they were careless with their money, but rather the complete opposite. They kept trying to screw me over and make me pay for things that they were supposed to pay for. And making me jump through hoops to get what I needed. So if anyone's being careful with their healthcare dollars, I'd say it was these third-party a-holes Stossel's complaining about.

And let's not forget, Stossel's complaint isn't just about healthcare not being paid by the patients. His argument is really against the concept of insurance itself! He somehow thinks it goes against the free-market for people to pool their money together to insure against risk. Yet that's entirely within the free-market system. State Farm isn't a charity. They know what they're doing. The free-market system isn't a death pact, and people shouldn't be expected to take risks that other people are willing to accept for a fee.

State Farm is willing to take the risks that we as individuals can't afford; and if they don't screw-up, they'll make a tidy profit from it and everyone's happy. Or at least that's how the theory goes, and it usually works out. I don't know if John Stossel understands this concept, but it's obvious he didn't apply it when he came up with this argument. And remember, this was what he claims is the "most important" example of the free-market system being denied in America. What an idiot!

The Magic of Words

The final point I'd like to make is regarding Stossel's strongest argument against the WHO report. And that is that Stossel doesn't agree with it's criteria. Specifically, that it gave the highest ratings to countries that provided the best healthcare to the most people. And Stossel doesn't like that criteria, because while our system does provide top-notch healthcare, it's really not available to that many people, and some people barely get any at all. He cites people coming to our country for medical care, but neglects to talk about all the people right here in our own country who are denied access to that same medical care because they can't afford it.

As he says:
By that criterion, a country with high-quality care overall but "unequal distribution" would rank below a country with lower quality care but equal distribution.

And this is the kind of thing that just blows John's puny mind. He just doesn't understand why other people deserve good healthcare. After all, he's taken care of, so why is anyone else important?

All those other people are just background characters in his life. Background characters that can be much too inconvenient for John's liking; especially when they want the same kind of stuff John has. Sure, sometimes they can help add a little color to one of his news segments and he won't complain when they watch him on TV or read his articles, but it would really be best if we had some cold storage facility to keep them in the rest of the time. Besides, if they really wanted good healthcare, they can just grow coolguy moustaches and become conservative hack journalists like John. After all, he's got absolutely no talent or brains and look how far it took him.

And to seal the deal, he whips out a dreaded label: Socialized Medicine. We saw Megan McArdle do that in the previous healthcare post I wrote, in which she insisted that the term "insurance" couldn't be applied to a single-payer healthcare system and replaced it with the word "Tax". That's how easy it is with these people. If you can't beat an argument, just find a way to slap a negative label on it and voila!, the argument is instantly demolished. And in their minds, they truly believe it worked.

And really, this is the entire crux of his argument. He knows that millions of people get screwed out of good healthcare in our country. And he likes it that way and thinks it's unfair to suggest that people deserve equal healthcare to what he gets. He's not really debating the merits of our system. Hell, reading his piece you'd almost assume that we had no healthcare problem at all. Nor does he suggest any solution at all for our problem. It's obvious that the biggest problem he has with our healthcare system is that anyone's complaining about it, and he wants that to stop.

Stossel ended his piece saying:
For all its problems, the U.S. ranks at the top for quality of care and innovation, including development of life-saving drugs. It "falters" only when the criterion is proximity to socialized medicine.

Indeed it does. That's what we're complaining about, dipshit.

Update: I've got a similarly themed follow-up to this post here: Free-Lunch Healthcare

Grapes of Wrath

I just read about a lady who was fined $250 for "disturbing the peace" when she threw grapes at school board members in Detroit because she was angry about them closing schools or something. Apparently, she hit at least one board member and is proud of what she did.

This made the school board president say:
"It's just regrettable (Hitchcock) has no remorse for attacking school board members."

Remorse?? For throwing grapes at a school board?! Not that I'm suggesting that I'm cool with people throwing grapes during these kinds of meetings. Nor am I complaining about the $250 fine, which seems reasonable enough. But finding it "regrettable" that she doesn't feel remorse? Jesus christ, dude. They're fricking grapes! If I had remorse every time I threw a grape at someone, I'd have felt remorse on at least fifteen occasions, I'm sure.

Again, that's not to excuse the grape throwing or the disruption this caused, but these people have really got to get a grip on things. Killing or maiming someone should be cause for remorse. Advocating preemptive war against a modern country the size of California should be cause for remorse. Hell, ever having voted Republican should be cause for remorse. But if someone feels justified in having thrown grapes at a school board, I'm not really sure I see any problem with that. Besides, there are a lot of worse things that can be thrown than grapes. Like plums.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Clinton Strike Two

I'm with Matt and Josh on this one. The suggestion by Hillary Clinton that a terrorist attack against us helps the Republican Party is insane. Combined with the post I gave yesterday referencing Hillary's attack on Obama's sensible stance on easing the embargo on Cuba, I think we have a clear sign that Hillary's political instincts suck. She just doesn't get it.

While I always liked Bill, I didn't like many of his instincts either. But I understood why he did what he did and didn't hold it too much against him. Things were tough back then. But the 90's are over and this stuff makes no sense now. The Republicans are hated even by other Republicans, and most everyone else just wants them gone. It's time for Hillary to give up swiping Republican talking points and learn to talk like a Democrat. We won. It's time to start singing a new tune.

I don't know about you, but I've never met a non-Republican who thought the Democrats needed to be more like Republicans. And I know many independents and newly-minted libertarians who won't go Dem because they're not doing enough to stop Bush. Dems like Hillary really need to internalize how much people hate the Republicans. This isn't 1994 and the only thing saving the Republicans now are Dems like Hillary.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Headline Writer Sucks Again

Has an economic embargo ever worked to overthrow a dictator? I won't claim to know that definitively, but one thing I know is that the one against Cuba has been an absolute disaster. I don't know why conservatives insist on believing that capitalism is a reward, rather than a method for empowering people; but I have no doubts that our embargo of Cuba has only aided Castro in keeping control over his people.

Especially as the true purpose of these embargoes isn't to punish the dictator. How could it? They always live well. The real objective is to enrage their people so much that they revolt. But does this happen? Not that I know of. And so the people suffer, just as we intend for them to, but still no revolt. So what's the point? Why not allow Supply & Demand to do its magic, and before the dictator knows it, the powerful business leaders are demanding more power and the leader starts to wonder how they can force the US President to reinstate the embargo again. The beauty of a functioning economy is that it requires too many people for one man to dominate. That's why China won't remain communist forever. The money won't allow it.

And so I was naturally happy to see Obama come out against the tougher rules Bush put in place against Cuba and was hoping this might encourage other Dems to take a stance against the policy. In fact, I was hoping that Obama would go even further with his anti-embargo stance. As he said, it has only made Cubans more reliant on Castro; just as our embargo of Iraq made Iraqis more reliant on Saddam.

And so I was equally unhappy to see Hillary not only come out against Obama's stance, but to use it as an opportunity to bash Obama. While I'm largely ambivalent towards who the Dem nominee will be, I was already leaning slightly against Hillary. And now this one move puts a big mark against her. Obama's stance on this is a good political move, but it's so good because it's deeply rooted in solid policy goals and is a bold move. Hillary, on the other hand, is just playing it safe and trying to score cheap political points by supporting a GOP policy. Not a good sign.

Hell, one of the better reasons for opposing this policy was that it was Bush's. Not only is it generally a good idea to go against anything Bush did, but almost everyone hates Bush and what Bush has done. So campaigning specifically against one of his policies is likely to only help. And with this issue, it should be a no-brainer.

Headline Blues

But that's not really what I wanted to talk about. I just wanted to complain about this Time Magazine story on the issue. The story is good, but the headline totally sucked. The story is about how this might very well be a savvy move on Obama's part and how he may have outmaneuvered his opponents on a key issue. Yet the headline says: Will Obama's Stance on Cuba Hurt?

Huh? That's the exact opposite of what the article said. The article didn't even say this in uncertain terms. Not only is the assumption that it will help, there was no serious discussion of it hurting him. The only person it mentions this hurting is Clinton, not Obama.

Here are a few sample quotes:
Maybe it's because Obama knows a new conventional wisdom may well be taking shape in the state - one that could actually make his declarations this week an asset when Florida holds its primary election next January.

by playing that safe card in Florida, Clinton may have allowed herself to be "outmaneuvered by Obama on this one," says one Cuban-American leader

As a result, Obama could now galvanize those moderates, who Lima says "have been waiting for a viable presidential candidate to wave their banner for once."

"He's the first to have the cojones to say Bush's policy is wrong, and I think it's going to wake up a lot of moderate Cuban-American voters."

At the same time, Obama's stance could help him garner a larger share of the state's non-Cuban Democrats

That's how most of the article sounded, and the only part that sounded like Obama made a mistake was the brief section where Clinton attacked Obama for this sensible policy. Does any of that sound like it's about how Obama may have hurt himself? No, it's all about how he greatly helped himself, and how Clinton may have hurt herself. So what the hell's going on here? What's wrong with the headline writers?

And this is so important because the headline influences how you're going to think of the entire article. Even if someone reads the whole thing, they might still be left with the impression that this might somehow hurt Obama and that he made "another" rookie mistake. And because that fits in with the overall meme being regurgitated about Obama, that idea is more likely to stick in people's minds rather than that Obama's policy is solid and that Hillary screwed up. Time will tell if that's how things work out, but it's obvious that Time's headline writer won't give a damn.

P.S. Totally a sidenote, but if this had been Clinton's policy, would anyone have referred to her as having "cojones"? I'm not being cheeky, and it's not as if the lady who said this was actually referring to Obama's testicles (or I hope not, anyway). So is this a phrase one might use to describe a woman who took a bold stance? Then again, I don't think Hillary ever takes bold stances on anything, so I guess the question really is moot. That's one of the things that bugs me about her.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Quagmire, Quagmire, Quagmire

Josh Marshall mentions reports that Bush is going to make a speech today comparing Vietnam with Iraq. Gee, I remember back in the day when only Bush-hating America-bashers would make these kinds of comparisons. I guess things have gotten so bad that a Vietnam analogy is now considered a plus for the Bushies. I almost feel bad for them...almost.

Apparently, Bush is going to argue that withdrawing from Vietnam "emboldened" the terrorists because Bin Laden says it does, and I guess this means that we shouldn't further embolden them by leaving Iraq. And while that might be true, the full lesson is that you shouldn't start fights that you can't finish. That's what Vietnam taught us. The problem wasn't that we left, but that we were ever there in the first place. Apparently, Bush learned that too late and now doesn't think we can ever finish this fight. Jesus christ, where the hell was he back when the rest of us learned this the first time? (Oh yeah!)

And as Josh Marshall points out, while our leaving Vietnam was a short-term catastrophe, it was hardly the blow to Southeast Asia that war proponents insisted it would be. As I've posted before, Dick Nixon himself insisted in 1954 that were the communists to take over Vietnam, we'd quickly lose Malaya, Thailand, and Indonesia; thus reducing Japan to an economic satellite of the Soviet Union; which was the Soviets' true intention in all this...or so Dick imagined.

And that's how we got wrapped into Vietnam. A fight that we were destined to lose, and which apparently has encouraged modern day terrorists to keep fighting us in Iraq. So this is all Nixon's fault! I knew it! That crooked bastard continues to haunt me from beyond the grave. I knew I should have impeached his ass when I had the chance. I guess that's the kind of rookie mistake you make when you're only three years old. Never again.

But back to the point: As we all know, the Communists were emboldened after Vietnam and we quickly lost all of Southeast Asia, before they dominoed up through Central America, into Mexico, and now control everything west of the Mississippi. If only we had listened to the anti-communists who did everything in their power to force America's enemies into the arms of the Soviets...

As we've all learned, it's always best to lump all your enemies into one evil group and to assume that any potential enemy is identical to your worst enemy. Brilliant strategy. It's good to see Bush continue in this fine tradition.


But let's face it, this isn't Bush's speech. He didn't write it. I'm sure the speech's theme wasn't his idea. Hell, it's possible he doesn't even want to give the damn thing. I know I wouldn't. So why are we picking on him? That's like blaming Jon Voight every time he agrees to be in a bad movie (or should that be Jim Varney, if Varney had Cheney as his writer (Ernest Goes to Damascus, anyone?)). Or blaming the lead singer of a band for lyrics he didn't write or have any control over. The best you can do is critique their performance, but blame for the material should go to the writer.

Sure, Bush is the frontman, but he doesn't know what's going on. He wouldn't even know where to begin to find out what's going. Sure, he makes decisions. But only based on bad information given to him by other people who are themselves only vaguely aware of what's going on and refuse to acknowledge any of it anyway. You know, people who think that having Bush compare Iraq to Vietnam is a good idea.

The only blame that can really be saddled on Bush is for muddling the message Cheney, Rove, and others are trying to get him to say. And I'm not so sure that's a bad thing. Imagine if it had been a charmer like Romney who was the puppet for these fools. (I think I just vomited) So we should be glad that we got such a boob to be Cheney's puppet. The Republicans won't allow anyone in charge who could write their own material, which is why their current presidential front-runners are a soulless flip-flopping suit, an egotistical ex-mayor without any real credentials, and a tall actor. And all three of them would have done the job better than Bush; and now, thanks to Bush's sorry performance, it doesn't look like any of them are likely to get the chance.

So I really don't think we should complain too much. It could have been a lot worse. So when you hear Bush's embarrassing speech that would have gotten you branded a traitor had you said similar things four years ago, just remember that...ah shit, you won't remember anything. You'll just be thinking about what a horrible speaker Bush is and how he's embarrassing everyone with a speech he wouldn't care less about if he wasn't the poor sap who had to deliver it. But maybe afterwards you can remember that I told you so. Because I'm sure I did.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Buy My Book

Carpetbagger cited a study that showed that liberals read more than conservatives in regards to policy books, and quoted one person saying "It’s pretty hard to write a book saying, ‘No new taxes, no new taxes, no new taxes’ on every page."

And I thought, why the hell not? In fact, such a book would be pretty damn funny. Each page would have "No New Taxes" written once in large print. And just to make things interesting, you'd want to have a different variation on each page. Like “Don’t raise my taxes” “Taxes are bad” “Taxation is theft” “No tax" and "Taxes=Bad" that kind of thing. And you could give it some fancy title to make it sound like it was supposed to be some sort of wonky conservative manifesto on why taxes are bad. Or perhaps just "No New Taxes: A Conservative Manifesto on Why Taxes Are Bad".

I honestly think this thing could make good money. It'd be the kind of thing you'd keep out on your coffee table as a conversation piece, or as a joke gift for your conservative friend. Or hell, conservatives never do understand irony. They'd probably think it was a serious work, study it diligently, and perhaps even cite it as a reference source during a debate. "See, it says right here 'No New Taxes.' Well I guess that settles that, libtard."

And if it sold well, I could make a series out of it. Like "No New Government: A Conservative Manifesto on Why Government is Bad" and "No New Bureaucracy: A Conservative Manifesto on Why Bureaucracy is Bad". I could keep this up forever and could imagine some conservative with a whole bookshelf of these things. "This is great! Finally someone who can explain this stuff in plain English."

So if any of you people out there are book publishers or know of any book publishers, send them my way. This thing would sell like hotcakes. Especially with the "Doctor Biobrain" name on the cover, as well as a picture of me on the back wearing a tweed jacket with leather patches on the elbows, a pipe in my mouth, and fake glasses. I would look like quite the intellectual.

If necessary, I could sell-out by hiring someone to do illustrations on each page; for example, showing a stern guy denying a greedy tax collector his money, or shouting at a greedy politician. But I'd prefer to go with the straight words and nothing else, as I think it's funnier that way. You know how to reach me.

Tail-End Thinking (or: How to Speak from One's Ass)

Atrios, as usual, gave the concise version of something I've wanted to say for awhile:
The fact that some people failed to have "foresight" does not mean that those who did were only correct in "hindsight."

He was referring to a post by The Atlantic's newest blog joke, Megan McArdle (formerly known as Jane Galt). In that post, McArdle suggests it's only in hindsight that we can attack Giuliani's savvy decision to house New York's emergency command center in a known terrorist target, saying:
In retrospect, of course, it was dumb. But hindsight bias distorts our perceptions.

And yes, for poor Megan, it's only hindsight that tells her that putting an emergency command center in a known terrorist target is a dumb idea. But I doubt she really believes that at all. More likely, she's just looking for some rationalization for defending Giuliani and this is the best she can come up with. And if she disliked Giuliani, she'd be joining in with the rest of us in condemning Rudy for his egotistical blunder. It all just comes down to whichever conclusion she needed to justify.

As I commented at her site:
And the need for monogrammed towels there case he handed one to someone to mop up blood and they wanted to remember who to give it back to?

And the cigar humidor, no doubt, must have been in case a pregnant lady gave birth while trapped in the bunker and the father wanted to celebrate.

Rudy thinks of everything!

Indeed he does.


And speaking of rationalizations, I first encountered Megan's ability to reverse-engineer thought processes last night, after Atrios linked to her attack on single-payer insurance at her old blog, in which she insists that it's unfair to expect healthy people to finance the mistakes of people irresponsible enough to get old and sick.

Two choice quotes:
Moreover, as a class, the old and sick have some culpability in their ill health.

As a class, the old and sick are already luckier than the young and healthy.

Ah, to be old and sick. I can't wait! But as I mentioned above, I doubt she believes any of this. She has her conclusion, that single-payer insurance is a bad idea, and then reverse-engineered that conclusion to try to find some justification for why it's true. Of course, her primary breakthrough seems to be that she relabeled single-payer insurance a "tax", and as a libertarian, the rest of it just falls into place.

And it's entirely pathetic and makes absolutely no sense at all. Because first off, all insurance is premised on the idea that people who don't need it will finance the people who do need it to such an extent that the insurance can continue to be provided, and for for-profit companies, can actually make enough extra money to give to their owners. So for health insurance, it's always the idea that the healthy will pay for the sick. That isn't some flaw in taxpayer funded insurance. That's the entire premise of insurance! That's why health insurance companies strive as much as possible to get sick people off their plans and to only sign-up the people who don't need it.

But...that's not really the case for taxpayer-funded insurance. For taxpayer-funded insurance, it's high income people who finance it for people who can't afford it. And those high income people might very well be the people who need it the most. In fact, while I don't have any numbers offhand to back me up, I say without any doubt that there is a direct relationship that the more you pay in taxes, the more likely you'll need insurance; until you retire, after which you've already paid so much into the system that you're just getting back what you paid.

And so she's got her dynamic entirely wrong. For as much as she tries to suggest that rich old people are taking advantage of young people, those rich old people are likely to be paying more in taxes than the young people. It's only the poor old people with little income that will really gain any benefit from this; which is a group that she entirely ignores in her post. But seeing as how the government already provides these people an insurance they're relatively happy with, I can see why she didn't want to mention them.

Overall, her "reasoning" is based upon the weird presumptions that only the elderly need insurance, people only get sick due to their own mistakes, old people are rich enough to afford their own insurance, and the young pay more of this than the old. And all four of those ideas are entirely absurd, but are the only way her argument makes any sense.

The Young & Sick

And that's not to mention the inherent suggestion as if this is a one-time bill that young people are footing for old people, rather than an entire system that almost all young people will eventually require. And perhaps far sooner than they'd ever expect. Believe it or not, even young people can get horrible diseases that are beyond their control.

In reality, there's really only a small time period that people won't need insurance, because insurance isn't just a requirement for the elderly. It's also a requirement for the very young, as in our children. And for all you non-parents out there, let me tell you that kid medical bills are always high, even for healthy kids. So while Megan suggests that there is this "large group" being disadvantaged by those greedy old people, there really is only a very short time in our lives that most people don't require insurance; and it's best for them to have it anyway.

But as I said, Megan's got the dynamics of this all wrong. This really isn't a case of the old feasting like irresponsible vampires on the young. This is the poor and middle-class feasting on the rich. And as I said, it's more likely that the rich are going to be older people who need insurance. And so Megan's point is entirely absurd. She had her premise and desperately sought out any kind of justification for it. But it failed miserably on every level and exposed her to obvious criticism of being both mean and dumb.

But I don't think she's really mean. I don't think she really blames people for getting old or sick. That was dumbness talking all the way. And the dumbest thing she did was adopting her conclusion in the first place. The rest of it was just a futile attempt to justify that initial mistake. But I guess that can be said of everything conservatives do. It's not their reasoning that's at fault. It's that they chose to be conservatives in the first place.

Damn, this isn't even want I wanted to talk about in reference to the quote I gave on hindsight, but I just kept typing and now this took up the whole post. Oh well, I'll get back to my original point another time. It was about Iraq and had nothing to do with Megan McArdle.

Shamming Abortion Away

I just read of a recent law in Missouri which will require abortion providers to make extensive changes to their facilities in order to be allowed to provide abortions. Naturally, Planned Parenthood is suing.

As the article says:
If the law takes effect, Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri claims it will be forced to halt abortions at its Columbia and Kansas City offices — either permanently or while costly and "medically unnecessary" renovations are made.

Missouri Republicans dispute this, saying that it's necessary to preserve the health and safety of the women getting abortions and that Planned Parent is exaggerating the financial hardship this will incur. But then State Senator Delbert Scott, a lead sponsor of the legislation, gives the whole game away saying: "Certainly, abortion is our target here and we're trying to save the lives of our children."

Well, I guess that settles that question, huh. And who do they think they're fooling? Is there any anti-abortion person who heard of this law who wasn't happy about its effect to stop abortion and hurt abortion providers. Of course not. But that won't stop them from insisting that it's not true. And are there even wavering pro-abortion people who won't see this for what it really is? I don't really know the details of this bill, but I fail to see how this is even a wedge issue. You'd have to be a moron to truly believe that this stuff isn't just about stopping abortions.

I mean, one of the new rules is that they provide separate changing rooms for male and female personnel. What, are they afraid that one of the abortion doctors is going to go into the changing room and get so turned on watching a nurse change that they have sex while the patient dies waiting for her abortion? Ah, who am I kidding? That is how many of these people imagine it works at these places. Sex in the changing rooms, rampant drug use in the lobby, and satanic rituals performed with each of the aborted fetuses. Possibly even stem-cell research! (Gasp!)

As a side note, I once saw a lady on public access television insist that she was a former abortion clinic employee who made a fortune convincing women to get abortions. She actually insisted that she did cold-calling to get these sales and insisted that she was really good at it. I'm sure that went over well. "Are you pregnant? Yes. Would you like me to cure that for you?" And now she's a "convert" and had to warn us of how evil these places really were. I'm sure not one of the people seriously watching that show doubted a word she said. I, on the other hand, couldn't stop laughing. But I suppose I wasn't the target audience.

But this law is ridiculous and will be yet another drain on precious government resources. And if the Missouri legislature is correct and this isn't a financial burden to Planned Parenthood, what difference would it make? That's what's so weird about their argument. They have to give a sham reason for why this law is necessary, because it undermines their case if they admit that this is solely about hampering abortions. And if they honestly believed what they were saying, they wouldn't have bothered with any of this.

But anti-abortion leaders have long since given up any direct attack on abortion, because they can count. They insist that a majority of Americans support anti-abortion laws, but somehow democracy continues to prove them wrong. And so they have to try with as many sham arguments as possible to make this work. And as I've argued in the past, Republican leaders don't really want to outlaw abortion. That'd be political suicide. They just want to milk this stuff for all it's worth. And so it's another sham law, high legal fees, and something else to complain about in those fundraising letters.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Out-Guessing Rove

I just read an article suggesting that the reason Rove was attacking Hillary was because he was actually afraid of Obama and wanted Dems to rally around Hillary instead. And I don't really put too much to this kind of thing. Once you get into this triple-secret reverse psychology, you just end up tripping over your own feet and mess yourself up. And I think that's really the only thing Rove's trying to do; besides pumping up his overhyped "genius" reputation.

So I figured this was just more of Rove's typical mindfuck stuff that he puts out there to make everyone think he's a genius. If he attacked Kerry more than Edwards before the 2004 Democratic primaries, as the article suggests, then it was because they saw Kerry as the one requiring more softening. Or perhaps it would make him more likely to win because he was getting more media attention. But I'm not sure I noticed any specific rallying around Kerry due to Rove backlash and could easily see how this kind of thing could backfire. Afterall, if you spend all your time attacking the weaker candidate and it works and the other guy wins, then you've just wasted your time and are futher back than if you had attacked the person you were really worried about. So I really didn't think there was anything to this.

That was until I read this part of the article:
Asked whether he was attacking Clinton because the GOP feared Obama, Rove replied: "I read that in the LA Times this morning. Those, those guys out in LA have got to get clued in. I mean, come on."

Huh? What the hell kind of answer is that? If I didn't know any better, I'd say this guy is the worst liar over the age of twelve. That denial was simply pathetic. I've had cats who could lie better than that. I'd almost go so far as to put this into the triple-secret reverse psychology category of him giving such a pathetic denial because he wanted people to believe something that wasn't really true, except that this would make him look like a fool and that's the one area Rove doesn't go. He might take advantage of Bush's well-known intellecual disabilities, but he still wants the Boy Genius title for himself.

I know he likes to pretend as if he's some Do-Gooder getting smeared by evil Dems, but that's all part of his game. It's fun for the villain to smear the goodguy by pretending to be wrongly smeared by the goodguy; that was the entire premise of the Dudley Do-Right movie. But in no case is he playing this so that he looks like he's a lousy liar. For him to go there would be to give up the whole game.

So I can only guess that it really is true, and that he somehow wasn't expecting to be asked about it. Or something, I don't know. I'm sure he really does like to engage in weirdo reverse-psychology stuff, as it helps both his ego and reputation. When in reality he only wins because he fights dirty and hits hard. And even then, he really hasn't been that successful and his reverse-psychology bullshit often hurts him more than it helps.

Planting smears that his opponent is a lesbian or has a mulatto kid; that's Rove's magic. But this reverse-psychology stuff only works if his opponent allows it to work and tries to out-think him. He'll get you second-guessing yourself and then smear you for being indecisive. But he really doesn't mean this stuff at all. It's just part of the smoke & mirrors he uses to hide the fact that he's only a cheap thug and that's all he'll ever be. And the greatest trick he ever pulled was convincing anyone that he was anything else.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

I'm the King

It's good to be the king. I should know, because I just made myself King of America. Not for my for own selfish desires, mind you. But to protect our great nation and everything it stands for. So I've decided to swear upon a stack of pancakes to do my duty to uphold our constitution and protect it from the tyranny of brown-skinned people by doing whatever it takes. And to do "whatever it takes" I have to be king.

And so now I am the king, and let me tell you, it's great. I'm not even one of those Constitutional Monarchs, as I found that to be much too limiting on my ability to protect you and the constitution. So I decided to play it safe by going for Absolute Monarch. That's right, I can do anything. Hell, and why even bind myself to physical possibility, as you never know when I might need to fly or use laser vision to defend our nation from terrorists or terrorist sympathizers. So I've decided to be omnipotent. Granted, I haven't found any reason to actually use any of these powers so far, but I assure you that I have them. How could I not? I need them to protect you.

And let's not forget omniscience, so I don't even have to bother with Congress attempting to limit me with silly advisories like the FISA law. It'll be simply a matter of me telling my secret police what all the bad guys are thinking, and having them arrested and whisked away to my secret dungeons for an interrogative debriefing. And let me tell you, these won't be any of those mambsy-pambsy, politically-correct "stress techniques" oldman Rumsfeld settled with. I'm going old school with this. The rack. The iron maiden. You name it. That way everyone will be safer. Sure, you might ask why I'd need to interrogate people if I'm omniscient and already know what they're thinking. But you'll just have to trust me on this one. You have no other choice.

And again, I must stress that I'm not doing this for my own personal benefit. This is absolutely necessary because the Bushies are just too small-minded to take the extra steps required for our basic protection. In a time of existential crisis such as ours, when our women folks are just moments away from being hidden away in burkas forever, we simply cannot afford a president who bothers couching his authoritarian power-grabs in terms of "constitutional authority" as Bush continues to do. Because that establishes the precedent that the Constitution can bind the president, and we all know what a fatal disaster that would be.

As Abraham Lincoln once famously said, in order to save the Constitution, we most surely must destroy it. Martial Law goes into effect in three minutes. Be sure not to be outside. And don't stop thinking happy thoughts. I'm listening.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Becoming the Enemy

Via Carpetbagger (aka Steve Benen at TPM), I just read some absurdist porn by NRO's Victor Davis Hanson which most assuredly only made me dumber for having read it. A shorter version of this piece reads: America must be allowed to behave like the immoral blood-thirsty monsters we're attacking or we might be taken over by immoral blood-thirsty monsters. It looks to me like some of them are already here.

One of my favorite parts is when he laments that Democratic presidents are always given a free-hand by the Left to wage war, referencing Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Bill Clinton. But in the same paragraph goes on to say: "World War I, Korea, and Vietnam were all controversial in their time."

And those wars cover every Democratic president he listed besides FDR and Clinton. And seeing as how I have one of those brains that remembers things, I remember the war in Kosovo and remember it being opposed by Republicans, as well as many liberal peaceniks. And one of the reasons the GOP opposed the war (besides outright partisanship) was because Clinton insisted on fighting the war humanely; according to rules which Hanson decries liberals for wanting. And let's not forget that Vietnam didn't really get going until LBJ took it over, and it burned him so badly that he decided to not seek re-election. So basically, Hanson is crying foul because Dems supported one Democratic president in a war that almost everyone agrees was entirely necessary. Fucking hypocrites!

(Unmentioned in this is that quite a few peaceniks complain about many of the tactics used in WWII, including the bombing of Dresden, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki, as well as the internment of Japanese-American. So in that regard, it could easily be stated that no Dem president has received a free-passes from the Left. But again, that would require a check with reality, which is in clear violation of several of NRO's by-laws.)

Oh, and while reading the piece, I failed to see any real connection between some of the various arguments he was making. And then I re-read the title line: The Burdens of General Petraeus. And now I get it. Hanson's realized that Petraeus has failed in his mission to make the surge work, and now is wanting to once again blame liberal Democrats for this predictable failure. We'd be able to win, if only the hypocritical partisan liberals would allow us to do what was necessary to win. These are sad, sad people we're dealing with.