Wednesday, December 23, 2009

One of the problems with "Centrism"

One of the problems with "Centrism" as currently practiced is that you end up with either the worst of both worlds or an absolutely incoherent and unprincipled position.

To take an obvious example. Many liberals think that torturing prisoners is wrong and should be treated as a war crime pursuant to laws currently on the books in this country. Many conservatives think that torture is AOK because obviously anyone who 'wants to kill us' deserves every moment of agony that can be managed. Centrists on the other hand agree that torture is wrong and illegal but that nevertheless the people who actually did it should be rewarded for their service.

Not much in the way of moral clarity in THAT neighborhood....

Friday, November 20, 2009

Evolving thinking

Back when debate among Swamplanders revolved around whether insisting on the public option was worth holding the entire HCR effort hostage, I spent a lot of time defending Insurance companies against what I saw as a knee-jerk anti-business attitude among my fellow commenters.

Now that I have seen how Blue dog Democrats have aquired a well-honed ability to absolutely lie about their concerns and actually hold out to vote AGAINST reducing Federal outlays for health care, I now see that my loyalty was severely misdirected.

These guys really ARE in the pocket of Aetna and really ARE willing to screw their constituents in order to placate their sponsors.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Finally something new worth posting

The entire theory behind medical insurance existing is that the healthy subsidize the sick. If that weren't the case there would be no value in insurance in the first place. Everyone could keep a savings account for the money they'll need when they succumb. What insurance offers, is the opportunity for someone who gets sick unexpectedly to draw out of the pool before they've paid in fully. Insurers guarantee themselves that they collect more in premiums than they pay in benefits and pocket the difference in administrative costs and profits. Obviously the notion of a 'fair share' under a system where the healthy already pay in more than enough to cover the sick AND the overhead is absurd on its face. Yes the young pay more than their fair share. That's the whole point of insurance. Mandates don't change that one iota.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Ridge By Fairchild Park

There's a place I often think of
And though it's just a lark
A short straight stretch of two lane road
Just down from Fairchild Park
But each and every morning as I drive over the ridge
An island vista opens to remind me where I live.

It doesn't photograph too well
Wires get in the way
But still it serves to set the mood
Of each unfolding day
And if the horizon's hazy
Well that's just the road you're on
But you know that life is looking up
When the islands meet the dawn

So if you know the North Side
You know just where I mean
And so you know just where to go
To catch that Island scene
It may be just a workday
In just another week
But past the ridge by Fairchild park
Is a whole new world to seek

Friday, August 21, 2009

Left on a Joe Klein thread.

Yesterday I refered to 'the circles you travel' in an effort to defend your gratuitous "I criticize Liberals too" disclaimer in an otherwise refreshingly candid article. Today you reward me by ignoring the fact that Charles Krauthammer is clinically insane.

I know I've been sidetracked and this is seemingly off topic but when I was looking for an example of an 'evil corporation' for a post a few days ago, I went immediately to a Rent-To-Own Site because I know they are in the business of gouging the poor. Until I went to their site, I didn't realize how thoroughly they do so. They offer a $180 two week loan at a flat fee of $30 dollars and hence charge and legally collect 521.43% APR. You thought that the 18-22% the credit card companies get was unconscionable? The point is simple. Corporations are not constrained by conscience. The only way to avoid shameless exploitive behavior is to either make it prohibitively expensive or illegal altogether.
I think the debate often gets sidetracked when we talk about parasites and make it seem that we're seeking revenge for insurance companies greed. Like the proverbial scorpion crossing the river, Insurance companies can, should and do whatever they can get away with. Our job is to make sure that 'what they get away with' actually serves the public.

Friday, August 14, 2009

My last two health related posts:

My father passed away in 1989 at age of 62. He might not have, but a committee at the privately owned Hospital where he received his care determined that at his age, a lung transplant would not be an efficient use of a limited resource.

My mother passed in 2005 at the age of 76. She had a living will properly drawn out, and cleary spelled out DNR orders. Both died in their own homes.

Anyone who speaks cavalierly about how health care isn't rationed yet but will be under Obamacare or how there's something wrong with providing sensible counseling to people facing serious illnesses is not only hopelessly ignorant but probably heartless as well.

The sad truth is, is that there comes a time in many peoples lives where aggressive Medical treatment is indeed a waste of money. Being appalled and frightened by that fact is a symptom of being human.
That fear is now being cruelly exploited to derail sane debate about vitally important issues.
That is nothing short of criminal

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Left on a GG thread

I like to point out that the founders were well aware of the various paths toward the abuse of power and tried their best to plug them all. And yes that includes guaranteeing a citizen's ability to defend himself in cases where 'any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends'

That is of course why Constitutional guarantees are necessary, because they run directly counter to human nature especially in times of fear. As I've said before, if the temptation to torture weren't common then the freedom from self-incrimination wouldn't be necessary to enunciate. If the temptation to railroad criminals weren't common then the right to a jury trial wouldn't have been mentioned. Each of our Constitutional guarantees stands directly in the path of the easy way out. That's why they are there.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

JNS and Sarah, the condensed interview:

Q1-Why is Government bad?
Q3-Was resigning a great move or merely a good one?
Q4-Hillary's a whiner-Why aren't you?
Q5-What now?
Q6-Just can't get enough rally's eh?
Q7-Until your ready to run again?
Q8-Care to unload on Obama?
Q10-and once more?

Proceed with caution!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Trying to thread the needle.....

The whole theory behind free-market Capitalism is that it harnesses individual self-interest in a way that ends up spreading benefits widely. As I've often said, it's good at accomplishing some things, other things, not so much. But whatever solution we propose to whatever problem we perceive has to take in account the fact that individual self interest isn't going to go away and that any solution that doesn't take it into account is doomed to failure.
The other point is that a lot of political arguments are based on others being 'undeserving'. Spob made clear several threads ago that his arguments against any Health-care reform was based on the notion that some undeserving poor person who brought it upon himself might nevertheless get some health-care on the public dime, therefore costing spob personally. In his worldview, poor people are morally suspect freeeloaders.
But you folks who are arguing over how evil Insurance companies and lobbyists are are applying the same kind of thinking. By assuming that powerful people are powerful by virtue of their gaming the system, you blind yourself to their worldview which only suggests that they are delivering a valuable service at a fair price and bemoaning people who want something for nothing.
There's nothing inherently evil about being poor and there's nothing inherently evil about being rich. Only when we get past the stereotypes and ask ourselves how we can design a sytem wherein individual self-interest nevertheless results in widespread benefit then we will be dealing with the Health-care crisis rationally.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Where the Right went wrong in one sentence or less:

The problem as I see it is that having started with an idea that seemed plausable in the Eighties concerning competitition and markets and efficiency, instead of testing that idea and checking where it made sense and where it didn't, they instead proclaimed it as an article of faith, and now that it's slammed against the wall of reality they refuse to consider that perhaps they've failed to correctly identify the problem that their solutions are supposed to solve.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

re: Sotomayor

The lack of background being provided behind her 'controversial' quote is the real sin of ommission in this entire discussion.
She was invited to speak at a memorial lecture specifically on the topic of diversity on the bench and in courtrooms in general. The subject of how background and heritage might affect decisions from the bench was the topic under discussion
She gave a lengthy speech on the subject but the only way they could hang her for an inappropriate statement was to slice it not just out of the paragraph it appeared in, but to chop the sentence itself in half in order to excise the phrase "I would hope".
The fact that this isn't explained in absolutely every story discussing the subject is solid evidence that the media is utterly uninterested in truth if it interferes with the outrage and controversy that is their bread and butter.
Even when the coverage is sympathetic to the candidate it's only centered around questions as to whether her critics have gone too far
If you ask me, the whole process is downright disgusting.

Read the Whole Thing

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Left on a Joe Klein thread re: Torture photos

I'd like to once again remind everyone that the pictures that were going to be released aren't CIA types carefully applying graduated techniques to elicit confessions but are home-movies of US soldiers run amok. If nothing else, they serve as a stark reminder that when cruelty is officially sanctioned, the normal checks to evil behavior are gone and this is what ensues. It's simple human nature and labels like "American" or "Taliban" don't change the basic equation.
The the moral authority that the US has enjoyed in the past is a direct result of our adherence to the principles of human rights even when it was inconvenient (or frightening). It's not too late to regain that authority, but if there isn't a sharp break between the current administration and the last one, then all the justification we have to engage in geopolitics in our current "world leader" role will dissolve into dust.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Quoting Karen Tumulty....

Providers now get paid according to how much care they provide, rather than how good it is. If a botched surgery lands you back in the hospital, for instance, that means more profit for the health-care industry. "They are often penalized if they provide more efficient care, if they reduce readmission rates," Orszag says, adding that changing that kind of perverse incentive will be a major focus of health-care reform. .

The great thing about this paragraph is that it is way more generally applicable than just within the health care debate. Anywhere where we can ask ourselves "where are there situations where the optimum business decision is one that resuts in harm?" After all, you can't ask and should never expect businesses OR individuals to do anything but what is in their own best interest within the law.
This is the one thing that "Church of Reagan" zealots look right past. There are things that markets are good at doing and other things at which the really suck! Failure to consider that possibility is precisely what's brought us to our current brink.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Thought for the day...

Paul thinks the world would make more sense if people stopped talking about places as if they were people. The United States says one thing, Israel feels differently and Iran reacts emotionally and Saudi Arabia is not amused.
File Under Stupid Human tricks......

Monday, April 27, 2009

Also worth preserving......

Here's a little thought experiment for Ann to try on for size. Imagine two scenario's.
An omnipotent supreme being with unlimited capability decides one day to create intelligent living creatures and impart into them not only intelligence but also free agency and a strong sense of right from wrong.
Or a vast universe comes into being through a poorly understood physical process and across vast lightyears of space and across billions of stars in another poorly understood but incredibly rare physical process self-replicating molecules form and start a long and treacharous journey down a path wherin they form cooperative structures and across eons of time grow into forms that eventually become intelligent living creatures that not only possess intelligence but also free agency and a strong sense of right from wrong.
In which scenario are such life forms to be considered more precious and in which scenario is the prospect of destruction of the creature's habitat and planet more dire?
Certainly the belief in an omnipotent Creator that can declare "do-over" at any moment leads to a more cavalier and LESS moral attitude than faith in a self-discovering physically realized Universe that our current scientific understanding portrays.
Your conviction that science operates in a realm free from moral or ethical inquiry is not only factually incorrect but it is also deeply offensive.

Amy Sullivan inadvertantly steps in it.

The Kids Are Alright

In an otherwise unremarkable post celebrating a teenager who aced the SAT and ACT's she throws in this line:

is surprising is that by all accounts Willa is no vocab-memorizing automatron but rather a normal, down-to-earth kid with a playful sense of humor.

For reasons that are obvious only to those who know me, this raised my hackles.

Here are my two responses:
I'm going to look at this as an opportunity to examine prejudice as a general phenomenon. Amy writes this:

What is surprising is that by all accounts Willa is no vocab-memorizing automatron but rather a normal, down-to-earth kid with a playful sense of humor..

And no one seems to notice that she's no less guilty of trying to pigeonhole people than someone would be if they made blanket assumptions about hip-hop fans or Muslims.

There's a smart kid who's otherwise just like kids everywhere. The only thing surprising is that anyone finds that surprising.

There is a great deal of cultural pressure in this country to NOT succeed academically. Without even delving into how such forces can disproportionately impact minority students, anti-intellectualism is a potent and exceedingly harmful force in this country. Don't believe it? Let us relive those heady weeks of 'bittergate' and remember how much backlash there was against Obama for the crime of being 'elitist'

Friday, April 10, 2009

Just so I know where to find them:

Links of evil:

Monday, April 06, 2009

More religion

In response to this

Beginning with the first of the Ten commandments, it's an unfortunate fact that much of the Religious intolerance that exists in the World is a direct result of the contents of the Religious tenets themselves. If you, like me, believe that there can be only one Creator of the Universe, then the notion of different versions of God competing for loyalty is easily recognized as absurd. That doesn't prevent millions of people from nevertheless falling into just that trap. This is where the Gospel teachings come in so handy. Certainly Loving your enemy, Refraining from judging lest you be judged and Tending to the log in your own eye rather than the speck in your neighbors is inconsistent with religious intolerance let alone seeking to harm those who don't share your specific beliefs.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Posted for easy linkage

Originally from a Swampland thread:

There is nothing at all surprising about the inability of capitalism to produce a private, free-market health insurance plan that works in favor of the people subscribing to it..

Can we get that engraved somewhere? A big problem with our debates nowadays is that people have had 'free markets' preached to them for so long that they treat it like some kind of magical deity instead of a simple mechanism to allow for the pricing of goods and reasonably efficient way to allocate resources.
There are many problems that markets are unable to solve because no participants have a financial stakes in the solution. I still think that Hog Manure Odor Abatement represents a perfect example but there are many others. Pig farmers don't mind the smell and their neighbors have no recourse but to use government to hold the farmers accountable for the problem. So we can either shut down the hog farms thus directly interfering in the 'market' or create incentives or spend public funds to deal with the problem.
There are way too many people who aren't willing to think such problems through and way too many others who have a strong discentive to even talk about it.
Of course hogsh!^ isn't the only example but ever since John McCain decided to make fun of it, its remained one of the most accessible.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Garlic for the Zombie Lie

I'm posting this link because the notion that waterboarding yielded actionable intelligence and might therefore be justified is going to continue to rear it's ugly head at frequent intervals and will need to be bashed in the skull each and every time.

Detainee's Harsh Treatment Foiled No Plots
Waterboarding, Rough Interrogation of Abu Zubaida Produced False Leads, Officials Say

By Peter Finn and Joby Warrick
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, March 29, 2009; A01

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Random Comments

One of the ironies of Obama decrying the Boom/Bust economy is the fact that in includes vast swaths of the Clinton Presidency as well. Well before "Housing bubble" entered the vocabulary, Dot-com bubble was a household word.

You'd think the the Republicans would catch on that they can improve the economy AND blame a Democrat while embracing Obama's current efforts!

Another thing worth remebering about Boom/Bust is that the boom half of the cycle is just as unhealthy and crippling as the bust portion. It's the period during which people are extracting wealth from the economy while not putting anything of particular value into it.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Which of these are too insulting?

Having joined the #badgeofhonor list of twits blocked by Jake Tapper, I invite both my readers to ascertain which of my posts was sufficiently bile-laden to justify such treatment:

phd9: @jaketapper The 'insult' threshhold will always be lower to the recipient than the provider.

phd9: @jaketapper The Leno transcript has 4430 words and yet you have nothing to report on but two of them - mumbled at that. Agenda much?

phd9: @jaketapper When I think 'populist' - Orange County in number one on MY list!

phd9: @jaketapper re: Confidence. Look on the bright side. He didn't say he's doing a heck of a job.....

phd9: @jaketapper The AIG bonuses were "contractual" obligations. Yet the Big 3's UAW contracts were abrogated. Why not AIG's?

phd9: @jaketapper I know chasing earmarks are fun - BUT!

phd9: @jaketapper Two thoughts re partisanship 1. Never underestimate the power of selective attention. 2. How did we get to this point?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Twitter won't let me post this:

It's nice that everyone hates the AIG bonuses. Where was the outrage over their equally grotesque salaries?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Re: Judge selection....

The task of actually applying Constitutional tests to statutes is significantly less difficult than people make it out to be. It only becomes a problem when the clear text of the Constitution runs counter to the current public will. It's worth noting that this is why its necessary to have a Constitution in the first place. Without a document in place to enumerate our inalienable rights, the tendency of majority blocs to oppress minority viewpoints would be nearly irresistable.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Re: Animal Spirits

In response to this

You keep capitalizing "Animal Spirits" in a way that either stresses it as unique or mocks it (I'm not sure which.)
From my perspective though you are treating as remarkable, something that is blindingly obvious. Humans ARE animals. We are capable of rationality but it is not our standard operational mode. The fact that we hold ANYTHING of value beyond what we can eat, drink or breathe is an artifact of our evolutionary history. Our historical fascination with precious metals in particular reveals that what we regard as valuable is entirely arbitrary and that there is no such thing as "intrinsic value"
Why then should it be surprising that the health of our economy depends entirely on the mindset of its participants?
I could expand on this and point out how our whole political system revolves around the notion that if we throw our money into a big enough pile so that counting it is no longer intuitive, when we then remove it again in manageble chunks, it feels like we've gotten something for nothing.
We refer to the process as 'earmarking'
The only arguments between the the two political parties is whether it's preferable to spend more than you collect or collect less than you spend.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

More earmarks....

The problem with earmarks is that EVERYBODY does it. For weeks now I've been comparing the Federal trough to a lottery pool. Everyone pays into one big pot and then competes to see who can draw the most money back out. If anyone were serious about reducing earmarks, then they would simultanously be favoring doubling State Income or Sales taxes. By acting like a financial heat-sink, the Federal government gets to participate in the sleight of hand that allows people to think that they're getting something for nothing.
The only difference between the Republicans and the Democrats is that the Republicans howl about the process while the Democrats simply shrug their shoulders and proceed.
Guess which approach is more dishonest?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Re: Earmarks

I wish that if people were going to play silly games with big numbers, that they'd take the additional step of dividing by 250,000,000 to get the figure 'per American'
Not only would this knock the numbers down to a more easily imagined size, they would allow for more direct comparisons to typical American families other expenditures.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Obama at Health summit

If there is a way of getting this done where we're driving down costs and people are getting health insurance at an affordable rate and have choice of doctor, have flexibility in terms of their plans, and we could do that entirely through the market, I'd be happy to do it that way.
I'm starting to get tired of people regarding "The Market" as if its some kind of magical diety. In any situation, it's important to examine motivations and incentives and assure oursleves that the actual incentives lead to the behavior we want. In many cases, the market is the best way to acheive this but in certain cases it fails miserably.
There is no 'market' for electricity and phones in many rural areas. There is no 'market' that will assure that hog farms don't pollute their surroundings. And there is no market that will allow people who are already sick to get their health needs paid for.
There is an appropriate time and place for Government action and it doesn't betray any Conservative principles to acknowlege the fact. We've been lied to for so long that this simple truth is no longer on the radar.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Pointing outward.

Much of our political thought involves imagining undeserving people who are getting benefits at our expense. It works in two directions. Whether you imagine shiftless unemployed people who nevertheless manage to go to doctors and send their kids to school, or fat-cat bank executives flying down to the VI for 'retreats' on their yachts on the government dime, the process of imagining itself drives our emotional reaction and eventually our voting behavior.
I only say this because, while its easy to demonize "bank shareholders" as deserving what they get, the truth is that many 'shareholders' are in fact Mutual Funds that are holding the retirement savings of millions of ordinary Americans.
Much of what we face now will be a matter of allocating discomfort so that we feel we're rising and falling together, but the process of pointing outward to decide who should be hurting hasn't helped us so far and won't help us in the long run.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Watching the speech

I have to admit that while watching Obama speak, I found myself wondering how he thought he was going to pull off everything he was describing. All this stimulus, all this bank bolstering AND a reduced deficit?

I'd even be interested in Republican counterarguments except for one rather important detail. They don't believe a word of their own arguments. The key to balancing any budget including our Federal one is to spend less than you take in. While pretending that the Democrats want to spend more than they take in, the Republicans instead insist on taking in less than they spend. Add to that, their record of keeping the GWOT off-budget and you have a perfect formula for graft and dishonesty.

I don't know how Obama is going to manage to reduce the deficit but stopping lying is certainly a good first step.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Unlikely Planet

In just about the time it takes to draw a single breath
A vision found its way into my mind
It wasn't very much now Not a case of life or death
But it really seemed important at the time

I saw a distant planet Way out there in space
A whole lot like the one that we are on
But I noticed one big difference as I walked around the place
I couldn't see any fighting going on

So I walked up to a stranger The first one I could find
And I asked him how it was that this could be
At first he looked at me as if he thought I'd lost my mind
But then he answered simply "History"

He told me that they once had wars that nations lost and won
And everybody feared the next attack
Until someone discovered that it wasn't any fun
If the people you were killing didn't fight back

Well the changes happened slowly as changes always do
But common sense soon won out over strife
And do unto your brother as you want done unto you
Became the accepted way of life

So now you've heard my story of the planet out in space
But I guess that it was just a foolish thought
For who out there will listen to an idea so out of place
As we gear up for the next war to be fought.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the (economic) Bomb

I have often marvelled at how anything aquires value. An object is worth exactly what you can get someone to pay you for it. Therefore all 'value' is, is a consensus opinion on what something is worth. This can be quite unrelated to the costs associated with producing the said item.
So while it is true that we have been selling vapor for the last 30 years and paying for it with equally gaseous currency, as long as there is a sufficient consensus to agree that the illusion is worth maintaining, then it will remain in everyone's interest to continue to insist that the Emperor's outfit is resplendent. That is why I don't think our economy will actually collapse. It's built on a psychological effect for its foundation and there are too many vested interests who will do whatever is necessary to maintain their position.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

My Theology in a nutshell:

(as posted on Facebook)

I have always held that the Universe should be credited at having least as much consciousness as it's contents. I therefore don't call myself an atheist. Beyond that......

All I mean is that if we strip away the limitations of our own viewpoints - stuck in time, looking out from inside our own skulls, then there is plenty of room within the physical Universe for what we would call God. I like to think of the Universe itself as in the process of discovering its own existence and we are tools in that endeavor.
Life is the interface through which molecules can learn of stars

Friday, January 30, 2009

Apropos of nothing......

Part of the confusion about the nature vs nurture debate is that its all an artifact of the way we chop up realms of knowlege. When you refer to something as 'biological' you pretend that that doesn't encompass sociological and anthroplogical considerations as well.
A better illustration of what I mean is the misuse of the term "natural." Human society is a part of nature. Therefore strip-mines, auto-assembly plants and breast implants are every bit as 'natural' as beaver-dams and coral reefs

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Klein links to Sully - I comment

The system is correcting itself after one of the most unbalanced periods in American history. But it took the self-restraint of one man to do it.
Do we want to credit this to the system or an individual? If McCain had won would Sully still call the system self-correcting?
I detect a severe amount of wishful thinking here. The system is still broken. The crimes of the torturers are still unpunished. Rove is still ignoring Conyers. The telecoms are still officially above the law.
Obama may understand the Constitutional limits of the Presidency but that doesn't mean that they have been restored. We just got lucky this time.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Posted on an Amy Sullivan thread

I look at the whole problem as a window into human nature. As JayAck points out above the same people who object the loudest to abortion rights also object to sex education and other forms of contraception. This clearly demonstrates that their objections have less to do with the fates of unborn souls than it does with discomfort over recreational sex.
So what is the association between authoritarian religious beliefs and discomfort with pleasure? And why do the same people who experience such discomfort with sexual pleasure nevertheless have such enthusiasm for warfare? Again, it's obvious that concern over innocent souls has absolutely nothing to do with the question.