Saturday, December 12, 2009

Politics 1, Reason 0

According to Jacob Weisberg, Medicare Part D, passed by Republicans in 2003, will cost $1.2 trillion over ten years and was financed entirely by deficit spending. The Senate health care reform bill costs $848 billion and will not add to the deficit. And yet Republicans are against it. Sen. Charles Grassley is opposed to it on the grounds that it "expands the deficit, threatens Medicare, and does too little to restrain health care inflation." Weisberg infers from these facts that the Republicans' complaints about health care reform are "disingenuous" and he concludes that they are not serious about health care reform. Read Weisberg's piece here. Of course, we all knew this already, but Weisberg's piece is interesting in spite of that fact.

One might also believe that the Democrats aren't serious about health care reform either. The prominent health care reform bills have been so watered down that they barely resemble what many of us had in mind when we dreamed about reform back in January. It is easy to be disappointed in Obama's failure to lead and the Democrats' failure to show real courage and backbone in the Senate and the House. 2010 will be a dark year for Democrats indeed.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tell us how you really feel, Phi.

Perhaps you're aware of the possibility that some guy in Connecticut could kill health care reform in the Senate.

And perhaps you know his name: Senator Joe Lieberman.

We face a crisis in government when one man in Connecticut can stop the Democratic party from achieving its goals—in spite of the fact that democrats have through free and fair elections built commanding majorities in both houses of Congress.

President of Air America Media Mark Green discusses the problem here.

According to Green, Lieberman's only remaining argument against the public option is that it would be "an unnatural and dangerous appendage to health care reform."

If Lieberman's opposition to the public option rests on this atrocious argument, then Lieberman must be motivated by money. This is a manifestation of a structural problem with government, argues Green, and it must be addressed if we are to govern ourselves well and wisely.

How do you sleep at night, Sen. Droopy Dog? Do you have any idea how infuriating it is that some son of a bitch in Connecticut might actually deprive the people in my own state of the opportunity to decide for themselves whether they want a public option?

I hate to use this kind of language, but I think it is appropriate here:

Fuck you, Senator Joe Lieberman. Fuck you.

"America without a Middle Class"

Elizabeth Warren is Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law at Harvard University and Chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel created to oversee the banking bailouts. Read her essay "America without a Middle Class" here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

"Proof"

Monday, November 30, 2009

$700,000,000,000 a year

On Sunday, George Will claimed that with our current reliance on deficit spending, "we're apt to be spending in 10 years $700 billion a year servicing our debt." And this huge sum takes into account "unreasonably cheerful assumptions about economic growth and interest rates."

$700,000,000,000 a year is a lot more than what I pay my thieving credit card company in finance charges in a year. (More about Bank of America in a future post.) But the economy of the United States is almost unimaginably larger than my household finances. According to Paul Krugman, this difference is key in thinking about deficit spending. Read about it here.

Republicans are suddenly raising the alarm about deficits. (It is obvious why they waited until after Bush left office to do this.) If you consider the huge figures in their proper context, it is more likely that you'll keep your head. Republicans have an ulterior motive for trying to scare you: republicans have a history of growing deficits in order to pressure the president and Congress to shrink the size of government. But that is a topic for another post.

"209 pages? My favorite comic book isn't anywhere near that long!"

Don't believe all the scary things Republicans say about the length of the health care reform bills in Congress. Only those people not accustomed to reading anything more challenging than Animal Farm will find reading these bills daunting. Read this Associated Press article for details.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Holder: The Anti-Gonzales

Attorney General Eric Holder Testifies Before the Senate Judiciary Committee

Washington, D.C. ~ Wednesday, November 18, 2009

(Excerpt; emphases mine)

I would like to use the rest of the time allotted to me today to address a topic that I know is on many of your minds – my decision last week to refer Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others for prosecution in federal courts for their participation in the 9/11 plot. . . .

I hope we can have an open, honest, and informed discussion about that decision today, and as part of that discussion, I would like to clear up some of the misinformation that I have seen since Friday.

First, we know that we can prosecute terrorists in our federal courts safely and securely because we have been doing it for years. There are more than 300 convicted international and domestic terrorists currently in Bureau of Prisons custody, including those responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the attacks on our embassies in Africa. Our courts have a long history of handling these cases, and no district has a longer history than the Southern District of New York in Manhattan. I have talked to Mayor Bloomberg of New York, and both he and the Police Commissioner Ray Kelly believe that we can safely hold these trials in New York.

Second, we can protect classified material during trial. The Classified Information Procedures Act, or CIPA, establishes strict rules and procedures for the use of classified information at trial, and we have used it to protect classified information in a range of terrorism cases. In fact, the standards recently adopted by Congress to govern the use of classified information in military commissions are derived from the very CIPA rules that we use in federal court.

Third, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will have no more of a platform to spew his hateful ideology in federal court than he would have in military commissions. Before the commissions last year, he declared the proceedings an "inquisition," condemned his own attorneys and our Constitution, and professed his desire to become a martyr. Those proceedings were heavily covered in the media, yet few complained at the time that his rants threatened the fabric of our democracy.

Judges in federal court have firm control over the conduct of defendants and other participants in their courtrooms, and when the 9/11 conspirators are brought to trial, I have every confidence that the presiding judge will ensure appropriate decorum. And if KSM makes the same statements he made in his military commission proceedings, I have every confidence the nation and the world will see him for the coward he is. I’m not scared of what KSM will have to say at trial – and no one else needs to be either.

Fourth, there is nothing common about the treatment the alleged 9/11 conspirators will receive. In fact, I expect to direct prosecutors to seek the ultimate and most uncommon penalty for these heinous crimes. And I expect that they will be held in custody under Special Administrative Measures reserved for the most dangerous criminals.

Finally, there are some who have said this decision means that we have reverted to a pre-9/11 mentality, or that we don’t realize this nation is at war. Three weeks ago, I had the honor of joining the President at Dover Air Force Base for the dignified transfer of the remains of eighteen Americans, including three DEA agents, who lost their lives to the war in Afghanistan. The brave soldiers and agents carried home on that plane gave their lives to defend this country and its values, and we owe it to them to do everything we can to carry on the work for which they sacrificed.

I know that we are at war.

I know that we are at war with a vicious enemy who targets our soldiers on the battlefield in Afghanistan and our civilians on the streets here at home. I have personally witnessed that somber fact in the faces of the families who have lost loved ones abroad, and I have seen it in the daily intelligence stream I review each day. Those who suggest otherwise are simply wrong.

Prosecuting the 9/11 defendants in federal court does not represent some larger judgment about whether or not we are at war. We are at war, and we will use every instrument of national power – civilian, military, law enforcement, intelligence, diplomatic, and others – to win. We need not cower in the face of this enemy. Our institutions are strong, our infrastructure is sturdy, our resolve is firm, and our people are ready.

We will also use every instrument of our national power to bring to justice those responsible for terrorist attacks against our people. For eight years, justice has been delayed for the victims of the 9/11 attacks. It has been delayed even further for the victims of the attack on the USS Cole. No longer. No more delays. It is time, it is past time, to act. By bringing prosecutions in both our courts and military commissions, by seeking the death penalty, by holding these terrorists responsible for their actions, we are finally taking ultimate steps toward justice. That is why I made this decision.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

If we're lucky, he'll just go away now

The Associated Press reports today that Keith Bardwell, the Louisiana justice of the peace who was in the news recently for refusing to marry an interracial couple, resigned today.

This is obviously a positive outcome. But I worry that Bardwell learned nothing from this experience.

At least we have additional anecdotal evidence that racism is alive and well in the United States—you know, for people who think that there's no need for affirmative action anymore. People need to be reminded occasionally.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Friday, October 23, 2009

Affirmative action for white firefighters challenged

In 2003, virtually none of the minority applicants for promotions in the fire department of New Haven, Connecticut, scored well enough on a written exam to be promoted. The city of New Haven, fearing a lawsuit, threw out the results. They were worried that accepting the results would have been in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act which prohibits what is called disparate impact discrimination. This part of the law "prohibits employers from using promotional or hiring procedures that screen out minorities unless they can prove that the procedure is closely job-related," according to Richard Thompson Ford. As a result, Frank Ricci and other white firefighters sued, claiming to be the victims of racial discrimination. Last summer, the Supreme Court sided with the white firefighters. Now, a black New Haven firefighter, Michael Briscoe, has sued New Haven for disparate impact discrimination. Though the story is a bit complicated, you can read about it here. You can read more about Frank Ricci here. And you can read about the damage the Supreme Court's Ricci ruling has done to civil rights in this country here.

I don't think many Americans understand just how strong the arguments for affirmative action are, and just how bad arguments against affirmative action tend to be. Perhaps I can post a more detailed discussion on this topic in the future. But here's the situation as I see it. The empirical evidence strongly suggests that minorities are at a disadvantage in this country in all important respects. And the best explanation for that disadvantage is that minorities are the victims of present discrimination and the legacy of past discrimination, from which white men—including those who have never themselves unfairly discriminated against anyone in their lives—benefit. Affirmative action can help correct this injustice. White men who claim that they are victims of reverse discrimination—like the white New Haven firefighters—are simply feeling the discomfort that comes with losing an unfair advantage that they didn't deserve in the first place.

When laws intended to correct unfair discrimination are gutted, whites themselves become beneficiaries of affirmative action. According to Ford, the Supreme Court may have effectively gutted Title VII's prohibition of disparate impact in its Ricci decision, which would make it easier to discriminate against minorities. The irony is, of course, that the Supreme Court, in striking down what it saw as reverse discrimination, has effectively given its approval to affirmative action for white men.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Take a Bow

Corrupt
you corrupt
& bring corruption to all that you touch
Hold
you'll behold
and beholden for all that you've done
Spell
cast a spell
cast a spell on the country you run
And risk
you will risk
you will risk all their lives and their souls
And burn
you will burn
you will burn in hell
you burn in hell for your sins
Oh, our freedom's consuming itself
what we've become
is contrary to what we want
Take a bow
Death
you bring death
and destruction to all that you touch
Pay
you must pay
you must pay for your crimes against the earth
Hex
feed the hex
feed the hex on the country you love
And beg
you will beg
you will beg for their lives and their souls
And burn
you will burn
you will burn in hell
you burn in hell for your sins

Matthew Bellamy

Monday, October 19, 2009

The insurance industry has an antitrust exemption?

I am fully aware of the irony of embedding an MSNBC video in this post after publishing a post in which I advised you to ignore Fox "News." The difference between the two networks is that MSNBC is, unlike Fox, right more often than not.

I was under the impression that The Morning Meeting was less partisan and more news-oriented than other MSNBC programs like Countdown and The Rachel Maddow Show. That impression evaporated this morning. Ratigan and his guest Eliot Spitzer go after the health insurance companies and argue convincingly that their antitrust exemption ought to be eliminated. (That exemption would, of course, help explain why insurance costs have been skyrocketing.) You can read more about the antitrust exemption here.

The partisan tone of the segment is alarming, given that it appeared in a time slot that was devoted to news before The Morning Meeting premiered some months ago. But the content of the segment is, it seems to me, sound. (Seriously: allowing insurance companies to become monopolies can only make insurance more expensive for their customers. Markets governed by antitrust exemptions are not free and do not function properly.) It is comforting to know that someone on cable is countering Fox "News," the propaganda arm of the Republican Party.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Ignore Fox

Why? Read about it here.

Friday, October 16, 2009

"I'm not a racist. I just don't believe in mixing the races that way." ---Keith Bardwell

I am not making this up. According to the Associated Press, "A Louisiana justice of the peace said he refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple out of concern for any children the couple might have." You can read about it here.

The justice of the peace in question, Keith Bardwell, might have a point. We should indeed think about the children. If you visit the website of the Tangipahoa Parish Clerk of Court Marriage Department, you'll discover, as I did, that the requirements for a marriage license are far too lax. There is no requirement that persons who are granted a marriage license get married and stay married until they have bitten the dust. This is shocking. Given the high divorce rate in the United States, and the common-sense view that divorce has a negative effect on children, marriage licenses must be denied to everyone—until, of course, divorce is made absolutely illegal. Join me in contacting the Tangipahoa Parish Clerk of Court to support them in their refusal to issue marriage licenses to anyone who asks for them.

Do if for the children, won't you?

A Reminder from Terrence

Hey, hate-filled ultra-conservative Christian! Are you mortified that a man who doesn't look like you got elected to be your president? Are you so disturbed by the propaganda you've been hearing from right-wing talk show nutjobs and Fox "News" that you don't know what to do? Perhaps you're even thinking that James Von Brunn was on to something? Here's a little reminder for you from fourth-grader Terrence Scott!


Watch CBS News Videos Online

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The hypocritical republican effort to censure Congressman Grayson

Rachel Maddow presents it in her usual exemplary style and interviews Grayson as well.

Republicans must be taking the conservative translation of Exodus to heart. (See the previous post.)

A fully conservative translation of the Ten Commandments

Perhaps you have heard about the Conservative Bible Project. According to those involved in the project, "Liberal bias has become the single biggest distortion in modern Bible translations." What is urgently needed is a translation of the Bible that accords with certain conservative principles, such as the following:
  • Not Emasculated: avoiding unisex, "gender inclusive" language, and other modern emasculation of Christianity
  • Utilize Powerful Conservative Terms: using powerful new conservative terms as they develop; defective translations use the word "comrade" three times as often as "volunteer"; similarly, updating words which have a change in meaning, such as "word", "peace", and "miracle".
  • Express Free Market Parables: explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning
  • Prefer Conciseness over Liberal Wordiness: preferring conciseness to the liberal style of high word-to-substance ratio; avoid compound negatives and unnecessary ambiguities; prefer concise, consistent use of the word "Lord" rather than "Jehovah" or "Yahweh" or "Lord God."
Fortunately, the translation is coming along. In fact, I have been able to obtain a conservative translation of Exodus 20:1-17, wherein the Ten Commandments are set out. Here it is, without any liberal bias:
1 Then God spoke all these words, saying,
2 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
3 You shall have no other gods before Me—except, perhaps, the Almighty Dollar, as the profit motive should alone govern the affairs of society.
4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth—except, of course, those which may be sold in stores for profit.
5 You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, which is completely above reproach according to Me, in spite of the fact that none of you can make any sense of this,
6 but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments, so that you may be more effectively manipulated into loving Me, in spite of the fact that such manipulation of you makes your love and worship of Me seem inappropriate, a fact which, like many facts about this here religion, is celebrated as being utterly inexplicable and something with which you can only deal at some risk to your psychological and emotional well-being;
7 You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain—except those who profess to love Me, such as those who call themselves fundamentalist Christians and conservatives.
8 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy—except when a profit can be made by failing to keep it holy, which would thereby be holy, for no one in the land should be safe from manipulative marketing designed to undercut autonomous decision-making, such activity being useful to increase profits.
9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, with the goal of increasing profit only, either your own, or even better, that of the corporation that hired you and which can also switch you out at will like an interchangeable part,
10 but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you—except for profit, as I have already made abundantly clear.
11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day, for He saw that, because of His awesomeness, six days was all he needed to do this thing, and thus no profit was to be had in a seventh day of work, whereas those of us who aren’t nearly as awesome would surely need more time; therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy, but recognized the need for a seventh day of profit-taking for loathsome, purely self-interested but criminally inefficient human filth, the love of which the LORD yet so puzzlingly desires, but never mind that.
12 Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you—unless, of course, your father or mother are for some reason unworthy or undesirable, e.g., they are atheists, or Muslims, or lawbreakers, or democrats, or communists, or socialists, or liberals, or persons who dare not to share unthinkingly your opinion on any matter of religion or politics, or persons whose characters it would be politically expedient for you to assassinate.
13 You shall not murder—unless, of course, your target is a lawbreaker, or a Muslim, or someone unfortunate enough to be collateral damage in a pre-emptive war you have initiated, or an abortion-provider, or a person suspected of terrorism though not necessarily guilty of being a terrorist, as long as that terrorist or alleged terrorist is not himself a Christian, in which case nothing shall be done to impede, question, investigate, second-guess, punish, or emasculate him (emasculation being something we are especially concerned with here), he being absolutely above reproach.
14 You shall not commit adultery—unless you are a conservative Christian, in which case there must be extenuating or mitigating circumstances, which we can certainly work with.
15 You shall not steal—unless, of course, you have "discovered" that of which you take possession, e.g., a continent or its inhabitants who may be suitable for enslavement.
16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor—unless, of course, doing so helps you achieve your political goals, in which case you are free to say absolutely anything you like, so long as those goals are endorsed by those who call themselves conservative Christians.
17 You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor—unless, of course, you are stronger than the owner of what you covet, in which case it would be expedient and appropriate to use violence to obtain the thing in question, be it oil, or land, or what have you, so long as you call yourself a conservative Christian.
17.5 Bonus Commandment! You shall root out and eliminate liberal bias, wherever it may be, for a liberal rejects logical and biblical standards, often for self-centered reasons, and has no coherent liberal standards of his own, and craves attention, and uses many words to say nothing, and hopes to dumb down the scriptures and besmirch them with liberal wordiness, and refuses to use powerful new conservative terms as they develop, and does not recognize the full free-market meaning of certain parables in the scriptures, where “free” is understood to be compatible with deception and coercion, which often flourish with deregulation of the markets, which of course the LORD your God can certainly get behind, as it increases profits quite nicely.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Jesus: laissez-faire capitalist

Believe it or not, I am not making this up. At Conservapedia, you may find the Conservative Bible Project, a project "begun among members of Conservapedia to translate the Bible in accordance with [conservative] principles."

"Liberal bias has become the single biggest distortion in modern Bible translations," according to the translators. A better translation will, among other things, "[explain] the numerous economic parables [in the Bible] with their full free-market meaning" and "[use] powerful new conservative terms as they develop."

Fortunately for readers of Your Analytic Analeptic, I have obtained an advance copy of the translation of Luke 10: 25-37 where the parable of the Good Samaritan is told. Finally, the full conservative meaning of that parable may be brought to light, free of liberal bias. That translation is as follows:
On one occasion a member of the liberal intellectual elite, an expert in the law, stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life? Will it be provided for me for free by the socialist state?"

"What is written in the Law?" he replied. "I understand that you reject logical and biblical standards, often for your own self-centered reasons, and that you have no coherent standards, and that you merely crave attention and use many words to say nothing. But how do you read it?"

He answered: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

"I can hardly believe it, but you have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live, unfortunately."

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"

In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. Perhaps they believed that he was an atheist, in which case he deserved it. Anyway, a priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, the man said to him, “Please help me.” The Samaritan replied, “Help you? Is that really such a good idea? Shouldn’t you pull yourself up by your own bootstraps?” The man replied, “I would if I could, my good man, but as you can see I am seriously injured.” “Very well,” replied the Samaritan. “But you must first assure me that you are not an illegal immigrant.” The man produced a birth certificate, not a certificate of live birth, and the Samaritan was unexpectedly convinced that it was genuine. It was then that he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him.

The next day he presented the man with a bill. The man screamed, “I owe you two hundred silver coins? How will I ever repay you? This will bankrupt me!” The Samaritan replied, “The free market has spoken!” The man wailed, "I need help!" The Samaritan replied, "The idea that government is the solution to all our problems is an inaccurate, a very inaccurate statement."

"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"

The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise, you liberal scum."

The United States of the Republican Party does not include Chicago

Read about it here.

Chicagoans seem relatively unconcerned.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

This Should Get Us Thinking Harder

I finally read Hofstadter's essay

My spouse and I took the car into the shop today to get the oil changed and the tires rotated. And while we waited, I finally read Richard Hofstadter's "The Paranoid Style in American Politics." It was enlightening. You can read it here.

Elizabeth Warren discusses gotcha capitalism



American Public Radio's Tess Vigeland interviews Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren. Warren is chairman of the Congressional Oversight Panel set up to oversee the TARP program. The interview appeared on today's broadcast of Marketplace Money. Read a transcript of the interview here.

Here's an excerpt from the interview:
Warren: What has innovation brought us over the last 30 years?

Vigeland: The option ARM.

Warren: Right, there you go, thank you. Credit cards. Actually, there's a perfect example—because I've got a great little piece of documentation. Do you know how big Citibank's credit card agreement was in 1980?

Vigeland: No.

Warren: It was a page and a half long. It was 600 words. And now that same credit card agreement is more than 30 pages long. What they've really brought us is the kind of innovation, what that's come to mean in financial services, is how many ways can I fool people about the new products? That is the current marketplace, and quite frankly, that's the one that some of the largest financial institutions in America want to protect right now. Because they're raking in tens of billions of dollars off it.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Republicans: "Hooray! We lost!"

If you were wondering where certain Republicans' loyalties are, now you know.

Chicago won't be hosting the 2016 Summer Olympics. That honor goes to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.

Both Barack and Michelle Obama campaigned in person for Chicago's bid to host the games. But even their international starpower couldn't prevent Chicago from being eliminated in the first round of voting.

As Politico's Josh Gerstein reports, some Republicans are celebrating.

“Hahahahaha. I thought the world would love us more now that Bush was gone. I thought if we whored ourselves out to our enemies, great things would happen. Apparently not,” wrote RedState.com's Eric Erickson.

Yeah, very funny.

What if the Obamas had not made their pitch in person? For their home town? I'm sure many conservatives would have wondered why Obama had not done everything he could have to ensure that the United States host the games—you know, conservatives being the Country First people that they are.

RedState's Dan McLaughlin got in on the act as well:
I’d questioned Obama’s priorities in making the trip, but now he has a much bigger problem. It’s one thing for the President to make a phone call or two to lend a subtle hand to this sort of effort; that would have been fine with me. But by the President and First Lady both making personal appearances and elevating this to the top news story of the day and a test of personal and national prestige, Obama stood a significant chance of being humiliated, and doing so for what is hard to describe as a critical national interest.
Obama's effort to bring the games to Chicago is nothing compared to the risky gambles made by the previous administration, however. (Remember how we were going to be greeted as liberators in Iraq, even though we were going in with a fraction of the troops the Pentagon wanted for the job?) The important thing for the folks at RedState.com is the party the president belongs to. How do we know that this is pure partisan rubbish? If Obama makes the trip, he risks being humiliated. If he does not make the trip, he lacks the courage of his convictions—an attribute conservatives praised his predecessor for having in spades. (Remember the republicans' insistence that we stay the course and not cut and run? I do.)

If they won't let you win, then they just want you to lose.

Your Analytic Analeptic ends up on The Huffington Post


But my being there is accidental rather than intentional, I'm sure. A vanity search yielded this discovery. If you click on the image, you will find me on the list of links. I took this screenshot September 30. As of today, I'm still there.

Rep. Alan Grayson on health care reform

These are the remarks of Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Florida) on 30 September 2009. The study to which he refers can be found here. According to that study, 44,789 Americans die every year because they lack health insurance. Now is the time for pro-lifers and Christians in general to kick the Party of No to the curb and demand that something be done about this loss of innocent life.

The perilous seductiveness of choice

I watched The Morning Meeting on MSNBC today. This is a bit unusual for me: it's pretty obvious to me that the host, Dylan Ratigan, prefers the sound of his own voice over the sound of the voices of others. So I find watching him difficult. I find watching Chris Matthews difficult for a similar reason.

But enough about me. The topic of this morning's program was what the producers called the death of free choice. The Senate Finance Committee has been working on their version of a health insurance reform bill, and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) was protesting last night that the reforms he prefers didn't make the cut.

Slate's Jacob Weisberg has written about Wyden's plan. As I undertstand it, in a nutshell, Wyden's proposal is to sever the link between employers and health insurance. Instead, what employers pay for health insurance would be converted into extra salary. Employees would then be able to shop for health insurance on their own, which they would be required to purchase. Insurance companies would compete for their business, but only if the plans they offered met certain conditions. It is claimed that Wyden's plan would reduce health care spending in the United States by $1.5 trillion over 10 years. This figure comes from The Lewin Group, which, as Rachel Maddow has pointed out, is part of the health insurance industry.

Ratigan's argument this morning in support of this sort of reform is this: if consumers are allowed to freely choose their insurance plan, which something like Wyden's plan would allow, insurers would be forced to compete with each other for customers. Such competition would lower health care costs, which most of us want. (One wonders why The Lewin Group would support Wyden's plan if this is its expected effect, but that's another matter.) This should be an argument in its favor that even republicans can embrace, since competition is, of course, important to a capitalist economy for a number of reasons.

Here's the worry. The market works for consumers only if consumers can make rational choices. And in order for consumers to make rational choices, they must be able to accumulate the information they need to make rational choices, and the time and effort required to make a rational choice must be reasonable. As Bob Sullivan has convincingly shown in his book, Gotcha Capitalism, corporations have gone to great lengths to undercut the ability of the consumer to make rational choices. They do this by using a variety of techniques. For example, credit card companies write agreements that most people simply do not have the time to attempt to understand: they are lengthy and written in 15th Grade English. That is because credit card companies do not want consumers to understand them: they can make more money off of a confused consumer than an informed consumer, because confused consumers do not make rational choices. Corporations also use what is known as mouseprint in their marketing. Mouseprint is very small writing that some people can't even read. It's not meant to be read, because companies do not want consumers to understand what they are agreeing to when they enter into a business relationship with them.

Our government is finally taking steps to protect the consumer from such practices. But it allowed these practices to flourish. As attractive as choice is, without government regulation of the market, we have every reason to expect that insurance companies would use the same techniques to confuse consumers shopping for health care insurance. Creating a market in which there is choice does not guarantee that choices made in that market will be free and rational. Government regulation is essential to a free market. Republican deregulation of markets creates an anarchy in which the only rational decision-makers are corporations. Deregulation kills capitalism. While killing Wyden's plan might in some sense represent the death of free choice, there is no guarantee that enacting Wyden's plan would resurrect free choice either.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Frank Schaeffer on the village idiot

In his article, "How to talk to complete idiots" (see below), Morford includes a link to this interview of Frank Schaeffer by Rachel Maddow (included in this post for your convenience). Schaeffer is author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back. To summarize, Schaeffer states that the rest of us cannot "reorganize village life to suit the village idiot." The village idiots, according to Schaeffer, are fundamentalist Christians who constitute a "fifth column of insanity" in our culture. Such persons are bred to "reject facts as a matter of faith." This "evangelical subculture" has "rotted the brain" of the United States. Schaeffer is not attacking Christians as a whole; indeed, he describes himself as a church-going Christian.

How to talk to complete idiots

Read Mark Morford's skillfully written article, "How to talk to complete idiots," here.

Morford considers three options. He concludes, "The absolute best way to speak to complete idiots is, of course, not to speak to them at all."

Morford's conclusion dovetails with Farhad Manjoo's advice: if you want to kill the rumors about the death panels, stop talking about them. Read about it here.

According to Manjoo, the idiot's mythology about death panels or Barack Obama's birthplace or what have you gains currency even when it's being debunked.

Refuse to engage the idiot, and not only do you protect your own sanity, you avoid becoming unknowingly complicit in proliferating their particular idiocy.

Idiots refuse to play by the rules of rational, informed debate. So screw 'em.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Daily Show flashback: John Oliver breaks down the stupid vote

As the Cubs' hopes for a postseason berth rapidly fade, I thought I would post what I find to be one of the funniest segments to appear on The Daily Show. In this segment, which aired October 7th, 2008, John Oliver breaks down the stupid vote.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Stupid Vote
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorRon Paul Interview

Voting against one's own interests

Read "Income Inequality Widens, Poor Take Big Hit During Recession" here.

Howard Dean is known for saying that the Republican party has been successful in manipulating working class voters, especially in the South, to vote against their own interests. Back in 2003 when he was running for president, Dean said:
I intend to talk about race during this election in the South because the Republicans have been talking about it since 1968 in order to divide us. . . . White folks in the South who drive pickup trucks with Confederate flag decals in the back ought to be voting with us and not them, because their kids don't have health insurance either and their kids need better schools, too.
Here is my rather sloppy take on this latest story about the victims of the recession: it was primarily republicans who deregulated the financial industry; this deregulation helped to cause the recession we're in; this recession victimized the poor and the middle class more than it did the wealthy; therefore, the poor and the middle class should not vote republican.

Talk to the Invisible Hand

Read "Talk to the Invisible Hand: The promises and perils of treating patients more like consumers" by Darshak Sanghavi here.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sign the letter

Obama has finally put his name on a version of health care reform. Read about the Obama Plan here. If you support it, please sign the letter.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Say "Hello" to my little friend!

(This was originally published elsewhere 30 June 2009.)

I just discovered that Rick Warren loves to quote Bertrand Russell.

According to Warren, Russell said, “Unless you assume a God, the question of life's purpose is meaningless.”

This sounds like something Russell might have said at one time. Russell said a lot of things. I'm pretty sure that the set of all statements made by Russell isn’t logically consistent, in which case at least one of those statements is false. That should tell you something.

Warren does not cite the source of this quotation in The Purpose Driven (R) Life. This is unfortunate, since we do not know what the context of the quotation is. I was unfortunately previously unfamiliar with the quotation, so I haven't identified the source. When you fail to cite your sources, questions come up, you know.

So why does Warren use it?

I’m pretty sure he is offering an argument.

“Unless” statements are most straightforwardly translated as “or” statements. We may translate Russell’s statement as, “Either we assume that God exists or the question of life’s purpose is meaningless.” Given what we know about Rick Warren, we may assume that he is arguing thus:
  1. Either we assume that God exists or the question of life’s purpose is meaningless.
  2. It is not the case that the question of life’s purpose is meaningless.
  3. Therefore, we assume that God exists.
Warren’s use of the quotation is amusingly diabolical because he is essentially appealing to the authority of Bertrand Russell, an atheist, to argue that God exists.

The argument I have attributed to Warren is deductively valid. Are the premises true?

Russell must deny the second premise. He has to do something, after all, since he rejects the conclusion. And the denial of the second premise seems consistent with what I know about his views at one point in his life.

But what reason do we have to assume that the first premise is true? Isn’t it possible that God does not exist and yet the question of life’s purpose is perfectly meaningful? I think so. Is it really plausible to think that all atheists find their own lives meaningless, or that their lives truly are all meaningless? I think not, on both counts. For example, it is possible to imagine an atheist who devotes her life to working for the poor, not because God requires it, but because she believes that she is morally required to do so. Because she does what she believes is morally required, she believes that her life is truly meaningful.

What reason does Warren give for thinking that the first premise is true? (I haven’t read The Purpose Driven (R) Life, so I can’t say.) Are we simply going to grant it, without argument? If Warren’s intended audience is the Christian community, then he probably won’t get many objections to the premise. But in that case, I think Christians themselves would do well to ask themselves what reasons they have to accept it.

It is more likely that this weaker claim is true: if we assume that God exists, then it is not the case that the question of life’s purpose is meaningless. This claim does not make God's existence a necessary condition for the meaningfulness of life. And it doesn't entail the rather absurd claim that the lives of Hindus, say, are meaningless.

Protect Insurance Companies PSA

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The $322 Lunch

(This was originally published elsewhere July 20, 2009.)

Republicans appear to be increasing their efforts to kill democratic plans to reform health care. You can read about the debate between Obama and Steele and DeMint and others here.

I don't know much about this debate. But I do have my own experiences with our health care system. Recently, I went into the hospital for an EGD, which is an outpatient procedure. My wife and I were shocked to find out how much this will cost us. Just to give you an idea, here are a few of the services for which we were billed 20 percent:
  • Before the procedure, I spoke with the doctor who was in charge of performing it. I estimate that I spoke with him for about three minutes. This cost around $90. So my doctor's time is worth $1,800 an hour, or approximately $3,600,000 a year. Why didn't I get into the health care racket?
  • After the procedure, I spent perhaps half an hour in the recovery room. There I was treated to a glass of water, a cup of coffee, a slice of toast, and conversation with one to three nurses who were less interested in talking than I was. This cost $322. No, that toast was not topped with gold leaf. No, the nurses were fully clothed. At that rate, they should have Bobby Flay in the kitchen making the post-procedure victuals and nurses who think that I'm the greatest wit since Oscar Wilde.
I have news for Michael Steele: our current decades-long experiment with health care is not working. If you want me to oppose a plan offered by Obama or other democrats, then tell me, what is so good about what we have right now? Or what do you suggest we put in its place?

Health care reform, abortion, and the already born

(This was originally published elsewhere August 5, 2009. It has been edited slightly.)

I just saw this headline today: "Abortion Coverage Allowed In Health Care Legislation."

Of course, if such coverage is stripped from the bill and it passes, those who join the new insurance exchange would lack coverage others have. And if this bill succeeds in making insurance available to those who cannot now afford it, then the have-nots get screwed yet again, ironically probably by those who say they actually care about the poor, i.e., religious persons.

I am certain that religious groups are already working to kill this legislation.

My problem with some of these groups is their combination of an overly narrow focus on abortion and contempt for human beings, especially those who they consider sinners. Let me explain.

I am willing to bet that most women who have abortions are not evil maniacs who thirst for the blood of the unborn. Most women have what they consider good reasons for aborting. And the fact that religious groups dismiss these reasons out of hand does not by itself show that those reasons are not good.

Some of their reasons undoubtedly arise from a desire to do the right thing. If a poor, unemployed woman finds herself pregnant and without health insurance, and the father is not willing to support her and her unborn child before and after birth, she might reasonably believe that abortion would result in the best consequences overall.

If you're pro-life, let me assure you that I agree with you about one thing: the fewer abortions, the better. The question is, how can we most effectively decrease the number of abortions? What we could collectively do is make it less likely that women who find themselves in situations like these choose abortion. We could do more to make sure that everyone in this country has health insurance. (In fact, if health care reform is passed and more people are insured, it might actually result in a decrease in the number of abortions!) We could do more to make sure that everyone who is employed earns a wage that makes raising children an option. We could do more to make sure that the needs of those who are unemployed through no fault of their own are met.

So here's my question: why don't those folks who so fervently promote the anti-abortion cause in this country also equally fervently promote the cause of economic justice? Compared to the attention abortion gets from the religious right in this country, issues of economic justice get relatively none, in spite of the importance Christianity places on economic justice. If we are to be pro-life in this country, we can't simply force women to complete their pregnancies and then turn our backs on them and their children once they are born. How can I take the pro-life community seriously when their focus is so narrow that they would allow the children they have fought for before their birth to live in squalor after? I think that this is a fair question.

And this is not purely an issue of personal responsibility. If we think we can convince human beings to abstain from sex until pregnancy is a real option, we are simply out of our minds. It's not going to work, ever. This is a fact that we have to deal with, and if we refuse to, we're being irresponsible. In addition, many people find themselves in dire economic straights through no fault of their own. This is plainly obvious once we pull the ideological shades and let the light of reality in.

Neither will the simple plea that woman place their children up for adoption solve this problem. The people whose babies are most in demand are the same people who tend to do better in this economy and are thus more likely to be able to afford abortion; this is the legacy of racism and sexism in this country, and that is a reality too with which we must deal.

Putting children up for adoption is only half the solution; the other half is that we actually adopt children, including those who might not look like us. The mere fact that an abortion has been prevented is not enough; ensuring that those fetuses that were not aborted go on to live happy and productive lives is also important.

Let us all think about this before we try to kill health care reform in this country.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Living High and Letting Die

Yesterday, Timothy Noah of Slate set out to explain how a reporting error he committed ended up in several of President Obama's speeches on health insurance reform. In that article, "My Mistake," he also apologizes for the error.

But I found one claim Noah makes in that article especially interesting. "People die every day from a lack of health insurance," writes Noah. "A new Harvard study says it's responsible for 45,000 deaths annually." That study, "Health Insurance and Mortality in US Adults," is to be published in the American Journal of Public Health.

One of the goals of health insurance reform is to insure millions of adults who now have no health insurance. The aforementioned Harvard study estimates that there are 46 million Americans without health insurance. Surely, many of them simply cannot afford health insurance. And without insurance, many of them cannot afford medical care, and many of them die as a result. Many of these premature deaths are the result of human inaction and are completely avoidable.

As Jacqueline L. Salmon of the Washington Post reports, many conservative Christians are opposed to health insurance reform. "A coalition of three dozen conservative Christian organizations, representing 5 million people and calling itself the Freedom Federation, announced its formation last month. It has taken on opposition to health-care reform as its first issue," Salmon writes. One has to wonder why.

Helping those who are in need is, it seems, an essential part of Christian doctrine. If one needs scriptural support for this claim, one need look no further than the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25-37):
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

"What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?"

He answered: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'[c]; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

"You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"

In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'

"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"

The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."
Jesus here commands us to make significant sacrifices to aid those in distress. There is also this passage from Philippians (2:3-4): "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."

Now, some might object to this by making what I think is an arbitrary distinction. Some argue that Christians do indeed have a duty to aid those who are in distress, but that it is wrong for governments to force people through taxation or other means to help others. In one bill being considered, people would have to choose between buying health insurance or paying a severe penalty. The idea, as I understand it, is that the more people who have insurance, the less that insurance will cost any one policyholder, and the greater their power to negotiate for lower prices. By requiring that more people share the risk, each person helps everyone else buy affordable insurance. Since this would force people to help others, however, some find it objectionable.

Why make this moral distinction, though? Conservative Christians in general show little tolerance for those who think differently, so they're probably not motivated by respect for libertarian views. We can do far more to help those in need collectively than we can as uncoordinated individuals. And lives are at stake, after all, which normally trumps everything else for Christians. Why doesn't it in this case as well? Some Christians seem to believe that it is more important that they be free to fail in their duties than it is that thousands of lives are saved.

Perhaps the real problem here is that it is actually a lot more difficult to be a Christian than is generally recognized. Christians now have an opportunity to make a morally significant choice. Let us all hope that they choose wisely.

(Living High and Letting Die is the name of a book by Peter Unger on the ethics of famine relief.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Take this fun quiz!

  1. What would Jesus do?
  2. Which cable package would Jesus purchase?
  3. Which game console would Jesus buy, and how many hours per week would he play?
  4. What fur coat would Jesus wear?
  5. Which SUV would Jesus drive?
  6. What factory-farmed animals would be Jesus’s favorite?
  7. How many mistresses would Jesus have?
  8. Which town hall meeting would Jesus disrupt?
  9. Who would Jesus deny medical care to?
  10. Which politician would Jesus destroy with lies and propaganda?
  11. Which public figure would Jesus ridicule with the use of racist stereotypes?
  12. Which corporation’s profit margins would Jesus protect at the expense of the working poor?
  13. Whose taxes would Jesus raise in order to give tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans?
  14. Which children of the Third World would Jesus allow to die of malnourishment?
  15. Which race or sex would Jesus discriminate against?
  16. What movies would Jesus censor?
  17. Which books would Jesus burn?
  18. What method of deception would Jesus use to win converts to Christianity?
  19. Which religion would Jesus vilify and encourage war against?
  20. How small and how thin would Jesus prefer the Arctic ice cap to be?
  21. What natural disaster would Jesus justify as God’s punishment for the sins of heretics?
  22. Which homosexuals would Jesus try to cure, assault, or kill?
  23. Which criminals would Jesus execute?
  24. What method of execution would Jesus prefer: lethal injection, electric chair, gas chamber, or firing squad?
  25. Which abortion doctor would Jesus murder in cold blood?
  26. Who would Jesus waterboard?
  27. Who would Jesus target for an airstrike?
  28. Which country would Jesus launch an unprovoked preemptive attack against?
  29. What city or cities would Jesus destroy with an atomic bomb?
  30. Which genocide would Jesus permit?
Scoring
25–30: Think about it.
19–24: Think about it.
13–18: Think about it.
7–12: Think about it.
0–6: Think about it.

Doctors Like the Public Option!

It's true.

Robert Reich on the Public Option

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It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. ---W.K. Clifford

Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear. ---Thomas Jefferson