Separating the right from the wrong

by Roland Lindsey

“Just so you know, we’re ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas.”

Fateful words from the Dixie Chicks in 2003.  Some criticized them for insulting the President of the United States while in a foreign country, and their core audience punished them with boycotts and criticism.  Some believed they were unpatriotic, and Natalie Maines doubled down in a Daily Telegraph interview by questioning the value of patriotism at all.  This did not help record sales, and led to further criticism by the conservative press.

Much has been made of President Obama’s speeches around the world, with many conservatives claiming that President Obama is apologizing for America, and as a result, weakening our position in the world.  I am chiefly concerned with National Review.

Victor Hansen wrote:

By separating himself from the past, Obama sends the implicit message to allies (like Israel, India, Columbia, the Maliki government, eastern Europe, Sarkozy, Merkel, etc) that there must have been something wrong with them to have allied themselves with the U.S. during the Bush years — and to enemies and belligerents that their anti-Americanism is perhaps understandable given a shared antipathy for the Bush regime;

The Editors wrote a piece entitled “Obama’s Confession“, where they criticize President Obama for criticizing the actions of previous administrations:

Uncle Sam arrived at the U.N. in penitential mode. He promised to mend his ways, to treat the other governments with proper deference, and to continue to pay everyone’s bills. He can get ovations every time with similar speeches. But he will also continue another trend that began yesterday: losing their respect.

And yet, when Sarah Palin gives a speech in Hong Kong to a group of investors, the conservative press is strangely uncritical of Governor Palin’s criticism of the President and the government of the United States.  It is not too far a stretch to say that Governor Palin was critical of America, given that both the government and the President of the United States were both elected by a majority of the electorate in this country.  I suppose it would at least be helpful if she was factual in her criticisms, but her some of her statements and prescriptions regarding the economy are the stuff of fantasy.

Do the editors of National Review believe that Sarah Palin’s remarks are intended to increase the respect for America?  Do they truly believe that Governor Palin’s words strengthen our country?  Apparently, Rich Lowry believes the speech is a “step in the right direction.”  Perhaps for Governor Palin, but is it really the right direction for politicians to travel the world and criticize the President and the government?  Is it good for America?

And finally, is it good for Conservatives to promote the criticism of our government and elected officials by conservatives while overseas?  Were Sarah Palin to deliver such a speech in Florida, it would hardly be news.  But to travel to a territory of the People’s Republic of China in order to deliver a speech excoriating the present administration and congress is not patriotic.  It is self-aggrandizement, which is another criticism National Review hands out liberally, so long as the subject is a Democrat.

If conservatives believe that attracting independents to the Republican Party is good for all of us, they will simply ignore those who prefer to put themselves over duty to country.  When we elevate these people, we just appear foolish.

Published in: on September 25, 2009 at 4:41 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Conservatives: Take the science and run with it

by Roland Lindsey

The science on medical marijuana use is in:  http://students.washington.edu/sunila/JOM_5-3-03.pdf

The results?  A few quotes from the article:

In its 4,000+ years of documented use, there is no report of death from overdose with cannabis. In contrast, as little as 2 grams of dried opium poppy sap can be a lethal dose in humans as a result of severe respiratory depression. This fact about opium is borne out today in the unintentional deaths from prescribed opioids that continue to escalate.

It is clear that, as an analgesic, cannabis is extremely safe with minimal toxicity. Unlike opioids, cannabinoid medicines do not promote appetite loss, wasting, and constipation, but instead can be used therapeutically to treat these symptoms.

Nonetheless, the purpose of this article is not to discuss the pros and cons of medicinal versus recreational marijuana use. That is a totally separate and altogether different issue. Yet, at the very least, it should be noted that there is no evidence that recreational cannabis use is any higher in states that allow for its medicinal use.

The article drew data from over 33 controlled clinical trials taken over 38 years.  It is irrefutable and makes plain that Marijuana has no business being a Schedule I drug.

Republicans should take the point on this from a policy perspective.  Become known as the party who fought to end an illogical and harmful policy and as the party that aligns itself with the truth.  Speak on it every chance you get.  Arm yourselves with the information and decry those who argue from any basis of fear, rhetoric, or anecdotes.  If you find yourself running low on material, review “The War on Drugs is Lost” at National Review.

Take this issue and make hay with the people you represent, and the ones you hope to represent.  Or simply let the Democrats have it by default.  Drug policy reform is inevitable; for now, your legacy is yours to define.

Published in: on September 16, 2009 at 6:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Why Conservatives should support Government Healthcare

by Roland Lindsey

David Frum posted an excellent post on the Bush Economic Legacy over at NewMajority.com.  I hope that the Republican leadership reads it.

When you look at the traditional levers of tax policy, interest and inflation rates, there is just not much room to make things any easier on business to create jobs and raise income levels, let alone pay for health care. There are many things we can do to encourage business and wage growth, however. Like fix this odious, job-killing system we have in America called Health Care.

Reforming health insurance alone will not solve the problem of cost. Even if all insurers became non-profits but otherwise performed at the same rate, it would only reduce the cost of health care by 1% of the $2.4 trillion it costs us now.  Want to see the data?  Check an NPR analysis of the data here.  From the article:

To negate this notion, AHIP features a dollar bill with one tiny slice out of it (shown below) on their Web site, illustrating that their members only make 1 cent of every dollar spent on health care.

That may be the case, says Princeton economist Uwe Reinhardt, but “whether it’s fair or not depends on what it is you want to describe,” he says.

“All that statement says is, if you eliminated all our [insurance company] profits, national health spending in America would be 1 percent lower. It has meaning only in that context,” Reinhardt says.

Tort reform is not going to bring our costs significantly down. How do I know this? Look at the size of the medical malpractice insurance industry. Not only is the medical malpractice insurance industry doing very well from a profitability point of view, the cost of medical malpractice is at a 30 year low. In fact, in 2008, the total cost of medical malpractice insurance premiums was $10.7 billion. That is less than one half of one percent of the $2.4 trillion we spend on health care. Total payouts from malpractice insurance in 2008? $4.7 billion.  There is a study here on tort reform by the CBO from 2004.  They did not believe then that it would affect the economics of health care.  There is another study undertaken by Americans for Insurance Reform.  Same deal, it’s just not a significant factor, and honestly should just be taken off of Republican talking points.

Come on, Republicans. We can do much better than this. And the independents, those people who really decide elections… They know whether or not they did better in the last decade or if they did worse. They don’t care what Glenn Beck says, and they don’t care what Keith Olbermann says. They care about their own situation and their own prosperity. And while Republicans do not solve problems for them, they will vote Democrat. It’s the simple truth.

We hear the comparisons to Canada and the UK and Switzerland, and we laugh it off because we say, “Well sure, they may control costs better than we do, but I’d hate to get sick over there!” And then we lay out a lot of reasons why our system is better.

Except the costs of our system are crushing individuals, business, and our economy. And we Republicans are blind to the reality that our “solutions” to the problem are tiny drops in an enormous bucket. Would you prefer the economic growth of the ’80s or the ’90s to the economic growth of the ’00s? We all would agree that would be preferable. Would you be willing to go back to an ’80s standard of Health Care to achieve that?

If the only substantive choice to contain health care costs is to move over to a Single Payer system like Canada (costs 10.6% of GDP), or a Nationalized system like the UK (costs 7.5% of GDP), then we must support the substantive choice. We can cry about losing our liberty and freedom all we want, but do not forget that economic freedom equals real freedom. That personal liberty is not possible without economic liberty. And the trajectory we are on is one that leads to economic slavery.

If I have to choose between continuing economic disaster in this country while the Republicans remain in permanent minority status and waiting 3 months for a doctor visit, I’ll take the waiting list.

Published in: on September 15, 2009 at 10:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

GOP: How to win our hearts and minds

by Roland Lindsey

I read The Death of Conservatism a few days ago, right after reading through “Right Reason” by William F. Buckley, Jr. for the first time.  Something occurred to me that I initially observed as a teenager growing up in George H.W. Bush’s America.

Conservatives, it seemed to me, had an optimistic view of individual behavior.  Liberals on the other hand seemed to have a distressingly pessimistic opinion of human behavior.  I saw Conservatives desirous of creating an environment where people would choose to do the right thing, while Liberals had given up on the idea long ago and would nullify such behavior with the actions of a state.  Now I know that Conservative essayists go on and on about how much they believe in the fallibility of man, but it didn’t seem that way to me.  On issue after issue, my observation seemed to hold true.

An example of this dichotomy is present when we consider the welfare state.  Conservatives argue that the government safety net discourages the church and communities from taking care of their own needy members, and that if government were out of the way, individuals and citizen organizations would take care of the needy on a local level.  Liberals seem to be unwilling to trust in the good nature of individuals and citizen organizations, and engage the state in an act of faceless paternalism in order to avoid the unpleasantness of the starving and destitute.  It’s not exactly a Hallmark moment, but at least people are being fed.

A more recent example is that the Liberal establishment believes that corporations and individuals will not do the right thing in regards to health care, and therefore have to create another faceless parent to take care of us all.  Conservatives argue instead for more market deregulation, less government involvement, more capitalism and competition, holding the belief that the individuals and the corporations will do the right thing.

When Conservatives seek to prevent a personal behavior, it is argued that behavior is immoral.  Immorality (as defined largely by Judeo-Christian values) is anathema to policy that depends on each person doing the right thing.  If Conservative policy, by and large, expects individuals to act virtuously, than a virtuous people is required for said policy to be successful.  Enter the Culture War.

You can hardly listen to a Republican elected official without hearing about “the erosion of values” or “the moral decay” of our country.  They wring their hands about the immorality of abortion while simultaneously doing nothing to stop it.  They complained about Marilyn Manson, and “Gansta Rap” and Murphy Brown.  To what end?  They gnashed their teeth when Janet Jackson pulled a stunt at the Superbowl that really didn’t matter to most Americans.

It has become clear to me that Republicans believe “traditional family values” and proper tax legislation are inextricably linked.  If the moral decay is not staunched, then perhaps these individuals who we believe should be virtuous will cheat on their taxes.  Or perhaps instead of investing their tax rebate into the stock market, they will instead blow it on the Sex and the City Boxed set, cocaine, and hookers.  It sounds far-fetched, but I believe it is consistent with the ideology.

Conservatives have been woefully unsuccessful in engaging individuals on their ideas for health care reform, but they can certainly get a lot of press once they cry loudly about 16 year-olds being educated on safe sex.  And since in their view, governance depends on the virtue of the governed, it is rational to go for the morality play.  In order for their policy to work properly, people must behave “morally”.  What they haven’t realized yet is what is killing them:  Most college-educated people do not share their philosophy.

I’m 37 and work in the software industry.  The typical profile of my peers is “Social Liberal, Fiscal Conservative.”  You all know them, and you know what they mean by that.  They believe that sometimes people are virtuous, and sometimes people are not.  They believe that sometimes you must bring equality through government mandate, yet there is a price to be paid.  We hear from Republicans about how immoral we all are, and we turn them off.  Who wants to hear about what a cesspool it is that we all live in?  We hear from Democrats about injustice, and we at least give them a listen.  Above all, we believe in reality, not whether or not a spiritual leader would agree with how we are spending our Saturday evenings.

For Republicans to make headway with our demographic, they must table the desire to manage our virtue, and move forward with the desire to govern the country.  When we hear a Republican, we shouldn’t be hearing about how traditional marriage is under assault, rather we should be hearing about how school vouchers give us a better education for our children.  When we listen to a Republican, we shouldn’t be hearing about how Marijuana is a terrible vice, rather how a strong defense will ensure peace.

I’m not asking Republicans to forsake their values; I’m asking Republicans to push for ideas and reforms that make sense to us divorced from a moral framework.  Whether or not we will ever have, or indeed ever had the virtue to live according to perfect Conservative principles, I don’t know.  What I do know is that morality is a lot less important to us today than it seems to be to the Republican party.  And while this disconnect exists, the Republicans will stay out in the wilderness.

Published in: on September 10, 2009 at 8:07 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags:

Health Care: Democratic Assault on Originality, Republican Assault on Reality

by Roland Lindsey

Despite much media adulation over the President’s speech on Health Care, we didn’t hear anything last night we haven’t heard before.  There are all the same reforms we have heard over and over again, with a token nod toward tort reform, much like a cherry on top.  He still stands by a public option, a position I find weakened by his own admission that only 5% of Americans would sign up for such an option.  If so few will use it, why is it so critical?

He gave an impassioned defense of liberalism, while first acknowledging the base conservative leanings of Americans.  Pledging allegiance to neither side, he struck a centrist tone while asking Americans to consider proper government involvement in their lives.  This is a reasonable question, and anyone who would argue that Utopia can be found in either extreme needs to study history.

But in the end, we are left where we were in the last days of July.  More of the same.

The Republican response was a caricature of what we have come to expect of the Republicans throughout this entire debate.  First up was Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) shouting “You lie!” to the President during his speech.  This was a shameful display of bad manners regardless of whether or not he is correct.  In this case, he is indisputably wrong.  Illegal immigrants are specifically barred from receiving any federal health care in the legislation.  But being correct is not high on the Republican agenda these days, much to our nation’s injury.

Throughout this process, both sides have come down on the wrong side of reality more than a few times, but Republicans have become notable for complete fabrications.  From “Death Panels” to calling the public option a “government takeover of the health care industry”, the Republicans have played fast and loose with the truth time and again.

Despite the fact that Conservatives concern themselves with reality, the Republicans preferred the fiction once again.  Representative Charles Boustany (R-FL) let loose with many of the memes that have marginalized Conservatives throughout this debate.  And this is a shame, because we need a strong Conservative presence in this country.  Appeals to unreality is not an attractive trait to intelligent voters.

Rep Boustany began by saying that most Americans wanted the President to tell Congress he wanted them to start over.  A CNN poll taken at the beginning of the month indicated that 25% wanted them to start over, with 53% wanting the legislation to be passed with minor or major changes.  25% is not most Americans.  An AP poll taken this week claimed 4 out of 10 Americans wanted Congress to start over, and the same percentage wanted them to pass the legislation.

REALITY: Most Americans did not want the President to tell Congress to start over.

Rep. Boustany claimed that “Replacing your family’s health care with government-run health care is not the answer.”  He may be right about that.  But there two components of this statement fly in the face of reality.

The President quoted the CBO in saying that only 5% of Americans would use the public option, and that it would only go to those who currently do not have health care.  The President wasn’t just making that up; the CBO analyzed the legislation and determined that only 10-11 million Americans would use the option.

REALITY: You cannot replace something you don’t already have.  No one is replacing anything with the public option.

And labeling the public option “Government-run health care” is even more ridiculous.  It simply isn’t government-run health care.  It is a government-run insurance company.  It isn’t even taking over the insurance industry, rather entering it as a severely restricted competitor.  And even then, it’s only competing for individuals that don’t even buy insurance anyway.

REALITY: Nothing in the President’s plan amounts to government-run health care, unless you count modifications to Medicare.  And according to what I’ve seen these last few months, there is no support among Republicans for ending Medicare.

Next, Rep. Boustany’s assault on reality exploded full force, leaving no truth standing.

“I read the bill Democrats passed through committee in July. It creates 53 new government bureaucracies, adds hundreds of billions to our national debt, and raises taxes on job-creators by $600 billion. And, it cuts Medicare by $500 billion, while doing virtually nothing to make the program better for our seniors.”

Well, perhaps one truth is left standing, I don’t deny that he read HR 3200.  I do deny his comprehension of aforementioned legislation.

REALITY: HR 3200 does not create 53 new government bureaucracies.  Go read the bill yourself.  It simply doesn’t.

REALITY: The President has called for a budget-neutral bill, enforced by mandatory budget cuts if it does add to the deficit.  It doesn’t add hundreds of billions to our national debt.  And if it does, cuts would be required by law.

REALITY: It doesn’t raise taxes on “job-creators” by $600 billion, unless you consider everyone who makes over $350,000 a year a “job-creator”.

REALITY: $500 billion in projected increases are cut, meaning that nothing is really being cut, it’s just not being increased. What is being increased is an additional $240 billion in payments to doctors.  The CBO says that net savings will be around $241 billion.

After listing the precious few bona fide ideas the Republicans have for Health Care Reform, he ends on this note, saying, “These are common-sense reforms we can achieve right away – without destroying jobs, exploding the deficit, rationing care, or taking away the freedom American families cherish.”  Doomsday, full steam ahead!

REALITY: This legislation may destroy a job or two, or create a job or two, but it won’t explode the deficit, ration care, or take away the freedom American families cherish.  It just won’t.

Are Conservatives concerned with reality?  Are Republicans conservative?  If Conservatives are, then Republicans aren’t.

Published in: on September 10, 2009 at 8:09 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags:

Ritalin 4, Marijuana 0

by Roland Lindsey

A new study from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center is a good indicator of just how poorly conceived drug policy in America is. MSNBC has the AP article here. From the article:

In the study, researchers from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center evaluated 1998-2005 data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers. During that time, nationwide calls related to teen abuse of ADHD drugs, specifically stimulants, increased from 330 to 581 yearly, and there were four deaths. Overall, 42 percent of teens involved had moderate to severe side-effects and most ended up getting emergency-room treatment.

My daughter has fairly intensive ADHD. Adopting a regimen involving Concerta in the morning and Ritalin in the afternoon meant the difference between passing and failing 9th grade. I resisted medicating her for years, and when it was clear that she was making less and less progress in school and in social relationships, I relented. I believe it was the right decision. Her grades went up, she made some friends she could keep, and so long as she took her medication, she stayed on a stable course.

Another reason I decided to put her on medication was based on a study done some years ago that linked ADHD with increased probability of drug abuse and other risky behaviors. It isn’t surprising that kids who are predisposed toward risky behavior and drug abuse will abuse drugs that are handed to them a month’s worth at a time. What is surprising is that despite all of the evidence that ADHD medication can and does kill children, and despite all the evidence that ADHD medication can and does lead children to abuse these drugs, Ritalin is legal and Marijuana is not. While Marijuana has yet to claim an overdose victim, there were 4 deaths from ADHD drug abuse in the study.

Imagine a freer America where Marijuana is controlled to the same degree that ADHD medicine is controlled. In addition to the personal liberty we would enjoy, and the drastically reduced cost of incarcerating those who deal in the substance, we would perhaps see a similar study showing Marijuana abuse, only this time it would not include the deaths of children. A Conservative who believes it is permissible to make ADHD medication available to children despite the chance of abuse and death, yet believes it is impermissible to make Marijuana available to adults is no Conservative at all. Conservatives, after all, deal in reality.

Democratic Congressman Barney Frank has recently introduced yet another bill attempting to adjust drug policy to obvious reality. Conservative Republicans should be the ones introducing this bill, if they want any credibility with those of us who would see drug policy determined by the facts, and not ideology. Ritalin is not going away, and neither is Marijuana. One kills, and the other does not. This is the reality.

Published in: on August 24, 2009 at 4:20 pm  Comments (3)  
Tags: , ,

Health Care in America – Choice?

by Roland Lindsey

“Choice” is a word we hear from talking heads and politicians nearly every time they talk about Health care in America.  President Obama recently declared on talk radio, “Choice, competition, reducing cost, those are the things I want to see accomplished in this health care bill.”  Nancy Pelosi said, “I agree with the president when he said a public option was the best way to keep the insurance companies honest, that it would be the best way to increase competition so that we can lower costs, improve quality of care, retain choice and expand coverage.”

On the other side of the debate, the Republicans have opposed Democrat plans for health care reform, often claiming it would take choice away from the American people.  Representative Paul Ryan claimed the federal bureaucracy would replace “choice and competition.”  Representative Bob Latta claimed “I believe people should have the choice to keep their own insurance, or Health Savings Accounts, if they are satisfied with their coverage and not be subjected to government intrusion into their personal choices.”

Republicans have introduced a plan called “The Patient’s Choice Act of 2009” that would create state insurance exchanges.  The purpose of these exchanges is to make it easy to compare and select plans.  Apparently they have never heard of http://www.ehealthinsurance.com.  The plan would also… give people money to buy health insurance.  And if you are uninsurable through these plans?  They will do what Washington State did and create a “high risk” pool that would be more expensive, but would still provide coverage.

So much concern over preserving “choice” or granting more “choice.”  After consulting my own experience, I pause to wonder, “Why do you keep saying that word?  I do not think it means what you think it means.”  Like 56.5% of Americans, I have always received health insurance as part of my total compensation from my employer.  Odds are good that you receive your insurance this way, so I ask you:  When was the last time you made a choice in your health insurance?
(more…)
Published in: on August 21, 2009 at 8:51 pm  Comments (3)  
Tags: , ,

A Conservative’s Plea for Freedom in Marriage

by Roland Lindsey

I hope we have once again reminded people that man is not free unless government is limited. There’s a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: as government expands, liberty contracts.  –Ronald Reagan

The Government of the United States controls a great deal more of our lives than the founders would have ever imagined.  And while the Republicans make a show of limiting the power and control of government, they are as guilty as the Democrats they rail against on a daily basis.  One need look no further than this decade to realize this is the truth.

One of the greatest hypocrisies of the Republican party is its focus on the “protection” of “traditional marriage.” If I were to describe for you a tyrannical state such as the former Soviet Union, or Red China, would you shake your head in disbelief when I say that the state even controls whom its populace may marry?  If I were to describe for you the arranged marriages of history and even today in less civilized countries, would you not become enraged over the intervention of the state in this manner?

The Founders laid out for us the groundwork for a Federalist nation, where the States were given the power to regulate anything not enumerated in the Constitution.  Yet, the Federal Defense of Marriage Act removes from the states their power to make this crucial decision.  And those “stalwart defenders of Federalism” continue to push their tyranny down the throats of a populace that no longer desires it, if polls are to be believed.

There is certainly a conservative argument to be made for preserving those traditions that have served us well.  Yet, I cannot believe that subservience to tradition should trump our desire for the government to leave us alone to pursue our own happiness.  While we may be prepared to agree that a generation of youth addicted to video games and general sloth is quite detrimental to society, we would quite rightly revolt at the government mandating how we raise our children.  Yet we surrender our freedom to choose who we marry without a second thought, and worse still, we fight to impose this government control on our fellow Americans.

In this sense, we conservatives should be fighting for less government intervention, less government control, more freedom for the individual, more liberty for all.  We should not allow ourselves to be beguiled by the religious or the zealots; we should maintain our first principles.  We should be fighting for liberty.

We should stand up to Madame Pelosi, and tell her to get out of our business.  We should stand up to President Obama, and tell him to allow us to choose how our families shall be arranged.  We should not allow career politicians to determine the courses of our myriad lives.

Free Marriage for all, on the terms of the individual, not prescribed by the State.  This is my plea.  I leave you with this quote from Barry Goldwater.

The Conservative looks upon politics as the art of achieving the maximum amount of freedom for individuals that is consistent with the maintenance of social order. The Conservative is the first to understand that the practice of freedom requires the establishment of order: it is impossible for one man to be free if another is able to deny him the exercise of his freedom. But the Conservative also recognizes that the polical power on which order is based is a self-aggrandizing force; that its appetite grows with eating.  — Barry Goldwater, The Conscience of a Conservative

Published in: on August 19, 2009 at 8:03 pm  Comments (3)  
Tags: ,

What is everyone so angry about?

by Roland Lindsey

I just read a very interesting article on newmajority.com.  In it, a conservative attends a town hall and describes his experience there.  As we’ve seen on youtube and in the mainstream media, he experienced a good deal of anger there.  From the article:

The town halls are exactly what you’re seeing on television. The crowds are overwhelmingly conservative — and I mean Glenn Beck conservative, not David Frum conservative. I’m talking angry, ready-to-roll conservative, not rational, let’s-discuss-philosophy conservative. I can’t think of any more appropriate word than ‘redneck’ to describe most of the crowd. Literally every person who took more than ten seconds to preface his question was shouted down by “Ask your question!” by an array of overfed hicks. They were also prone to shout “You work for us!” and “You just don’t get it!” at Cardin, as if Cardin should be expected to represent the ideals of the 9/12 Project or something.

What is causing all this anger?  Why are people so angry?  I keep hearing, “I want my country back!” yet I am struggling to understand where the country went.  The America we experience today is not all that different than it was a year ago at this time, although 3.7% more of us are now unemployed.  We didn’t see this anger during the election, or after the election.

So what is the fuss all about?

I wrote earlier about Rush Limbaugh lying to you.  But he isn’t the only one.

Consider what people are being told by mainstream media sources:

  • President Obama is not a natural-born American citizen
  • President Obama and the Democrats want to set up “death panels” to euthanize the old and handicapped
  • We are getting the British health care system
  • We are getting the Canadian health care system
  • The system we are going to get is worse than the British, Canadian, and our current health care system combined
  • Conditions today are very close to those in Nazi Germany
  • Conditions today are very close to those in Fascist Italy
  • President Obama is acting like Hitler
  • President Obama is acting like Mussolini
  • President Obama is a socialist
  • President Obama is a fascist
  • President Obama is a totalitarian
  • President Obama is a communist
  • President Obama is a dictator
  • President Obama is a racist
  • President Obama is the anti-Christ
  • President Obama is going to pay reparations to black people for slavery
  • It’s not too late to save our country
  • It may be too late to save our country
  • It’s too late to save our country except by revolution
  • The Democrats are trying to stifle dissent
  • The Democrats are calling peaceful, reasonable hardworking middle-class Americans “thugs”
  • The Democrats want to nationalize everything
  • The Democrats like to bailout big business with our tax money
  • The country is going to go bankrupt.  Soon!
  • The Democrats have created the biggest deficit ever because they want the country to go bankrupt.
  • President Obama wants the country to fail so he can reach his goal to rebuild the country into a worker’s paradise.
  • The President is working on a deal to combine Canada, Mexico and America into one sovereign alliance similar to the EU.
  • The President is going to take away gun ownership.

Given that all of that is obviously true, I suppose there is a good reason to be mad, after all!  When’s the next town hall meeting?

Which is more distressing?  That the media and talk-radio circuit spread such obviously false information?  Or that so many believe it without checking to see if any of it is true?

I get a kick out of reading this sentence:  “President Obama is a socialist and a great example of that is the GM bailout!” The sadness is that many would read it and not sense the irony; rather, rage against their future assignment to Collective Farm #328.

Published in: on August 13, 2009 at 9:27 am  Comments (8)  
Tags: ,

The government is not trying to kill Grandma

by Roland Lindsey

Excellent interview here.

The media has gone crazy with this idea that the government wants to euthanize old and handicapped people, and that these things are in legislation before the Congress.  Yesterday, I posted quotes from Rush Limbaugh repeating the same lies.

Today, I saw an interview with Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) about the issue.  From the article:

How did this become a question of euthanasia?

I have no idea. I understand — and you have to check this out — I just had a phone call where someone said Sarah Palin’s web site had talked about the House bill having death panels on it where people would be euthanized. How someone could take an end of life directive or a living will as that is nuts. You’re putting the authority in the individual rather than the government. I don’t know how that got so mixed up.

Read the whole interview and stop listening to the misleading liars who are telling you anything different.

Published in: on August 11, 2009 at 9:24 pm  Comments (4)  
Tags: , ,

Rush Limbaugh is lying to you

by Roland Lindsey

I started listening to Rush Limbaugh in the summer of 1992.  I was a 20 year-old conservative, and I found him witty, entertaining, and logical.  At the time, he was working hard on his program to defeat the election of Bill Clinton.  I even subscribed to the American Spectator, which was heavily advertised on his show.  Later, the former editor-in-chief of AS would talk about all the things they made up about the Clintons in their magazine, but at the time it seemed like Gen X had a Watergate to experience.  The problem existed:  It wasn’t true.

Rush has turned up the volume over the years, but I’ve always tuned back into his show.  I did take a hiatus during the whole Michael J. Fox debacle.  I remember driving in my car to downtown Seattle, and listening to Rush’s non-apology for his harsh criticism the day before.  When Rush offers a non-apology, it means he expands on the original statement or comment, and finds ways to make it even more offensive.

At some point, listening to him make fun of Michael J. Fox made me sick to my stomach, and I said out loud, “Screw you, Rush.”  I turned him off, and didn’t listen again for a year.

I tuned into Limbaugh this morning on the way to work.  I was shocked to hear deliberate lies coming out of the radio, and not only that, he accused the Obama Administration of lying about the same thing.  It sickened me.  I realized that those who go to Rush for their single source of news and commentary are being led to believe deliberate falsehoods.  And when Rush is dead wrong about these things, you never hear a correction or retraction.  It doesn’t matter to him, so it doesn’t matter to his listeners.  Here’s some of what I heard this morning.

“This is about Obama saying there is no euthanasia in his plan. What people have said is there is, there’s end of life counselling. Mandatory end of life counselling in the House healthcare bill.”  – Rush Limbaugh, 8/10/2009

This is patently false. There is no mandatory counseling of any sort in the House bill. I’ve read the section. Luna has read the section. Limbaugh is making this up.  There is a section on page 425 that allows a Medicare subscriber the option to have a counselor come to visit them and help them create a living will, if they want it.  This is a benefit, not “mandatory end of life counseling.”

“Obama’s even saying there’s no euthanasia in the plan and there’s no cutbacks in Medicare. What plan, Mr. President? You haven’t presented a plan. How can you tell us what is or isn’t in the plan when you don’t have one? All we’ve got to go on is the house plan and it’s all there. This is mind-boggling stuff. They deny what’s there. They deny what’s in it.” – Rush Limbaugh, 8/10/2009

Euthanasia is not in the House bill. You can read it.  Luna has, and you can read her detailed thoughts in her excellent piece here. But Limbaugh continually says it and then claims Obama is lying about it. Americans aren’t stupid. They simply trust someone who will lie to them.

What is Limbaugh’s motivation here?  As Limbaugh said back in 1992, “Follow the money.”  He doesn’t get any money from Health Care lobbies.  But he does get money from making incendiary and untrue statements.  It makes more people tune into him, which turns into advertising revenue.  There have been many things he’s said that are completely untrue.  He said that Obama didn’t have a birth certificate.  National Review flawlessly debunked that here.  He has called the House bill “Government-run Health Care”, “Socialist Health Care”, and other things when it is really nothing of the sort.  He has claimed that the good idea to put together a health database comparing treatments and outcomes is actually going to be used to ration care.

He claims any number of things as fact, when in fact, they are nothing of the sort.  And those who use him as their single source of information are led to protest against their own interests, and vote against their own interests.

Thomas Jefferson said:  “Knowledge is like a candle. When you light your candle from mine, my light is not diminished. It is enhanced and a larger room is enlightened as a consequence.”  A proper quotation updated to Rush Limbaugh’s practice in 2009 is “Misinformation is like a candle.  When you light your candle from mine, my light is not diminished.  It is enhanced and a larger room is misinformed as a consequence.”

Published in: on August 10, 2009 at 9:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

The Culture War at Defcon 17

dc-logo
by Roland Lindsey

For seventeen years, Defcon has been a home country to society’s misfits. Geeks, nerds and hackers of all stripes make their yearly pilgrimage to the Holy City of Las Vegas to reconnect with friends and family from all over the world, and for one weekend, they are the normal ones. The mundanes cautiously pace through the halls wondering what happened to the rest of the retirees and beautiful people. Once they realize that an Evil Hacker conference is commencing at the hotel of their choosing, they utter a prayer for mercy and have nightmares amidst restless sleep about the 5 character glyph “PWN3D” being carved upon their virtual faces.

But even though the hackers seek the company of each other as a means to feel connected to others, there are further divisions within the group. One black presenter offered one way to remember who he was: “I’m the black presenter at Defcon, lol.” And although attendance of women is noticeably up, the “sausagefest” jokes can be found on the Twitterstream with great regularity.

One group that has sought to provide a meetup for another segment of Defcon society runs “Queercon” every year. It is as brash and uninhibited as its name, and most find it to be the most delightful gathering of friendly, fun people. In fact, although there are many parties where dancing is available, Queercon is usually the only one where you can expect to see a roomful dance all night long.

Being gay and geek is not exactly the most harmonious combination in the hacker space. This is most evident in the de facto insult in geek circles, which is typically some variant of “gay” or “fag” (“g4y” or “f4g” if you prefer.) It is one thing to be an outcast because you are gay in a straight society. It is another thing to be an outcast because you are gay and a geek in a straight and mundane society, and because you are gay in geek society. Unless you are a hot lesbian, in which case you will be drooled over, ogled and patronized all at the same time.

This year, I was very much looking forward to Queercon. I strode down the hall confidently, knowing a night of fun and dancing awaited me. Ahead I saw the Rainbow flag, and I smiled, and then looked again. The Rainbow flag was draped over the American flag on a flagpole. Uh oh.

Some geeks tend towards encyclopedic knowledge; whenever they see something they don’t understand, they look it up and add it to their mental files. As I noticed the flag, I mentioned to my girlfriend: “I don’t think that is quite legal.” She amended that it was technically legal, but against US Code. I examined it further. Apparently, they had some difficulty figuring out how to fly the flag, and in desperation had affixed some wire to the top of the flag and attached it to the Rainbow flag.

I decided it was unseemly, but not unforgivable, and regardless would likely not offend anyone bound for that end of the hallway. I didn’t mention it to anyone at the party. I probably should have, because I was wrong about whether or not someone would take offense.

Another geek, himself a former member of the armed forces, arrived at the party and pulled down the Rainbow flag. He gave the flag to those near the door and stated, “I don’t appreciate this flag being hung over the US Flag. It’s not right.” As he walked out, someone from the back of the party yelled out, “Hater!”

The former soldier returned thirty seconds later. He asked, “Are you calling me a hater?” He claimed the other only had the right to have a Queercon because he had fought for those rights overseas. There was disagreement. The argument escalated. The other persisted with the ad hominem, perhaps thinking if he said it enough, his opponent would say, “You’re right, I do hate you!” Eventually, the former soldier gave up and left.

The mood at the party was temporarily broken. Dancers stopped their gyrations.

If there is anything the geek community has learned from life is that mainstream society tends to reject us, and we have had some hardship as a result. We are misunderstood, underappreciated, and abused. We agree that this is not a good thing.

And yet, for all of our enlightenment and lessons learned and struggle together, we do it to each other. But then again, we have always done it to each other. What remains to be seen is if we can change any better or faster than the mainstream society that fears, misunderstands, hates, ignores all of us.

Published in: on August 5, 2009 at 5:22 am  Comments (1)  
Tags: , ,

Firing the War on Drugs

The right time to fire someone is when everyone wonders why this person hasn’t been fired yet,” said the mentor to this young manager. It was good advice, and I followed it to my own success, although some may say I followed it a little too often.

A Zogby poll in 2008 revealed that 76% of likely voters believe that the War on Drugs is failing. Of four options on how we should change our approach, the most popular option chosen was that we should legalize some or all illegal drugs.

And yet, despite so many debates, arguments, statements, speeches, articles, blog posts and other expressions of opinion on the issue, we are still left wondering, why hasn’t this person been fired yet?

The legalization of drugs is an inherently conservative position. William F. Buckley and National Review have advocated this position for many years, yet this journal of Conservative opinion is ignored on this point. I can think of very few other political actions that would simultaneously advance the causes of personal liberty, pragmatism, free markets, return to traditional values and states’ rights as drug legalization. And yet, conservative politicians are largely silent on this issue, save for those libertarians who have fought this struggle since its beginning.

We do not see politicians on either side of the aisle typing up the pink slip for the War on Drugs because they are afraid of being perceived as being soft on crime, and yet drug legalization would allow us to be tougher on crime. No one is harmed by the neighbor who lights up some marijuana, yet many are harmed by the hoodlum down the street robbing a store to support his habit. Freeing up resources to deal with the hoodlum in order to dispense liberty to the neighbor is a tough on crime position. And years after the decision is made to legalize drugs, the politician will be able to trot out statistics on how many more people were protected and served by law enforcement due to this decision, and everyone will wonder why we didn’t do it sooner.

We will close jails for lack of criminals. We will be a little freer than we were the day before. The markets will develop and the economic benefits will serve us all. The states will manage the markets to their benefit and see growth in their economies. We will spend a fraction of what we currently spend on treatment instead of incarceration.

So why hasn’t that irritating employee named theWar on Drugs” been fired yet? I don’t know, either.

Published in: on June 15, 2009 at 6:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags:

Health Care – Conservative solutions that don’t sound crazy

I have to say that most conservative arguments seem unconvincing and weak to me on health care.  The arguments about “We don’t want government making decisions for us!” is easily countered by “A bureaucrat in an insurance company is better?”  The argument saying “The government breaks everything it touches!” falls down when you consider the high efficiency of Social Security and Medicare (I know they are not sustainable, but neither is a health care industry that increased in cost 87% in the last 10 years.  Social Security and Medicare are more sustainable than that.)  Arguments about choosing doctors fall flat when Canada’s single payer system allows you to choose any doctor, anywhere, and they have a much higher percentage of private practice doctors than Americans.  Arguments about how happy people are with their health insurance fall flat when you realize most of those happy with their insurance have never dealt with a financially crippling illness, which almost always leads to bankruptcy.

So what’s a conservative to do?

There are some much better arguments that I don’t see prominent conservatives making.

Single payer systems are completely unrealistic when you consider they would instantly eliminate $100 billion+ in market capitalization due to the health care insurance companies no longer able to sell a product.  Are we cool with eliminating $100 billion from our economy right now?  Along with all the jobs?  Didn’t we just bail out a company worth $55 billion in 2000?  (GM, I’m looking at you.)  It’s crazy talk to consider this as an option.  And even if you do replace a 15% insurance company cost with a 4% government administration cost, you are only saving 11% of the cost by choosing single payer.

Any solution that attempts to alleviate the pain of health care’s costs needs to focus on…. Health care costs!  Right now, the insurance companies have had no incentive whatsoever to rein in costs.  They always get their 15% no matter what the care actually costs.  Consumers have no real clue what the procedures cost, so what would they have to complain about?

I had a routine physical a few weeks ago, and was shocked to see that my insurer paid $500 for the work.  In that time, I spent 5 minutes with a doctor, and 7 minutes with a nurse!  And that was it!  $500?  I could get a very high priced lawyer for the same cost and he would spend the entire 60 minutes chatting with me about anything I wanted to chat about.

We have seen that the current system has no mechanism for making providers justify their costs, and I believe that is the true problem.  If a provider had to explain why it cost them $500 to spend 12 minutes with me, and it was easy for me to compare what providers cost, and what their patient outcomes were, I would generally choose the best care for the lowest cost.  Transparency helps solve lots of problems, and transparency can definitely work here.  Today, the workings of health care are far too arcane and esoteric.  When we see a provider gouging people on the provider costs & outcomes website, let the market punish them!  Imagine the fun of browsing this site.  “Hey honey, look at this doctor!  Half of his patients die!”

I believe that there is value to making sure that everyone has access to care.  I believe most Americans believe that as well.  I believe in mandated health insurance just as I believe in mandated car insurance.  And I believe that when people cannot afford to pay for health care, we all suffer.  The government seems to be good at loaning people money these days, so let the government loan health care money to those who can’t afford it.  Many will never repay the loan, but some will.  Some will gladly repay it as their fortunes increase.

And finally, make this problem a states problem.  It costs far more to operate a practice in Manhattan than it does in Seattle, Washington, or Butte, Montana for that matter.  The federal government can mandate that the states must come up with a solution that makes sense for them.  The federal government can mandate insurance purchase.  The federal government can mandate that the providers provide complete transparency as to costs and outcomes.  The federal government can loan the poor money to pay their premiums.

Some states can choose to become a single payer system, allowing more doctors to practice more profitably because they don’t have to hire huge administrative staffs to manage claims.  Some states can choose to continue to manage multiple insurance providers.  Some states can keep things as they are.  And we, the people, will vote with our feet.  As always.

Published in: on June 9, 2009 at 6:39 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: