Archive for category This Blog

Will Obamacare lead to single-payer?

Markos Moulitsas argues it will:

Had Republicans embraced their Heritage-devised plan, worked with Democrats to best shape it in their mold, then accepted this market-based approach in bipartisan fashion, Obamacare’s numbers would look much better. And if overwhelming majorities approved of the plan, any hope of future progress on the issue would be dead in the water. Republicans might not have their ideal (i.e. screw the uninsured), but their CEO buddies would still be living large and they’d still be able to boast of a market-based solution in line with their political ideology.

But with approval of the law still in iffy territory, liberals have room to agitate for further improvements without having to tackle an entrenched and deeply popular law. And with Republicans refusing to allow even minor technical fixes to the law to improve its efficacy, their continued undermining of the law makes it just as easy in the longer term for liberals to push for bigger and broader chances.

There’s a lot taken for granted in these two short paragraphs.  But Markos is absolutely right that by failing to embrace the ACA and do everything in their power to make it work, Republicans have left liberals with the political space to argue in favor of single payer.  Any failure in any part of the ACA provides space to argue for single payer – Republican governors reject Medicaid?  They wouldn’t need to if every American were covered by Medicare for all.  Insurance companies still find ways to cancel policies?  That wouldn’t be an issue if we had  a single payer system.

Here’s my pushback to Markos’ argument: Republicans shut down the government to defund the ACA.  They’ll crash the world economy to prevent single-payer.  More problematically, however, is that the ACA will work well enough that Dems won’t want to take on that bruising political battle again.  We need a Democratic majority in Congress to make the technical adjustments any large law requires, to make the ACA work then to introduce a public option.  At that point, my instincts tell me market forces will end up driving us to single-payer.


The Brendan Eich Brouhaha

About the only commentary on the Brendan Eich controversy that strikes me as having value is Martin Longman’s postfrom the Washington Monthly today:

The principles are the right of people to not do business with people they don’t like, and the right of two people in love to get married regardless of their genders.  If you can figure out how to respect the first two of those principles without injuring the the second two, let me know.



No Comments

Lions, Christians and Fake Oppression . . . oh my

My schedule has been unbelievably frantic for about six months so my usual blogging habits are taking a beating.

That said, I want to linkfarm a couple great articles.

First, Paul Waldman’s “Thrown to the Lions” from the Prospect:

There have been many odd and interesting developments in American conservatism in the last few years, but there are few that liberals find more incomprehensible than the belief among many conservative Christians that not only are they currently being oppressed for their religious beliefs, but that today’s outrages are but a prelude to a far more vicious and violent crackdown on Christianity that is right around the corner.

Then Martin Longman’s take down at the Washington Monthly of Jim DeMint’s absurd ahistorical frankly fucking stupid reasoning about the Civil War:

There’s a certain splendor to Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint’s retelling of the history of the Civil War.  It’s almost as if DeMint and Sarah Palin are both graduates of the same finishing school for garbled buffoonery.  I think this comment belongs on a plaque in the Smithsonian as a living testament to what has become of conservative “thought leaders” in this country.

Then nice piece from Ed Kilgore at the Washington Monthly:

The Mike Huckabee speech in Iowa that provided the jumping-off point for Paul Waldman’s argument about the limited power of the Christian Right is interesting in its own right. It also strikes me as relevant to the disagreement I seem to be having with Jonathan Chait about the distinction I’ve made between objective racist policies and arguments and the subjective state of mind of those who promote them.

I like Kilgore’s piece because he touches on an idea I’ve been pondering with regard to marriage equality – lots of people declare themselves unbigoted and say they have no problem with gay folk, yet support policies which objectively harm gay persons.  In a sense, it gets back to a video I shared ages ago, it’s not what’s in your heart, it’s that thing you said or did that matters.


Where Is The Dignity In This?

Dogs are pretty clever. They get to have three squares and lots of hugs by treating their masters like Ultra-Kings. This doesn’t always result in respect and sometimes problems arise, but all-in-all, the symbiotic relationship has been proven to work really well for quite a long time.

Not wanting to get any further into philosophical observations I have about dogs, I’m going to get right to the great cartoon from from MarkFiore:

I prefer cats. They’re a lot like anarchists, but if you treat them right, they’ll love you till the end.

Humans should probably be democrats, but these labels get all mixed up today.

No Comments

Quick Thoughts about Hobby Lobby’s Opposition to Contraception

I’m deeply cynical about claims to religious freedom made by religious conservatives about things like contraception.  My opinion is that opposition to contraception is usually just a form of mysogyny.

However, there’s an important point I want to highlight:

We’ve already discussed one of his crucial points, namely that there is no contraception “mandate.” Hobby Lobby is not legally required to compensate its employees with health insurance at all.  The regulations imposed by the ACA are on insurance plans, not on the corporations per se.  What is erroneously described as a “mandate” simply means that if corporations choose to take advantage of the tax benefits for compensating employees in health insurance rather than wages, the insurance has to meet minimum coverage standards.  As is often the case with specious religious freedom arguments, the corporation wants it both ways, to get the tax benefits without providing the full benefits to employees.


Half of Americans are Poor or Low-Income

Poverty graph
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

h/t Paul Buchheit.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Relative Poverty Measure (see Table 4), which is “most commonly used in developed countries to measure poverty,” 18 percent of Americans are below the poverty threshold and 32 percent are below twice the threshold, putting them in the low-income category. In other words, half of Americans are poor or low-income.

The bottom half of America own just 1.1% of the country’s wealth, or about $793 billion, which is the same amount owned by the 30 richest Americans. ZERO wealth is owned by approximately the bottom 47 percent.

Our politicians can either do something about inequality, or Americans will do something about our political system.

Recommended viewing: Jacob Kornbluth’s film “Inequality for All” with Robert Reich. Now on Netflix.

More info:
Inequality for All

After-tax profits for American corporations hit another record high last year, rising to $1.68 trillion. American workers have experienced a “lost decade” of wage growth, as their pay stayed flat or declined between 2000 and 2012, despite a 25 percent bump in productivity.


Vaccines- everyone’s favorite topic

I’ve written before about the importance of vaccines and vaccination.  Despite copious actual scientific evidence, some folks, for reasons or no reason, refuse to vaccinate their children.  Vaccines are known to have adverse effects – the CDC page on the topic is worth your time. A recent post at Kos caught my attention for addressing the anti-vaxer phenomenon.

But pseudoscience can gain a life of its own, divorced from facts or evidence. An entire anti-vax profession had developed, it now depended on hyping the danger to sell books and generate page views. This professional class of anti-vaxxars spun ever more elaborate conspiracies and ominous consequences to explain away the growing body of evidence against them and short circuit skepticism in the minds of frightened parents, and they haven’t stopped since.

Some smart folks realized the anti-vaxers are a problem.  In recent years, we’ve seen a rise in outbreaks of preventable diseases in the US.  Consider the case of the Texas megachurch:

In Texas, a (most likely now formerly) anti-vaccine megachurch is the epicenter of a measles outbreak that so far has infected 20 people.[snip]

The Eagle Mountain International Church is led by pastor Terri Copeland Pearsons, daughter of televangelist Kenneth Copeland. (The church is part of his ministries.) Pearsons claims she’s not anti-vax, but the church does promote faith healing, and in August Pearsons voiced concern over vaccinations and autism, a link which has been thoroughly debunked. Kenneth Copeland has promoted anti-vax and anti-science nonsense on his television show in the past (start at 20:10 into the video).

Apparently, the measles virus was introduced by a visitor to the church who had recently traveled overseas (a common way the virus gets into the population). All these measles cases are reported to have been in families that chose not to vaccinate, and all the children infected to have been home-schooled.

This church was not an isolated case – all it takes is one person to get the virus and they walk into a room of un-vaccinated people.  Measles can kill.  It can lead to other problems.

So, some very bright folk realizing this is a problem decided to test ways to counter anti-vaxer nonsense.  It did not go well.

According to a major new study in the journal Pediatrics, trying to do so may actually make the problem worse. The paper tested the effectiveness of four separate pro-vaccine messages, three of which were based very closely on how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) itself talks about vaccines. The results can only be called grim: Not a single one of the messages was successful when it came to increasing parents’ professed intent to vaccinate their children. And in several cases the messages actually backfired, either increasing the ill-founded belief that vaccines cause autism or even, in one case, apparently reducing parents’ intent to vaccinate.

My personal theory is that public health campaigns in earlier eras had an easier sell.  People had seen the effects of measles, mumps, rubella and polio.  They’d seen people suffer, they knew people who had died from these diseases.  A vaccine to prevent suffering that people see and experience is an easy sell.

But don’t live in that world.  We live in a world (at least those of us in North America) where diseases are manageable.  The flu is treated as miserable, but manageable disease – we endure it but it’s not deadly (nevermind that people die from the flu every year).  Parents who refuse to vaccinate their kids are making a bad choice for a seemingly rational reason – nothing in their experience tells them diseases are deadly; they hear about vaccines causing problems and conclude that the vaccine is the greater risk.  The now thoroughly debunked autism claim is a good example of this dynamic at work.  If your entire experience of disease has consistently been you get sick, it sucks, you get better, you move on then the threat of lifelong ailment like autism has a huge impact.  To my mind, it’s a form of sample bias.

I’m fairly certain I don’t have a solution.  I do have some thoughts.  If, tomorrow, there were a definitive, workable vaccine for cancer, people would be knocking down the doors of clinics to get it.  Why?  Because people know cancer kills and even those it doesn’t kill the treatment is thoroughly miserable.  The problem is we think of communicable diseases (mostly) as the common cold, not cancer.  Our frame of reference is wrong.  So we make bad decisions.  Fixing that means fixing the frame of reference.


No, Americans Are Not All To Blame for the Financial Crisis


Writing in The New Republic, Dean Starkman counters the narrative still being repeated by the PTB and the media. The claim that Everyone-Is-To-Blame (EITB) for crashing the economy is not true. Wall Street financiers and predatory lenders are the guilty parties. Consumers didn’t suddenly start committing fraud on a massive scale in 2004 – that was the mortgage industry.

Why blame the victims? Because six years after the fact, no significant Wall Street figure has been criminally prosecuted. That’s a good enough reason, if you’re one of the crooks who got away with it.

Writes Starkman:

I’m not suggesting that Wall Street has gotten a free pass on its role in the crisis. People get it, sort of. But we also grade on a curve that assumes that banks’ criminal or quasi-criminal conspiracies are par for the course, Wall Street just being Wall Street. …Borrowers who wound up underwater, by contrast, are pitiful at best. Either they were greedy or dumb or both. They really should have been more careful.

…Sorry, everybody was not to blame. “We” didn’t all do it.

According to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 65 percent of Americans say the country is “on the wrong track,” and 57 percent say they believe we’re still in a recession. Republicans actively pursue measures to worsen the economy for average Americans (e.g. austerity budgeting, refusing to extend unemployment insurance), in the hope that their sabotage will be rewarded at the polls in November. There’s something really wrong with the two-party system if they can get away with this.

No Comments

“God’s Not Dead” – But Your Acting Career Might Be

There’s a Christian movie making its way to theatres this month – entitled God’s Not Dead.  It tells the story of young believer confronted by a dogmatic, inflexible nonbelieving philosophy professor.  Kevin Sorbo, formerly Hercules, plays the cold-hearted professor.  I suspect this film might be a sign that Sorbo’s career is dead.

The trailer  is truly cringe-worthy.  Courtesy of Dan at Camels with Hammers:

If I am viewing the trailer correctly, the core story can be pieced together with little work. The whole message the trailer (and I’m expecting the film) is aiming to Christians who feel intellectually embattled is abundantly clear: “All those intellectual arguments that you get from educated atheists, philosophers, and scientists are all just smokescreens for their emotional problems with God. Real science is on your side and they know it. They hate God in their hearts for some unfair reason. You have God in your heart and know about how wonderful he really is. So if you can just be brave and wave away all their excuses and confront them about why they really say they don’t believe in God, you can save them.”

It’s fascinating to see the Christian persecution complex project onto the screen a bizarro world of inverted reality. The philosophy classroom, which, outside of religious fearmongering, represents intellectual awakening, open-ended speculation, and personal liberation for so many is feared like the Roman coliseum. It represents tyranny and death to people like them. Why? Because for depressingly many Christians anyone who dares to apply the same standards of rigorous analysis to Christian beliefs that they would apply to any other truth claims about the world is trying to hurt them personally as Christians. Because it is so hard for them to separate their beliefs from their identity, anyone challenging their beliefs is challenging them as a person. They are their beliefs. There is no separation between heart and mind and person possible.

Listening to the dialogue in the trailer, I wondered if anyone involved in creating this particular film had actually attended an actual institution of higher learning.  Seriously, watch the trailer, cringe in horror, and worry about the poor benighted abused Christians who actually think this movie represents what its like to attend a real world, secular college.


No One Said There Would Be Penis Cakes!

I was confident Jan Brewer would sign AZ’s gay Jim Crow law.  When she vetoed it, Arizona’s religious conservatives lost their minds.  Don’t believe me?  How about this article from Tea Party Nation, (nice catch by Right Wing Watch):

Should a devote baker be required to create a cake for a homosexual wedding that has a giant phallic symbol on it or should a baker be required to create pastries for a homosexual wedding in the shape of genitallia [sic]?  Or should a photographer be required to photograph a homosexual wedding where the participants decide they want to be nude or engage in sexual behavior?

What sort of person thinks people want pornographic cakes at their weddings?  Shouldn’t that person be in some sort of psych ward?

No Comments

I’ve Been Watching The Olympics

Utah was very proud of the games when they were here, but I have to say that they have gotten better in Russia.

The Kiev incidents have been horrific, but we have to focus on the positive side of Russia, because the games represent the best of the worlds culture. The games represent a coming together of all nations and races as nothing else could.

I have been stunned by it!


First Time I’ve Seen Max Headroom Since Forever

Come on Johnny Rotten/Eminem.
Are you going to be out there in the streets?

Maybe you’d better think twice about your fans, unless you’re going to be in the streets with them.

Just sayin’


1 Comment

%d bloggers like this: