Monday, June 29, 2009

Health Care vs. Property Rights. Do Police and Fire Depts. make us socialists?

Opponents are mounting their predictable arguments against real health care reform and if you listen to conservative talk radio ( I do so you don't have to) or read their blogs it quickly becomes obvious that something more visceral than a simple policy disagreement is going on.  To be honest Im not sure why but for the right health care has seemingly become the economic tipping point beyond which we start dissolving individual property rights, much in  the same way social conservatives think gay marriage will cause the sky to fall.  Neither makes much sense. 

In the interest of full disclosure I should say I don't love Obama's plan but politics are the art of what is possible, not what is best.   That said it seems strikingly clear to me that to the extent we believe in morality and common goods we should not have such arguments about disengaging health care from profit motives.  It should be the obvious thing to do.

The reality is that governments in fact do a very good job of providing tax funded single payer services that protect private property, we call them police and firemen and as far as I can tell nobody is arguing that you should only get the police or fire response that you can pay for.  That would be an obvious moral failing.   The point we should be asking conservatives to expand on then is why they believe society should value personal property above personal health. 

If it is unthinkable for us to allow a house to burn or be burglarized if the owner cannot afford protection how is it any more reasonable to allow people to suffer or die needlessly if they cannot afford adequate health care?   No matter what my income conservatives see my property rights as sacrosanct but for some reason they believe  my health should be contingent on how much money I have.  

They should have to explain why.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Judge Fleming Needs Some Grief Over This

This decision by Judge John Fleming is ridiculous regardless of whether the man involved was a cop or not.   Judge Fleming is an employee of Cook Co. meaning he sets his table and buys his clothes with our tax dollars so its only fitting that when he gives a slap on the wrist to a man who beats an unarmed woman with no provocation at all and expresses no remorse for his actions he needs to hear about it.  

Here's what you do:

Judges can't be contacted directly but there are several numbers for the Circuit Court of Cook Co. that you can call and politely express your disappointment.

Clerk of Circuit Court

Executive Clerk for Court Operations

And secondly be sure to file this away come election time and make absolutely certain that you find Judge John Fleming on the butterfly ballot and vote his ass out.

Thank you, that is all.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Burqua Free France

Appropriate sentiment I think but I would not support governmental proscription.  As I have said before I do not find it credible to view burquas as just another in a series of otherwise morally neutral choices.   The line between the patriarchy that enforces the practice and the men beating and killing people on the street in Iran is necessarily direct. 

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Where are the tanks?

While this has certainly been horrible the carnage hasn't reached the level of Tiananmen yet and there must be a reason for it.  China '89 didn't produce these kinds of images of riot police throwing stones and running away in fear from mobs of people.

The mullahs have more than enough firepower at their disposal to crush this in a day and clearly they have no qualms about murdering people in the street so it must be something else.  Could it mean that the military will not participate?  If the best they can do is send helmeted police into the street to swing sticks at thousands of people willing to die then it is already over and the only remaining issue is how soon will they be out of power.

The moral arc.

Its hasn't been entirely clear to me why matters in Iran have become so visceral to me but they have.  Trying to stay on top of events amounts to most of what I've accomplished these last nine days or so and I don't think I've even done that particularly well.    Things reached a crescendo yesterday afternoon when I saw the tweeted video of that young women bleeding out in the street and for the second night this week I didn't sleep much because I couldn't turn my head off.  

Why the hell do I think this is so important?

I feel like we're watching Paris 1788 and a large swath of the world will be forever changed as a result.  It seems that when viewed in context with Obama's win and the recent election in Lebanon a very cool and unexpected thing is happening in a troubling part of the  world.   The fuckers are losing, or at very least getting pushed back.  The old fear and hate-mongering looks exposed and weak, and slowly slowly slowly the bulk of humanity is turning towards its better self.  Or that's what I hope.  

In Clash Of Civilizations   Samuel Huntington offered that the fall of the USSR and the end of the Cold War would not lead to a less dangerous world but rather a more dangerous one.  Global tensions might fall away but they would be replaced by ancient and festering localized and tribal conflicts that were likely to be more passionate and far more vicious than the proxy hot-spot wars waged between the US and Russia since WW II.    Think Sarajevo.

In particular Huntington painted a bleak demographic picture for the West as future Eastern and Muslim worlds in particular grew younger and increasingly polarized around traditional orthodoxies that would necessarily be in conflict with us.  For the better part of the last 20 years there has been scant reason to think he might be wrong and I've often thought that my kids or grandchildren could likely have that clash passed on to them tenfold.

Until Iran.  

In his statement yesterday Obama referenced MLK in saying that he believed that the moral arc of the universe may be long but that it always bends towards justice.  I don't know that I can or should believe that.  Ideas like justice can be relative and are often zero sum.  But its no small thing to be reminded that things do get better.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Reference Points.

Certain moments of recent history will always have the capacity to both choke me up and give drastic perspective to the fact that beyond raising my children I have done virtually nothing of consequence with my life as of yet.  Taken no risk on behalf of a greater cause.  Sacrificed no safety.  Never put someone else's interests substantially above my own.

The man who stood in front of the tanks in Tiananmen.  Pat Tillaman's sacrifice.
And now this woman's murder on the street in Tehran.   As her eyes go blank they catch the camera, and the stare is penetrating.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Why daddy has no friends.

I've long been aware that I don't do "other people talking" very well so this how-to win friends and influence people post from Volohk is advice I'd do well to take. 

But lets not hold our breath.

Fortunately Im married to a socially  gifted woman who is loved by all, probably because she doesn't struggle to remember people's names or birthdays and really seems interested in most of what they have to say.  Thats just not me.  Im no more likely to stop being a socially isolated dick than she is to start being one.   Its hardwiring.  Im not aware that Im making a series of  dick choices.  Im just experiencing things as they come.   Lots of people really seem kind of boring or facile in their interests and its not at all clear to me how being friendly with them would be a boon to either of us.   

Monday, June 15, 2009

Pass it along

GOPers not grasping the social aspect of social networking.

For whatever reason the sudden rush among the right wing to counter the on line networking skill of the Obama campaign and subsequent administration just makes them seem more and more like our fathers mowing the lawn in black socks and wing tips.   Its like they don't realize that other people might actually be reading their posts, as in people who aren't racist and ignorant hayseeds.  I realize there aren't many conservatives left out there but this is getting ridiculous.

First we're treated to this boob who evidently couldn't foresee that comparing an escaped gorilla to Michelle Obama's ancestors might lead to trouble so he tops it all off by claiming she started it  (?!?) and then we get another deep thinker on the right who cant resist mining comedy gold in another racist joke about Obama and aspirin being white.  

Could it be a coincidence that both these guys were from South Carolina? I think not.  When you are reduced to  a southern rural party these are exactly the kinds of dogs you'll lie with.  Its one thing to be racist but its another thing entirely to be so inept that you cannot help but reveal yourself to be a racist.  This is your GOP.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

They're killing protestors now

This is what is happening to students and young people protesting the election.  The Twitter feed is one of many reports that the muscle for this crack down is not coming from Iranian secret police but Hezbollah Hessians shipped in from Syria.   

"Fuck You!!!!!" In Farsi

People shouting from the rooftops of Tehran at night.  Possibly the coolest thing I've ever seen.

Surprising Grace.

A riot policemen is overwhelmed and beaten by a crowd of Iranians until he is saved by the rioters themselves.

Facebook and Twitter have hundreds of real time posts telling of long and wild street battles between Iranian riot police and protestors in Tehran.   These three are particularly striking I think because I don't believe it would be possible in similar circumstances for Americans on the these same opposite sides to show one another this kind of basic respect.  Many are also reporting that the protestors are chanting for their "brother policemen" to join the protests.

Taking a large leap yes,  but if the "culture wars" were ever to take to the streets here I think it would be virtually impossible for people involved to think of their shared citizenhood before their mutual disagreements.   The narrative of  them v. us is too well developed to put aside and allow for a gesture of kindness no matter how small.   

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Al Jazeera smells something rotten.

After 3am [22:30 GMT], the interior ministry went quiet for the night. Out on the streets, some groups of youths were driving the streets in celebration. But not 69 per cent of them.

The revolution will not be texted.

Several places are reporting that the Iranian government is arresting student leaders and shutting down cellular networks in an effort to prevent the clashes that have broken out in Tehran from developing into a more organized movement.   While a massive reactionary push back from the government is still possible its hard to see how this kind of public fissure is a bad thing for the world long term.   Clearly there can be no legitimacy for this government among a wide swath of its people and its worth remembering that it was massive protests by the young and educated that ultimately displaced the Shah in the late 70's.  The revolution is over.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Well of course they do....

Its not news that insurance companies invest significantly in big tobacco but its worth keeping in mind that this is the kind of blatant conflict of interests that becomes possible only when health care is commodified in a "free market".  
Note that one insurer refuses to disclose its investment profile so potential consumers are at their customary disadvantage in making reasonable choices about their providers.  Its a rigged deal.   I'd put down money that most insurers also invest in brewers/distillers and gun manufacturers as well.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Those damn lying virgins.

This study claims that adult virginity is more likely among the college educated who alsoLink regularly attend church than it is among the ignorant heathen masses. Okay.  Im not sure why that's important or why I care other than two observations: 

The urologist team in question found that 13.9% or the men studied and 8.9% of women claimed carnal ignorance.  Now whenever sundry  studies find that sort of statistical disconnect between the sexes when the issues at hand deal with matters of prowess the wink-wink assumption is the men are lying.   If 25% of men report having sex eight times a week and only 12% of women report the same number then of course the men are presumed to be pitiful liars, which probably they are.  Try as I might though I can't really determine who has the greater motive to dissemble here.

And secondly the Futurepundit here relays the complaint from his church going girlfriend that too many of the guys at church were "basically pussies".   This is so true.   The largely broke-dick Promise Keepers notwithstanding muscular Christianity just has never really taken hold.  There has always seemed something basically feminine in it to me especially when compared to Islam or Judaism.  

As a teenager I began to struggle with Christianity in a way that eventually lead me to be the happy atheist I am today but I can remember thinking at the time that it would be probably be easier to get into the spirit of things if I was a girl.
It would be oversimplifying matters to say that was what a substantial issue in my apostasy but I vividly remember being in Sunday School wondering if I was the only one who thought the Gospels just sounded terribly gay.  Probably I was not.

Marine Sniper. Thing # 312354 I Could Never Be.

You know that scene from "A Few Good Men"?   I think Nicholson was hollerin' about this kind of thing.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Alan Greenspan and my underwear.

Words I never thought I'd be grouping together.  This is what I hate about behavirorial economics
of the Freakonomics and Nudge sort that has become the stuff of popular non fiction lately.   How anyone can continue to argue that we're rational market actors leaving an economic bread crumb trail behind us is beyond me at this point.  Maybe Im missing a lesson here but didn't we just endure a news cycle that judged another +300K jobs loss as a sign that our latest bubble bust recession might be bottoming out?  I think we did.  But fear not, underwear sales are up and that has to be good news. 

For the record I think I was almost certainly at least 25 years old before I bought my own underwear and I'd guess most straight men my age would say the same. 
It works this way;  Mom buys you underwear till you're off to college and of course you wear that high school underwear all through college assuming you wear any at all.  After that some girlfriend or other will get tired of shaking her head at the underwear Mom bought and buy you some more to her liking.  Of course those underwear last longer than the relationship usually so you wear those out into the big wide world.  Finally you wake up one day and realize the underwear dole has come to an end and you'll have to buy your own which feels gay but actually isn't.   Either way I'll never be convinced that anything of import can be divined.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Sane abortion discussion.

This is an excellent collection of reader experiences and reactions from Andrew Sullivan's The Daily Dish.  It beautifully illustrates how Roe is hardly the extent of the issue.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

This is what market fundamentalism looks like

At Freakonomics Gary Becker offers his market based vision for poverty relief, and it sounds pretty good.  Problem is that it rarely works the way its disciples imagine.  The irony here is that this is the same utopian mechanism that underpins socialism, the belief that we can be called to our better natures by economic dogmas. Know the system and the system will set us free.  

Neither works perfectly.  I believe in free markets but if we're going to be honest about the history of market economies we should own up to the fact that they don't simply create winners and losers in the short term they enshrine them.  Raising tides of wealth float most boats but inequities in resources and inefficiencies in allocation necessarily create permanent losers which may well be the worst system ever invented expect for all the rest but we shouldn't pretend otherwise.