Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Obamacare - Time Will Tell

Obamacare is like religion. Everyone has their own dogma they fervently adhere to, and although there is no hard evidence that what they believe is true, they'll stick by it to the death. The fact is that's there no proof on either side. No one knows for sure whether the Affordable Care Act will be a huge success or a catastrophic failure but we all think we know....and both sides are working as hard as they can to ensure that what they think is going to happen is what happens.

Do you not find it strange that the anecdotes you read on Facebook all follow the same pattern? Liberals tell positive stories of people who are thrilled to be able to afford healthcare for the first time. Meanwhile, every conservative has had a negative experience - their premiums went up, their deductibles went up, their coverage went down. It hardly seems as if that this could simply be coincidence, does it?

Right-wing millionaires spend millions to spread misinformation and their followers buy into it hook, line and sinker, vowing to allow themselves to be crucified on the cross of socialism rather than "submit" to purchasing health insurance (which is another form of slavery, don't you know?) The Koch Brothers, the richest duo in America, try to convince young people not to fall into the Obamacare trap. Evidently, they believe it is better to get sick and die for the cause, not that they'll ever be put in that situation, of course. They'll let others sacrifice for their principles, thank you very much. Republicans lean on professional sports leagues not to help Obama try to sell the ACA. "Hey, NFL, if you expect us to support your subsidies next time, back off." Sean Hannity  interviews three couples who had bad experiences with Obamacare and happily told us all about it but when a real journalist follows up, he discovers none of their stories were true.

Liberals are not quite so biased. The left-leaning media has been every bit as hard on the mucked-up Obamacare roll-out as conservatives. Unlike Fox, liberals have no qualms about ripping their own. But our millionaires are spending their money, just like the other side, to persuade people to give the ACA a chance.

None of this would be necessary if the media and politics were neutral. They could simply tell us the real pros and cons and let us decide for ourselves whether it was working or not (much as was done with Medicare Part D). Had this not become a ideological battle of almost Biblical proportions, we'd just go along and either discover that Obamacare provides us a benefit or it doesn't. Either it would be popular or it would fall away from lack of interest.

That's ultimately what will happen anyway. Despite the 43 votes to repeal it. Despite shutting down the government to de-fund it. Despite walking up to the edge of a government default to deny it. Despite Republican governors scorning it. Despite our hero, Ted Cruz, riding into town on his white horse to save us from it. None of that is going to happen. The Democrats in the Senate would never allow it. Obama would veto it.

By the time the president is out of office, the ACA will have had a few years to become part of our lives. Either we will be signing up in droves and it will have proven its worth or we will decide it hasn't been able to accomplish what it was intended to accomplish and it will fall of its own weight.

In the end, the people will decide based on real time experiences, not anecdotal "evidence" on Facebook.....which is as it should be.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Can't We All Just Get Along?

Oh God, I'm so sick of talking about shutdowns and fiscal cliffs and debt ceilings and sequesters. I'm so tired of living with crisis management. I'm worn out seeing our President and First Lady portrayed as Nazis, Muslim terrorists and chimpanzees. The smug, self-righteous arrogance of Ted Cruz exhausts me. I just shrug when I'm called a kool-aid drinking moronic lemming. I've heard it too many times for it to have much effect.

In reality, this is the same war as all modern wars. The rebels against the establishment. The guerrillas against the army. The insurrectionists against the status quo.

The only difference is in tactics. So far, (most of) the ones who see themselves as freedom fighters in throwing off the yoke of tyranny have confined themselves to verbal accusations and political dirty tricks. They haven't yet resorted to weapons although they threaten to do just that on Facebook every day where you see constant calls for a New Revolution and Secession and Taking our Country Back.

Do you suppose that is the Tea Party's strategy? To simply wear us down until we give up and say, "what the fuck ever"? Most of us just want to live our lives in peace. We want to work and take care of our families and buy houses and send our kids to college and eat out at Applebee's every now and then and go to church and watch football. We don't really want to man the ramparts with Old Bessie in our hands.

We wish Ted and his cohorts in the Tea Party would just go away so life would get back to normal, the way it used to be when we all pretty well liked each other and if we weren't always thrilled with our government, we didn't despise it either. Even if the president wasn't our favorite, we didn't think he was a alien, Muslim, terrorist who wanted to destroy the country.

Usually, it is the guerrillas who have the energy and the wild-eyed passion on their side and that's so in this case. The rest of us see them with confused dismay as they shout their cries for revolution. What the hell are they talking about?

If you ever read Ayn Rand then you have some idea of their philosophy of what the world should be. Law of the Jungle. Every Man for Himself. Sink or Swim. Of course, they ignore the fact that Ayn was an atheist who was swayed not at all by the kinder, gentler teachings of the Christ they claim for their very own. I haven't read Ayn since high school....I had rather an idealistic crush on her heroes then. Perhaps I should revisit Atlas Shrugged to recall exactly what kind of a society the Tea Party envisions in its ultimate fantasy.

I'd be glad to host a guest post if any Tea Party person would like to explain it from their point of view.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

There Is Only One Truth

There Is Only One Truth

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In my younger years, there was such a thing as truth. We all listened to the same news. If Walter Cronkite or Huntley and Brinkley said it, we accepted whatever it was as fact. If the scientific community vouched for a theory, we assumed they knew more about thermonuclear dynamics...or whatever...than we did. We didn't agree with all of our politicians, of course, but most us believed that they had the country's best interests at heart so that when the chips were down, after they'd fought the good fight, they'd come together in a compromise that moved the country forward.

I never doubted for a minute that Everett Dirksen and Howard Baker and Bob Michel, et al, were statesmen and patriots. Hell, I never even questioned Richard Nixon's innate patriotism. It was only his extreme methods that were unacceptable.

Unlike other countries that were informed by media that flat-out lied, like Pravda, we could mostly depend on our investigative journalists to bring us actual facts about actual events. Our mainstream media felt a responsibility to research and verification before printing a jaw-dropping and nefarious allegation.

Looking back, I guess it was the ever-increasing popularity of talk radio, Rush Limbaugh, in particular, that began the change. On-line bloggers pushed the process forward. And the advent of Fox News completed the triumvirate of "you have your truth and we have ours".

The reality is, of course, that there cannot be two truths. The truth stands alone.  If you are told two diametrically opposing stories, one of them is wrong. Either Barack Obama is a native-born American or he isn't. There isn't a conservative truth and a liberal truth. Either the polls showing Barack Obama consistently ahead in the 2012 election are right or the polls showing Mitt Romney winning in a landslide are right. Either climate change, driven by mankind, is a reality or it is a hoax on the part of a hoard of dishonest scientists.

But, today, it seems there are two completely different truths and it is up to every individual which one to believe. If you like one better than the other, you simply select the option you prefer. If it somehow makes you feel better to buy into a "truth", such as "Obama killed Breitbart, Clancy", hey, go for it. Don't worry about nonsense such as evidence. Don't concern yourself with whether a self-proclaimed ex-C.I.A. agent was really a C.I.A. agent. "That scenario plays into my world view about Obama, I choose to believe it." Yeah, just like you believed that Bill Clinton was a drug-dealer who had people killed and Hillary murdered Vince Foster. (Oddly enough, upstanding citizens that they are, Republicans never, ever play into these "your president is a killer" accusations).

If you think the 43rd time the Republicans vote to repeal Obamacare is somehow going to be the charm, there's nothing I can do to stop you. If you think your Jesus would approve of cutting food stamps and lowering the taxes on corporations, that's on you. If you think women who have sex and use birth control are sluts and prostitutes, that's your right. If you think the Affordable Care Act is somehow going to be the end of America as we know it and that there are Obama death squads roaming the U.S. and they'll be coming for your guns any minute now, so be it. Some of you might want to be a little more careful about what you post on Facebook though if you truly believe that the NSA is listening and the administration is out to get you.

Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once famously said, "every man is entitled to his own opinion but he isn't entitled to his own facts". That appears to be true in America no longer. Today, we all believe we are entitled to our own facts.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Surprising New Radicals


I have watched the most amazing thing happen in the last few years - friends who used to be normal Americans have become radicalized. These are people I've known for years. They raised kids, worked at regular jobs, went to church, looked forward to vacations on the beach. They sometimes bitched about the decisions made by their government but, like most of us, they mostly shrugged it off and hoped the next batch of politicians would be slightly better. They had their own lives to lead and what went on in Washington or the Statehouse was only of passing interest. 

After 911, we all woke up to the shock of terrorism. The Al Qaida jihadists who hit us weren't really that much different than they'd been for years but this time, they actually struck us and that made all the difference. We were horrified at the unreasoning violence of suicide bombers, crazies who would hurt thousands of innocent people for some religious principle we didn't understand. Muslims whose hatred for us was so bone-deep, it excused any excess. 

September 11, 2011, alone, was enough to start some of us down the path dictated by fear and vengeance. But then, ah, couple that with the election of an African-American (or at least half African-American) president with the name of Barack Hussein Obama and if you're already tilting in that direction, that giant clue sends you hurtling into certainty. 

My formerly sensible friends are now convinced that the Muslims are trying to do by stealth what they couldn't accomplish with bombs. They have somehow inserted an alien Muslim mole into the White House and he is quietly seeding our entire government with Muslim Brotherhood plants. 

In the meantime, the death squads are on the roads and the black helicopters are in the air. Barack Hussein (geez, people, how stupid can you be not to see the real story when its right there in front of your eyes!) is destroying our country and ripping our Constitution to shreds line by line. His government is only waiting for precisely the right moment to come for our guns and then we'll be screwed royal.

So, what is the answer? We have to become as single-mindedly militant as they are. You can tell how frustrated my friends and their fellow travelers are that the majority of Americans don't see it. We ignore their hair-on-fire right-wing warnings. (If Breitbart says it, it must be so). We have a foreign Muslim right there in the White House and we naively and blithely go on about our business! We actually believed it when he showed us his obviously forged birth certificate, fools that we are. 

But, by Gosh, they aren't going to let that happen. They've bought more guns, more powerful guns, and they are ready for the fight at the OK Corral when it comes. Them and their AK against the forces of the United States military (although, of course, some of the military will side with them so who knows how that will turn out). 

The definition of radical is: "advocating drastic reform of existing institutions". That's how the New Radicals view their support of government shut-downs and fiscal cliffs and debt ceiling fights and sequester and a possible default on America's debt. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Sometimes, you have to destroy the village to save it and sometimes you have to destroy the country to save it. If you have to resort to a record-breaking number of filibusters to stymie the government (because, you know, when you only control one house of congress, you have to do what you have to do), if you have to refuse to negotiate on the budget, if you have to shut down the whole freakin' government using as your excuse a law that was duly passed and is in effect, so be it. If you have to post lies and vile accusations and scummy cartoons on Facebook, well, all is fair in love and war and this is war in case you haven't noticed. 

And most of us haven't noticed. We thought it was just politics as usual, albeit a little more vicious than we've seen before. No, it's not. It's a war for the heart and soul of America and the other side believes absolutely any means are justified for the end they want to reach. And I suggest that our side had better enter into the war with the same intensity and passion the New Radicals are exhibiting if we want to save it in the same incarnation we've always known America to be. 

The U.S. has always had contempt for those countries that rip themselves apart in the name of Holy War. We weren't like that, at least, not for over 200 years since the civil war. Sure, we've had our problems and flare-ups but mostly we were tolerant and reasonable. Mostly, we lived together in peace. We watched Sunnis try to wipe out Shia and Protestants bomb Catholics and Hutus perform genocide on Tutsis and shook our heads in dismay. 

But this is how it happens. The New Radicals have decided that their mission is to "save" America for the rest of us kool-aid drinking lemmings even if it has to be against our will. The rest of us are stunned at the lengths they seem willing to go, lengths that have already shut down the government and impacted hundreds of thousands of Americans negatively. If they follow through with refusing to pay our bills, it could result in the devastation of the American economy, hell, the world economy. 

The most surprising thing is that the New Radicals shock troops aren't young, wild-eyed freedom fighters, they are middle-class middle-aged Americans whose lives, so far as I can see, haven't changed a bit since Barack Hussein Obama became president. They still raise their kids, go to work every day, go to church on Sunday and go to Florida on vacation. They are all insured, thanks to their employers subsidizing most of the cost. They all have cars and houses and credit cards. They obviously aren't seriously afraid of death squads or they wouldn't have nerve enough to post the violence-inciting things they do on Facebook.

But they are ready to man the ramparts as soon as their leaders give the word. They are our long-time friends and neighbors. How committed do you suppose they really are?    

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Projection - Who Is Really the Lemming?

lemmings photo: Lemmings lemmings.jpg

Projection, in psychological terms, is defined as: "a defense mechanism that involves taking our own unacceptable qualities and feelings and ascribing them to others".

In that vein, in my debates with conservatives, the name I'm most often called is lemming (second is kool-aid drinker). Supposedly, lemmings are hamster-like creatures who periodically follow their leader off of cliffs, falling to their deaths. In fact, Lemmings aren't suicidal. This, like so many ideas Republicans cling to, is a myth.

But, speaking of political lemmings, who are the lemmings here? Who has been ready to follow their political leaders off of fiscal cliffs, over and over again? It's not Democrats and liberals like me. It's conservatives. Who has yelled "right on" as their representatives have wasted $60 million to vote over and over again in the totally hopeless mission of repealing Obamacare. (Which brings to mind another definition: "the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result"). Who has spent their (relatively limited) work time in Washington holding hearings to try to gin up scandals that all dwindle into nothingness?

My conservative friends tell me they are outraged about the way things are going in Washington. Their precious tax money shouldn't go to paying for slutty girls to get obtain birth control....or incidentally, to feeding the children of those slutty girls (boys having, obviously, no part in the conception of children). But where do they get off thinking they're special in that way? Do they believe my precious tax money hasn't gone to lots of things I didn't agree with? The Iraq War, for one.

It's called democracy. The people vote and by their votes, collectively, we live with the consequences. If they vote for George Bush, we go to war. If they vote for Barack Obama, we get healthcare. No one political party or political faction gets their way all the time.

They don't get to throw themselves on the floor and hold their breath until they turn blue because they lost. But this is what the Republicans are doing, except with a lot more serious consequences than holding their breath. They appear to be willing to risk America's entire economy.

What they've already done is bad enough, forcing us to live under the uncertainty of crisis management ever since Obama became president - fiscal cliffs, sequesters, debt ceilings and now, shutdown, perhaps with default on our debts right around the corner. They've already slowed the progress we would have made had they cooperated, even a little.

In the last year and a half, Patty Murray, the head of the Democrat's budget committee, has asked the House Republican to have a conference on reconciling the budget 18 times. The Republicans refused 18 times.

After the government actually shut down, videos showed the Republicans laughing and high-fiving one another. They tweeted about how they were "giddy" from the experience, how "excited" they were, how "fun" it was to shutter the government. Michelle Bachman tweeted how happy she was because the Republicans "finally got what they wanted". This is actually something Republicans have been talking about and planning for since Obama was elected.

And then, with the most breathtaking dishonesty, they go on television, trying desperately to wipe the grins off their faces, as they lament about how "it's all Obama's fault". They certainly never wanted this to happen.

And when Fox screams about how awful the shutdown is (although they call it a "slim down"), what is it that they are incensed about? Why it is closing the national parks. Not WIC, the program for Women, Infants and Children, who may go hungry without it. Not paychecks for furloughed workers who desperately need them. Not closed Veteran's Center. No, they are outraged because they wanted to go see Herman the Sturgeon and now they can't.

The Chinese actually meant it as a curse when they said, "may you live in interesting times" and we are living under that curse right now. Normally, if you're dealing with rational people, you can see an end game. What is it that they want and how far are they willing to go to get it? But with this new breed of conservatives, the shutdown (and perhaps default) seems to be end game. I have no clue what it is that they want and I'm not sure they do either except to throw a gigantic tantrum and burn the entire government to the ground. And where is their end? No one knows that either because we're trying to delve into the minds of people who have a completely different, and destructive, agenda than any government representatives I have ever seen in my lifetime.

They have that whole "we must destroy the village to save it" mentality going. Will they be happy with anything short of being surrounded by rubble that used to be our government?

I don't know but here is what I think: they've got a away with murder for almost 5 years now. Their own party has been held captive by them and seems not to have the balls to wrest control back from them. The Democrats have been held hostage by them as well because they are unwilling to sink to depths to which the conservatives are joyful to go. But, it's time to put an end to it. As a sometimes liberal, sometimes moderate, mostly Democrat, I want my party and my president to stand firm. No negotiations. No kissing their ass. No trying to talk sense into people who have no sense. If going down with the ship means taking them down with us, then anchors aweigh, Boys.