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Government's Asking People for Pointers To Possibly Incorrect Claims:

Is there really something wrong with that? JammieWaringFool (thanks to InstaPundit for the pointer), thinks there is:

White House Blog Seeking Snitches

The Obama administration is starting to look more like Castro's Cuba by the day. Here they claim they're not concerned about protests against ObamaCare, but still, just in case, feel free to snitch on your neighbors.

There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care. These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can't keep track of all of them here at the White House, we're asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to flag@whitehouse.gov.

So if you find someone who disagrees with Dear Leader, rat them out.

Now I've long been bothered by the excessive use of the terms "snitch," "rat," and so on (see, for instance, here and here). Some reporting of bad conduct to the government is bad. Some may be socially good, but might still reflect badly on the person doing it (for instance, someone who turns state's evidence simply to get a lower sentence may be doing a public service, but shouldn't get much praise for it). Much may be socially good and not reflect at all badly on the reporter -- consider people's reporting serious criminal conduct (especially conduct that we agree should probably be considered criminal). Likewise, while some government attempts to gather information about bad conduct are bad, others are perfectly proper.

In this instance, it strikes me that the terms "snitch" and "rat" are entirely misplaced (even allowing for some facetiousness on the poster's part), as is the criticism of the government. The Administration is trying to promote a particular political agenda. They are naturally and reasonably interested in hearing what the arguments against it are, and doubtless sincerely believe that many of the arguments may be unsound or even factually false. They want to rebut such arguments, but they can't do so promptly unless they hear about it promptly.

There's nothing totalitarian about asking supporters to gather this information. And there's nothing morally contemptible (as the terms "snitch" and "rat" suggest) in passing along this information, if you genuinely think that the information is misleading.

Now of course if you think that the Administration would prosecute your friend for e-mailing you supposed "disinformation about health insurance reform," then indeed you shouldn't help the Administration do it. But, seriously, is that really likely? JammieWearingFool and the Administration's other critics seem not to worry that their criticisms of the Administration will get them thrown in prison, or even will lead to any harassment from the FBI or the like. (To be sure, some criticisms, for instance ones that contain threats against the President, might yield that, but I assume that this isn't what the information reported to flag@whitehouse.gov is likely to contain.) I take it that they think, as do I, that blog posts or e-mails to friends about health insurance reform are pretty safe from legal punishment and governmental harassment. And that makes it pretty likely that alerting people on your political side of the aisle in the Administration will simply lead to public rebuttal. It's hardly "look[ing] more like Castro's Cuba" for that to happen, nor is it "snitch[ing]" or "rat[ing people] out" when someone facilitates it.

Finally, I recognize that it's possible that some "disinformation about health insurance reform" might indeed lead to prosecution or administrative action. For instance if the information appears in messages that urge the support or defeat of a candidate, and those messages are put out by 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations, the organization could potentially lose its tax exemption for the electioneering communication. Likewise, there are restrictions (which I agree are quite substantively troubling) on corporations' conveying similar messages related to candidates near election time; violation of those restrictions could lead to legal punishment. But such organizational communications seem already likely to be pretty high-profile, and likely to come to the government's attention in any event. I don't think that someone who gets a possibly tax-law-violating or election-law-violating mass mailing from (say) the Sierra Club and alerts the government to the possible violation can be reasonably said to be "snitch[ing]" on the Sierra Club. The force of the "snitch" / "rat ... out" / "Castro's Cuba" argument, I take it, comes from the suggestion that there's something improper in passing along communications from friends or neighbors -- rather than public press release or fundraising letters from organizations -- to the Administration, which is trying to rebut such communications. And that strikes me as quite mistaken, for the reasons I gave above.

tarpon (mail):
Chief AstroTurfer wants snitches.

The problem they face is no amount of money will replace passion.

The Joker has awoken the sleeping giant.
8.4.2009 2:55pm
stevesturm:
I suggested that people oblige by reporting 'fishy' claims made by Obama himself... 'it will be revenue positive'... 'no, I'm not trying to eliminate employer-provided health insurance'... 'sure, you'll be able to keep your current plan'.
8.4.2009 3:01pm
ohwilleke:
I recently got a call from a representative of the Governor's office suggesting that points I made about the administration in a critical blog post about the state's Juvenile Clemency Board were wrong.

We talked at length, and I addressed the concerns raised on my terms acknowledging fair points and disagreeing with others in a later post.

I certainly don't view that kind of direct interaction and debate on policy issues to be coercive or improper. Indeed, it approaches a democratic ideal of pro-active engagement with public opinion.

Just as the newspaper traditionally separated the business end from the reporting end, in the U.S. government officials are expected to separate their political, policy making side from their coercive regulatory enforcement side. Unless you announce you are violating the law, you should not expect retalitation, and it is reasonable to expect that you won't be retaliated against.

Moreover, a great many governmental agencies (e.g. the IRS and FTC) routinely provide FAQs in public places to dispell common myths about them. Truthful public education isn't a bad thing and improves the quality of the debate by refocusing it on the merits.

The only areas where we common hold that the government is incompetent to render opinions on the truth, are matters of religious opinion and matters regarding how people should vote in elections by civil servants and election administrators acting in their official capacities.

Even where the government does gather information about citizens for enforcement purposes, rather than political debate purposes, publicly available information, and information provided by citizens who have no expectations of rewards in exchange, are among the least privacy intrusive ways to do so. You have no legitimate privacy expectation in opinions that you voluntarily place on the Internet.
8.4.2009 3:05pm
SuperSkeptic (mail):
Now of course if you think that the Administration would prosecute your friend for e-mailing you supposed "disinformation about health insurance reform," then indeed you shouldn't help the Administration do it. But, seriously, is that really likely?

...who knows...maybe not YET, but there's the rub. With all the thought police/hate crime ideas floating around punishing thought/speech (see young rapper "threat" case you also posted), seems like a not too unreasonable prophylactic fear of Big Brother.

Also, EV, I believe someone was castigating you yesterday for your ignorance of the "lower classes" with regard to marital infidelity; I believe your disregard for the "no snitching" mentality also reveals a similar ignorance of the mentality of the "lower classes" in this context as well.
8.4.2009 3:07pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
I'm generally in agreement with your point, Eugene, but I'd like to add a point or two.

There's a distinction between the intent of a message and the effect it will likely have on its intended audience. The White House may indeed have no intention of capturing the e-mail addresses of messages forwarded to them and using such improperly to target dissenters; in other words, the White House may well in truth only be interested in the content of the rumors and disinformation, not the identity of the senders of same.

But what is the perception of this request, among its intended audience (presumably, supporters of the President and his ObamaCare plans). Do they read only an innocuous request for a heads up about the opposition's talking points, or do they read that same message in a more sinister way, promoting an "us versus them" philosophy, encouraging snitching?

That the intended audience may misperceive the message is not entirely the White House's fault, of course. But it could have done more to emphasize in the message that they didn't want the identities of those circulating the critical messages. For example, they could have just added one more sentence: "Remember, we only want to know what the opposition's talking points are; there's no need to send us any information which would identify who the senders of the misinformation are."

I mean, if we assembled a bunch of geriatric white guys and recruited them as a neighborhood watch, and all we told them was: "Hey, go out there and be on the lookout for suspicious characters, and report back what you find," wouldn't we think that was subpar management if we didn't throw in a few more caveats, warning against racial profiling and emphasizing the need to report only, not intervene or attack or arrest?
8.4.2009 3:24pm
Brooks Lyman (mail):
Given the now-pervasive computer databases covering most citizens and the relative ease of tracking down people's names and addresses starting with e-mail addresses (with the cooperation of the ISP, of course...), and looking back at previous administrations' harassment (mainly via the IRS) of (mainly conservative) organizations and individuals, one has to be concerned at the possibility of some form of harassment of critics of Obama's (or the Democratic Party's) initiatives.

This might be too large an undertaking for the White House to handle alone, but an administration that is intent on centralizing health care information and decision-making would certainly be able to use current federal databases to make particularly vehement critics' lives less pleasant.

Note that I'm not talking about political prisoners/concentration camps, etc, but perhaps your sudden inclusion on a list of people to be audited by the IRS, something that they may have a right to do, but no particular reason to do - except for that critical e-mail or article or book about national health care or gun control or global warming or whatever....
8.4.2009 3:25pm
Chimaxx (mail):
The Joker has awoken the sleeping giant


Yeah, who woke up Gachnar?
8.4.2009 3:32pm
SeaDrive:
If you go back to the time of Hillary-Care, the right wing had a wonderful time with malicious interpretation of various clauses. And right now we have the granny-killing nonsense. Obviously, the internet-aware White House wants to get in front of these things before they go viral, if possible. It seems prudent to me.
8.4.2009 3:33pm
BerkeleyBeetle:
Given the willingness of the Obama administration to single out individuals and use its position to publicly villify them (Crowley being the most recent case), I'm not sure characterizing the concern as one about direct government retaliation is correct. Many people won't want to be branded "the enemy" by a popular politician whose followers have a history of attempting to destroy the reputation of those who oppose him, no matter how apparently irrelevant to the issue (Joe the Plumber).

While the rhetoric is over the top, I don't think the point is entirely unreasonable.
8.4.2009 3:38pm
Houston Lawyer:
You don't have to prosecute someone to make their life miserable. Just ask Sarah Palin.

This information is being sought by the ideological allies of the people seeking the names of people who sign petitions seeking the repeal of same sex marriage. The purpose of seeking the information is to learn the identities of your opponents so you can publicly out them. The vast majority of people who forward emails containing questionable data don't want to become Joe the Plumber.

Snitches or Rat Bastards, take your choice.
8.4.2009 3:42pm
hillbilly habeus:
If you think Joe the P was not a plant to "gotcha" Obama, you are sadly mistaken. Yikes...

I do agree with Houston L - there is a sunshine-shaming component to this tactic that we have seen w/ the Prop 8 opponents. And yet, it seems that if you want to go around making political points, petitions, etc, then you should welcome the barrage as another vector to spread your side of the story or your particular message...
8.4.2009 3:49pm
Mr L (mail):
This isn't about snitching, it's about signaling to the 'independent' progressive 501(c)(3) Media Matters-type outlets the administration's preferred message: we can't sell this thing on the merits, so we need to identify an Enemy to rail against. The Republicans have largely refused to play boogeyman here (first smart thing they've done in years, IMHO) and directly attacking one of the involved parties like the insurance industry will cause them to back off, so they need someone else to do it.

Longer term, the problem as I see it is that the same guys asking the True Believer crowd to help them collect badthink 'disinformation' can (and do) turn around and ask them for 'help' promoting the administration's platform. That's not a bad thing in and of itself but when the 'help' tends to include stuff like hacking email accounts, DoS attacks, illegal access to private records by 'helpful' civil servants, and other slime it reminds me of the brownshirts.
8.4.2009 3:56pm
Brian G (mail) (www):
Obama is only trying to stop the flood of disinformation and propaganda put out by the right wing fear mongers who are concerned about pharmecutical companies stock prices than everyone having equal access to health care, which as we all know is only available to rich white people, who aren't forced to seek treatment at the clinic, which are only found in minority neighborhoods.

On the other hand, Bush was out there tlistening to everyone's phone conversations and reading their e-mails. That was way worse.
8.4.2009 4:00pm
Bruce Hayden (mail):
If you go back to the time of Hillary-Care, the right wing had a wonderful time with malicious interpretation of various clauses. And right now we have the granny-killing nonsense. Obviously, the internet-aware White House wants to get in front of these things before they go viral, if possible. It seems prudent to me.
Let me suggest that the reason that this is so successful right now is that the few people who really understand the proposals since they drafted them aren't stepping forward to explain them, and those who are responsible for voting on them don't really understand exactly what they are supposed to be backing and why.

So, why is there death counseling for granny in at least the House bill? It was presumably put in there to save money on health care (because that is the supposed purpose of the legislation), so, if it isn't there to convince her to let the state off her when she becomes too troublesome, then why is it in the legislation? (Note, I am not really suggesting this, but throwing it out as an example of why this legislation has been so mishandled).

If you can't explain why something is in the legislation, and what that will help with the avowed goal of the legislation, then it probably shouldn't be there. And as someone pointed out recently, the problem with the health care bills that have come out is that they were cobbled together with the usual sausage making that goes into writing legislation. The suggestion was that the Obama Administration screwed up, in trying to prevent the HillaryCare fiasco, by going to far in the opposite direction, leaving the bill writing to Congress, which means the most liberal members, who have risen to the top there through representing the safest Democratic districts.
8.4.2009 4:00pm
Bruce Hayden (mail):
On the other hand, Bush was out there tlistening to everyone's phone conversations and reading their e-mails. That was way worse.
I am assuming that this was being sarcastic, because obviously it didn't happen.
8.4.2009 4:01pm
Bruce Hayden (mail):
The Joker has awoken the sleeping giant.
Talk about going viral. The more that the Obama Joker poster is attacked as being in bad taste, etc., the more popular it gets - and not just to those on the right.

It is something like forbidden fruit. Up until now, it has been forbidden to really attack President Obama in anything near a personal manner. And the poster was over the top. BUT, those defending him have grossly overreacted to it, and that is why has gone viral.

And, now, after that, it is now a little more societally acceptable to personally attack the President in the manner that his predecessors (and notably his immediate one) were.
8.4.2009 4:07pm
pubdef (mail):
Yes it may be a good faith attempt to formulate argument rebuttal. OTOH I recall a report (from the WSJ if I recall correctly) during the Clinton Administration of some hapless couple who didn't wish to have a particualr rehab facility opened in their neighborhood and so attended the meetings opposing the project wrote letters and performed other seemingly perfectly appropriate civic actions and then found themselves prosecuted under some bizarre federal criminal theory. I think we all get a little nervous when federal officals wish to collect information about the exercise of free speech and sadly that trepidation is not always ill founded...
8.4.2009 4:21pm
DangerMouse:
Up until now, it has been forbidden to really attack President Obama in anything near a personal manner. And the poster was over the top. BUT, those defending him have grossly overreacted to it, and that is why has gone viral.

I see nothing wrong with personally attacking the President or his family. They did it to Sarah Palin, so it can be done to them.
8.4.2009 4:22pm
/:
If the administration desired to debate political rivals, that could be arrange.

If the administration desired to spy and poll political enemies, that is being arranged.

There's quite a bit of difference. One is the intellectually honest route of persuasion and understanding. The other is the bunker with bombs falling, Eva in the corner.
8.4.2009 4:22pm
Mr L (mail):
If you think Joe the P was not a plant to "gotcha" Obama, you are sadly mistaken.

Yes, we all know how Joe the Plumber is an evil Republican cyborg. Evidence? Duh: he's the son of a son-in-law of Charles Keating, who gave money to John McCain (and four Democrats, whoops) for help more than twenty years ago.

No, seriously: that's the evidence. There's nothing more to the argument; check the Google if you don't believe me. Some guy is the son of some guy that married some girl that's related to a dude who has been a political non-actor for two decades and apparently favored Democrats even when he did...and that proves he's a plant. QED.

Ugh.
8.4.2009 4:24pm
Assistant Village Idiot (mail) (www):
That some people might have innocent motives for requesting this information does not mean that all receivers of the information will use it innocently.

If this administration believes it has a bounden duty to protect us from our own bad decisions by taking over large portions of health insurance, and thus care, they might spare a thought to protect us from the bad decisions of the worst members of government.
8.4.2009 4:24pm
Neo (mail):
There was a bit of derision about the Bush Administration trying to get information about threats to national security based on public "tips", so I find it a bit weird that threats to a legislative agenda should get any less such derision.
8.4.2009 4:24pm
SeaDrive:

So, why is there death counseling for granny in at least the House bill? It was presumably put in there to save money on health care (because that is the supposed purpose of the legislation), so, if it isn't there to convince her to let the state off her when she becomes too troublesome, then why is it in the legislation?


This is a fine example of "ask a question, supply a malicious answer" politics.

The fact is that everyone who deals with end-of-life care thinks its a good idea to talk about it. The health care bill just says that insurance has to pay for the doctor visit.

You should be tad more sophisticated in your thinking. Any big bill like this is going to include corrections and improvements to prior legislation. In this case, not every clause is there to save money. In fact, there are more clauses that will increase spending, perhaps to an unsupportable degree.

I agree that Congress is not organized to do a good job with these big bills, and that Senators and Congressmen don't really know what they are voting on in the detail that they should. It's a systemic problem not confined to one administration. The Republican Congress didn't understand the Patriot Act any better than the Democratic Congress understands the Health Care proposals.
8.4.2009 4:26pm
Tailgunner (mail):
I disagree with Obamacare. I have examples and logic to back up my arguments.

My liberal opponent cannot refute my arguments with anything other than mindless talking points.

They are angered and humiliated by their inability to win a debate without ideas.

So they fall back on their reliable strategy of personal attacks. Only this time the White House has given them an opportunity to cause real harm to the person who just destroyed their arguments.

A (slightly enhanced) version of the debate, with a few details about right wing threats, gun ownership, and being a fan of Rush and/or Glenn Beck, and Janet Reno II at DHS will send an agent or 12 to knock on his door...at 3am.

Silly? Absolutely not. Not the way Obama's been intimidating dissent since the campaign.
8.4.2009 4:28pm
DangerMouse:
SeaDrive,

Obamacare is basically Cash-for-Clunkers as applied to people. Turn in the old, destroy them, and then spend money on the younger models. That's Obamacare in a nutshell.

The entire point is to stop paying for costs that the government deems unworthty. And President Infanticide has deemed the old, among others, as unworthy, so that they shouldn't get a pacemaker, but just take a pain pill. It's not for nothing that this is always the solution that government-run healthcare has imposed. That's why Britain is rationing cortisone treatments for back pain.
8.4.2009 4:32pm
MCM (mail):
Obamacare is basically Cash-for-Clunkers as applied to people. Turn in the old, destroy them, and then spend money on the younger models. That's Obamacare in a nutshell.


soylent green is people?
8.4.2009 4:39pm
DangerMouse:
Right, MCM, go ahead and mock. Meanwhile, Obama keeps saying things like "just take a pain pill" and the bill inexplicitly contains provisions subsidizing suicide counseling....
8.4.2009 4:41pm
Brian K (mail):
So let me get this straight:

Bush spying on americans, in secret: perfectly okay
Bush's FBI spying on political activists: perfectly okay
Obama asking for information on lies about his healthcare plan: the world is going to end

are conservatives even trying to be consistent anymore?
8.4.2009 4:44pm
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8.4.2009 4:44pm
Sarcastro (www):
I, too, hate me various political policy ideas!

I also have examples and logic to back up my arguments, but, like you, I shall not post them as I fear for my life should they become known!

My opponent cannot refute my secret arguments with anything other than mindless talking points, unlike my own argument which, while secret, is totally new and insightful and convincing.

The other side is angered and humiliated by their inability to win a debate without ideas. I am also angry and shout, but my anger is righteous and differs from them in it's purity!

Thus, the other side falls back on their reliable strategy of personal attacks, which my side never does, due to our virtue and possession of actual, awesome arguments. Which I would post except they are secret.
8.4.2009 4:45pm
Brian K (mail):
the bill inexplicitly contains provisions subsidizing suicide counseling

so trying to prevent people from committing suicide is a bad thing?
8.4.2009 4:45pm
Brian K (mail):
i think Sarcastro just won the thread with that one
8.4.2009 4:47pm
DangerMouse:
so trying to prevent people from committing suicide is a bad thing?

Who said anything about preventing? Try encouraging.
8.4.2009 4:47pm
Sarcastro (www):
Yes, Obama wants to kill your grandparents! I heard on the internet that someone saw it on a blog by someone who read part of the healthcare bill!

And, frighteningly, Obama's resorted fearmongering to pass a law making his hunger for the flesh of the elderly legal!

Don't fall for his terror tactics! (Though watch out, if you don't get with the program, Obama's thugs are totally watching you RIGHT NOW!)
8.4.2009 4:50pm
Brian K (mail):
Who said anything about preventing? Try encouraging.

I don't really even need to say anything in response to this. you clearly are no longer grounded in reality...you're not even trying to make it look like you are anymore.
8.4.2009 4:51pm
DangerMouse:
Brian,

It's not so far fetched. Oregon wouldn't pay for chemotherapy but would pay for assisted suicide. You should view that video report that I posted.
8.4.2009 4:52pm
Chimaxx (mail):
Yup. Definitely Gachnar.
8.4.2009 4:55pm
Bruce Hayden (mail):
So, why is there death counseling for granny in at least the House bill? It was presumably put in there to save money on health care (because that is the supposed purpose of the legislation), so, if it isn't there to convince her to let the state off her when she becomes too troublesome, then why is it in the legislation?
This is a fine example of "ask a question, supply a malicious answer" politics.
Well,yes, that was the intent.
You should be tad more sophisticated in your thinking. Any big bill like this is going to include corrections and improvements to prior legislation. In this case, not every clause is there to save money. In fact, there are more clauses that will increase spending, perhaps to an unsupportable degree.

I agree that Congress is not organized to do a good job with these big bills, and that Senators and Congressmen don't really know what they are voting on in the detail that they should. It's a systemic problem not confined to one administration. The Republican Congress didn't understand the Patriot Act any better than the Democratic Congress understands the Health Care proposals.
Well, I am not sure about the Republicans voting for the PATRIOT Act, but it does appear in retrospect that there were a bunch of Democrats who now say that they didn't understand it. But much of that, I suspect, is shoppers remorse.

In any case, why should the American people support a bill so complex that there are few in Congress who understand it?

Finally, one of the problems with your thesis that those on the right are taking things out of context and intentionally misinterpreting the statutory language is that it really doesn't matter what the intent of the legislation is. Rather, it is the wording that matters. And there is plenty of legislation out there that was passed for all the right reasons, but has had terrible side effects.

Again, let me repeat. It doesn't matter what the drafters of a bill meant for it to do. What matters is what the bill says. And you cannot morally step back from the unintended consequences of legislation just because it didn't do what you meant it to do, or did something totally different. If you can't predict with some certainty what the legislation that you are proposing is going to do, then it shouldn't be passed until you do, and if you pass it anyway, you have moral responsibility for its results.
8.4.2009 4:55pm
DangerMouse:
Here's a link to that Oregon assisted suicide story at Youtube, if you can't view it on the news website.

Oregon will pay for assisted suicide but not chemotherapy.
8.4.2009 5:01pm
SuperSkeptic (mail):
Again, let me repeat. It doesn't matter what the drafters of a bill meant for it to do. What matters is what the bill says.

Only 2 on SCOTUS believe that...
8.4.2009 5:02pm
suze (mail):
Who are you kidding?!?

Take as an example how Obama handled the "response" to those who were circulating video of him - in his own words - stating his ideological stance on government health care. In the face of his (more recent) blatant lies about his ideology, Ms Douglas makes a video - essentially attacking those who would believe their own eyes/ears and taking to task those who would call the prez's credibility into question.

This is NOT an attempt to corral false messaging and correct it. It is a clear attempt to isolate those who object to his pabulum, and to target them for attack. This Administration has a long history of this kind of disgraceful behavior - calling out private citizens BY NAME, FROM THE OFFICE - to disparage them: Jim Cramer, Rush Limbaugh, Joe the Plumber...remember? It is disgustingly unprofessional, juvenile, and thuggery of the lowest kind.

Have you already forgotten the Missouri Goon Squads that DOPE deployed during his campaign?!? He hired pols to scour MO looking ofr "any information about obama, deemed false by the obie campaign". The "TRUTH SQUADS" then circled the "offender", targetted them for offense and attempted to shut them up! In some cases, they made arrests. In others, they just disrupted the information channel. How quickly we forget!

Don't be naive. Wake up
8.4.2009 5:06pm
Dan Hamilton:
Just for a minute think about what would have happened if Bush had said the same thing about what was happening in Iraq.

There were many lies and distortions being generated. The difference is that those lies were generated by the MSM, Dems, and other Libs.

The screems would have been heard from every media outlet for weeks. Every hour of the day and night.

For all the people who think that this is alright for Obama please answer the question would it have been alright for Bush?

I don't think so.
8.4.2009 5:07pm
Brian K (mail):
It's not so far fetched. Oregon wouldn't pay for chemotherapy but would pay for assisted suicide. You should view that video report that I posted.

I did view it...it's an awfully long jump from one isolated incident that i'm positive was taken out of context* to the government forcing people to do something that is currently illegal in 49 states. Hence why I said your arguments are not even based in reality anymore. Not to mention the obvious lack of respect you have for the physicians doing the counseling. Treating suicidal patients is extremely challenging work.

And you are aware that few, if any, insurance companies pay for experimental chemo, right? and you aware of the great lengths that private insurance companies go to to avoid paying for non-experimental (and very expensive) chemo, right? One of my patients died from cancer after her private insurance company kept denying her requests for chemo. They eventually canceled her insurance and by the time she showed up to the publicly funded hospital I was at it was to late to do anything except treat her pain as we watched her die. These things happen all the time, where is your outrage at that?


*the letter sent was multiple pages, they only show 2 partial sentences with plenty ellipses
8.4.2009 5:10pm
Gabriel McCall (mail):
Nothing to worry about here. The government has no malicious or mistaken motivations in gathering this sort of information.

No census data was provided to the War Department in support of the Japanese-American internment program during WW2. No gun registration lists have been used in weapon confiscation programs. The FBI has not published documents indicating that persons who stand on their constitutional rights and ask law enforcement officers to state the legal basis for a detention are right-wing extremists and domestic terror suspects.

I don't see how anyone could suspect that this White House program could be misused.
8.4.2009 5:14pm
DangerMouse:
Brian,

Not to mention the obvious lack of respect you have for the physicians doing the counseling. Treating suicidal patients is extremely challenging work.

I have tons of respect for anyone counseling people that suicide should not be an option. I have nothing but loathing towards any doctor or bureaucrat who thinks that assisted suicide, otherwise known as murder, is the answer.

And while there are always challenges in paying for expensive medicine, it's very different for the government to tell someone that the answer to medical costs of a state health plan is for them to kill themselves.

Seriously, if Oregon is doing it, why wouldn't it happen under Obamacare?
8.4.2009 5:18pm
Brian K (mail):
Seriously, if Oregon is doing it, why wouldn't it happen under Obamacare?

You're serious? Did you not even read my post or do you just ignore facts that don't fit your make believe reality?

1) assisted suicide is illegal in 49 states. do you have any evidence whatsoever that it is about to legalized federally? i highly doubt it.

2) it requires the belief that physicians en mass will actively counsel their patients to kill themselves. hence why i said you displayed, and still display, a complete lack of respect for physicians despite your claims to the contrary.
8.4.2009 5:25pm
Losantiville:
Eugene,

Does one generally report on the activities of others to the government? Is it polite to do so? Outside of serious (Common Law) crimes, I wouldn't do it.

I can't imagine any libertarians who would. Generally, I avoid communicating with the government as much as possible. It doesn't matter who is in charge. Libertarians eschew government interaction as much as possible.
8.4.2009 5:29pm
DangerMouse:
1. Preemption.

2. Bureaucrats, not doctors, will be doing this under Obamacare. They might outsource the "counseling" to people like ACORN.
8.4.2009 5:29pm
Steve H (mail):
From PatHMV @3:24


I'm generally in agreement with your point, Eugene, but I'd like to add a point or two.

There's a distinction between the intent of a message and the effect it will likely have on its intended audience. The White House may indeed have no intention of capturing the e-mail addresses of messages forwarded to them and using such improperly to target dissenters; in other words, the White House may well in truth only be interested in the content of the rumors and disinformation, not the identity of the senders of same.

But what is the perception of this request, among its intended audience (presumably, supporters of the President and his ObamaCare plans). Do they read only an innocuous request for a heads up about the opposition's talking points, or do they read that same message in a more sinister way, promoting an "us versus them" philosophy, encouraging snitching?


I think this is a very incisive post. But at the same time, the only reason the "perception" is out there is because of the right-wing conspiracy garbage that's been thrown around for the past year.

It's like the "all your computer are belong to us" issue -- anyone with half a brain would realize that there is no way the government is actually claiming ownership of everyone's private computers, and there is no way the Obama Administration is actually asking people to snitch on their neighbors. But if you spend your time listening to rants about how the President is really a Socialist grandma-euthanizing white-people-and-culture-hating Kenyan, this stuff sounds plausible.
8.4.2009 5:34pm
Bruce Hayden (mail):
Again, let me repeat. It doesn't matter what the drafters of a bill meant for it to do. What matters is what the bill says. And you cannot morally step back from the unintended consequences of legislation just because it didn't do what you meant it to do, or did something totally different. If you can't predict with some certainty what the legislation that you are proposing is going to do, then it shouldn't be passed until you do, and if you pass it anyway, you have moral responsibility for its results.
Yes, maybe this was a bit strong. But there was a discussion the other day about the unintended consequences of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act in 2008 concerning lead concentrations. Not only are rinestones apparently banned in any kids clothes, but books published before 1985 may have too much lead in the ink. With health care reform, we are talking maybe 1/6 of our economy, and if anything goes wrong with the legislation, if there are unintended consequences, then those unintended consequences are likely to far, far, more catastrophic than the CPSIA. And that is why the "Trust me, I haven't read the legislation either, but trust me anyway" attitude is so troubling to so many.
8.4.2009 5:34pm
Brian K (mail):
They might outsource the "counseling" to people like ACORN.

HAHAHAHAHA...i literally laughed out loud at this one!

You really are no longer playing with a full deck of cards. Why anyone would fall for the right's conspiracy theories involving ACORN and everything imaginable that is evil is beyond me.
8.4.2009 5:40pm
Sarcastro (www):

if Oregon is doing it, why wouldn't it happen under Obamacare?

It would be irresponsible not to assume it is true!
8.4.2009 5:40pm
SG:
But at the same time, the only reason the "perception" is out there is because of the right-wing conspiracy garbage that's been thrown around for the past year.

The conspiracy garbage gets thrown around by true-believers of the party out-of-power. It just happens to be right-wing conspiracy now.

Remember the outrage a few years ago because the government was going to be able to find out what library books you checked out? Yet it seems that most of the same people who thought that to be outrageous are leading the charge to have the government having everybody's medical records and determining what treatments people will receive.

How do people square that circle? There's a non-zero probability that the president will be a Republican at some point in the future. Do you really want a Republican to have that kind of information about you, and hold that kind of power over you?
8.4.2009 5:44pm
davod (mail):
"If you think Joe the P was not a plant to "gotcha" Obama, you are sadly mistaken."

As I recall, the authorities closed off the street JP lived in so Obama could walk down it. Just when did JP set about planning to plant himself on Obama.
8.4.2009 5:45pm
Federal Dog:
It's naive to imagine that Obama does not have an entire staff devoted solely to following media coverage of the administration, including Internet coverage and blogs. They do not need members of the public identifying dissenters: That staff of professional media monitors knows how to run Internet searches.

They are soliciting aid from the public about potential dissenters to foster division and make those furnishing identifying information a functioning part of the administration. People who have actually turned in strangers to the government based on political disagreement lose critical distance necessary to dispassionate evaluation of administration policies -- even the most destructive and wrongheaded ones.

Which, of course, is the point.

Given the threats of litigation, character assassination, and other coercion used during the campaign, it is impossible to dismiss the possibility that the identifying information is being sought uniquely for benign purposes.
8.4.2009 5:53pm
Federal Dog:
"it is impossible to dismiss the possibility that the identifying information is being sought uniquely for benign purposes."

Oops: Is NOT being sought uniquely for benign purposes.
8.4.2009 5:55pm
DangerMouse:
So the "progressives" in Oregon want to murder people in order to save on government health care costs, and I'm supposed to trust that the Infanticide President won't do the same, when the current plan has provisions in there counseling people to kill themselves?

Ok.
8.4.2009 5:55pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
A "serious" comment:

They might outsource the "counseling" to people like ACORN.

Sarcastro, your work here is done. You've been made redundant.
8.4.2009 6:03pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
Another "serious" comment,

So the "progressives" in Oregon want to murder people in order to save on government health care costs, and I'm supposed to trust that the Infanticide President won't do the same, when the current plan has provisions in there counseling people to kill themselves?

Sarcastro: ibid.
8.4.2009 6:06pm
egd:

One of my patients died from cancer after her private insurance company kept denying her requests for chemo. They eventually canceled her insurance and by the time she showed up to the publicly funded hospital I was at it was to late to do anything except treat her pain as we watched her die. These things happen all the time, where is your outrage at that?

Well, under the private system, when stories like this get out, the company will either lose customers or change their policies. If this was my private insurer, then I would change plans.

Under the government system, when stories like this get out, we say "that's too bad" and the government continues to provide poor service. There's no threat of losing customers, no chance of receiving less money next year, so government continues on its reckless course.

Sure we could elect new representatives - in two, four, or six years - but how many people are going to vote for pro-experimental-cancer-treatment pols when they can vote to build a new bridge in town.
8.4.2009 6:07pm
davod (mail):
"*I did view it...it's an awfully long jump from one isolated incident"

The letter, yes letter, from the Oregon health agency, was on line at the time. There was no room for misinterpretation.
8.4.2009 6:08pm
Rochelle Funderburg (mail):
Here in Illinois it's well known that Rahm Emmanuel sent a political opponent a dead fish wrapped in newspaper--and that he's apparrently behind the letters sent to dissenting senators, telling them to back off or their states get no money. I don't think it's too paranoid to think he'll try to punish average citizens who complain about this travesty of a bill.
8.4.2009 6:16pm
Chimaxx (mail):
Rochelle: How do you know the fish was dead when Rahm sent it? It could have died in the mail.
8.4.2009 6:27pm
True North (mail):
Really what were they thinking? The typical email probably reads something like:


Dear White House, My neighbor blasphemed the Obamessiah. Please send the inquisition to come torture him.
8.4.2009 6:51pm
Angus:
The Oregon case is a recent talking point, but not a very good one. The facts of the case are that the poor woman was given a terminal diagnosis of cancer in May 2008. Her lung cancer was so widespread there was no hope of remission, or even of shrinkage. She was given 4-6 months to live. She applied for a rare and expensive chemotherapy drug which had zero chance of saving her and no chance of working to even prolong her life a single day. The state sent her a letter of her options: hospice care, pallative care, etc. Only once did it mention assisted suicide as a possibility.

She ended up getting the chemo drug anyway because of the public outcry and dying 5 months after her terminal diagnosis, exactly her prognosis without the new drug. A sad and tragic case, but not the "liberals kill old people!" case conservatives make it out to be.
8.4.2009 7:18pm
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
Now of course if you think that the Administration would prosecute your friend for e-mailing you supposed "disinformation about health insurance reform," then indeed you shouldn't help the Administration do it. But, seriously, is that really likely?

Gosh! You guys should see the rumor I'm going to forward to <flag@whitehouse.gov> under Professor Volokh's name! It's a doozy!

But don't worry. The White House staff only wants to refute the rumors. They have no interest in knowing who'd spreading them. Really.

--

I'm kidding, of course. But somebody else might not be. That's the first unintended consequence that came to mind when I read this post. I thought people from Eastern Europe were more familiar with the delightful tradition of falsely ratting on your enemies and rivals for personal advantage?

Note that someone familiar with IP address spoofing would be more likely to falsely turn in Professor Volokh for crimethink by using an e-mail message that apparently was sent by hillbilly habeus ...
8.4.2009 7:22pm
Mr L (mail):
Here in Illinois it's well known that Rahm Emmanuel sent a political opponent a dead fish wrapped in newspaper—and that he's apparrently behind the letters sent to dissenting senators, telling them to back off or their states get no money.

In unrelated news, it seems that areas that supported Obama tended to get substantially more stimulus dollars than those that didn't. Could be a coincidence, though. Or not.
8.4.2009 7:38pm
DiversityHire (mail):
True North: LOL, hey that's my new email, too!
8.4.2009 7:52pm
whistlebj:
"They are naturally and reasonably interested in hearing what the arguments against it are"

Yeah,
I'm sure that's why they used the words

"disinformation"

and

"rumors".
8.4.2009 8:30pm
MCM (mail):
In unrelated news, it seems that areas that supported Obama tended to get substantially more stimulus dollars than those that didn't.


And in truly surprising news, more urbanized areas both (a) supported Obama more and (b) have more potential projects to spend money on. Amazing how confounding variables can confound idiots on the internet.
8.4.2009 8:34pm
jt007:
This comment thread is ridiculous. Liberals were apoplectic about the Patriot Act despite the fact that few had ever read it or had any idea what was in it. They were apoplectic despite the fact that the Democrats controlled the Senate when it was passed and the majority of Democrats in Congress voted for it in 2001 (Russ Feingold was the only U.S. Senator to vote against it). When liberals whined that the Bush Administration was monitoring citizen's library activity, none other than noted Bush crony, Dianne Feinstein, stated that she had reviewed the application of the Patriot Act and that she had not found any instances of abuse of the law.

Now, the Obama administration solicits information from people regarding their co-workers, neighbors etc. and liberals just shrug. Joe the Plumber was not a plant. The Obama campaign came traipsing through his neighborhood, right in front of his house. He challenged Obama and a state bureaucrat who was an official in Obama's Ohio campaign abused her power to review his tax and child support records. Unfortunately, there is reason to suspect the motives of the Obama administration and the Democrat party. They have abused their power in the past and there is no reason to believe they won't do it again.

As for the nonsensical defense of Obama's attempted take over of the heath care system, his defendners need to take a deep breath. Obama and his cronies have repeatedly sold the need for reform on the alleged basis that "we spend too much on health care" and on "useless procedures". Obama intends to save us all from needless tonsilectomies. They are saying that we need to cut costs while at the same time they are saying that we need to expand coverage and preventative care. Those are mutually exclusive goals unless the government decides to eliminate certain kinds of care. The empirical evidence from every other socialized system in the world is that the government will ration care. They have universal coverage but they dispense less care to those who are covered. The government dictates what kind of care will be dispensed and the amount of care that will be dispensed (see the linke to the article regarding the UK's NHS NICE commission and its decision to severely restrict the number of steroid injections for back pain sufferers). Of course Obama wants to eliminate priovate insurance. Dependency on the government for one's health care will further consolidate the government's power. That is his clear goal. He doesn't want to let a good crisis go to waste.
8.4.2009 8:45pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):
Yes, only conservatives over-react to White House programs.



BRATTLEBORO -- Likening a new program to recruit 1 million citizen informants to Soviet-style repression, Sen. Patrick Leahy, said Tuesday he will have some tough questions for Justice Department leaders spearheading the effort.

"I find it kind of scary," Leahy told the Reformer Tuesday about the little-known Operation TIPS, the Terrorism Information and Prevention System, which is set to launch next month.


JammieWearingFool has a blog, Leahy chairs the Judiciary Committee.
8.4.2009 8:46pm
DiversityHire (mail):
whistlebj, you're right. If the white house were interested in debate, transparency, openness, crowd-sourcing and accountability, they would use a system that reduces the asymmetry in the relationships it has with supporters and distractors; e.g., a wiki with registration & a current version-controlled copy of the president's plan &current version-controlled copies of the legislation under discussion w/ author attributions, links to relevant data, and editable annotations and comments by registered, public users. They are naturally interested in hearing the arguments, but they're also naturally interested in increasing the division between their true-believers and the rest of the country and ensuring that the legislative process remains as opaque as it has always been. The most compelling idea Candidate Obama put forth was transparent government for the internet era; so far his administration's efforts seem like "Web 1.0"—all marketing pushed through the tubes, no flattening of relationships, no interaction. At least there aren't any <blink> tags.
8.4.2009 9:09pm
therut (mail):
I wonder what "provider" will be allowed to give "information" to and help explain and help fill out the appropriate forms for the elderly person. Will it be limited to their physician who at least knows something about the patients health status or will the Hospice Servive or "others" be allowed to help granny? Aso they say they will now pay for the visit. If it is anyting like Medicare that could be they pay you 1.00 for the service and since it is now a "covered" interaction that is all you will be allowed to collect for your services. Just because the .gov "covers" the service does not mean it is worth your time to provide said service. I bet they will pay more than they do now under Medicare for an office visit and let "others" talk to granny. I see a new certification speciality for a "End of Life Specialist" developing( Associated with Hospice in some way). Probably can take a 1 week class and the bill the hell out of the government. Hospice has already changed some of their rules and are making Nursing Home Consults without any physician asking for the service. They are also hooked up with the SS at the hospitals and "talk" to patients whom someone other that the physician determines "might be interested". They do have a good sales pitch of "Freebies" for granny.
8.4.2009 9:42pm
Ken Arromdee:
When liberals whined that the Bush Administration was monitoring citizen's library activity, none other than noted Bush crony, Dianne Feinstein, stated that she had reviewed the application of the Patriot Act and that she had not found any instances of abuse of the law.


How is anyone going to find anything considering that abuses will be accompanied by gag orders?
8.4.2009 10:32pm
Owen H. (mail):
Gee Bob, you don't see a difference between asking people to tell them about possibly false claims about the health care proposals (just see anything by DangerMouse as an example), and actually asking people to spy on people they have special access to? This doesn't seem to be asking (or caring) about who said something, only what was said so they can respond to it. How often have we heard someone claim that Obama ignoring a rumor means it must be true? Heck, that's the Birther battlecry.
8.4.2009 10:44pm
JSinAZ:
I think Bob is just the sort of which we need to make an example. Anybody know where he works?
8.4.2009 11:14pm
Neo (mail):
Ten years ago, you couldn't sell this plot or give it away.
8.4.2009 11:31pm
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
Anybody who gets a chance should redirect all their spam and other emails of no use to the flag@whitehouse.gov address. Let's drown them in reports of various names and addresses (whether those names and addresses actually exist or not). If they get swamped with false leads and false claims they won't be able to find anything.

Just a thought. I'm not actually advocating such an expression of free speech and actions by a free people.

Says the "Dog"
8.4.2009 11:49pm
Ricardo (mail):
Bob, when a government program has people such as utility workers, postmen and others with limited access to people's homes and property report on "suspicious" activity, and that program is described as "little-known" or "ill-defined," that's cause for concern. One thing that wasn't ill-defined about the program was plans to log reports of "suspicious activity" -- which was never really defined -- in various law enforcement databases that the public would likely not have access to.

Yes, that's it is a bit of a problem in a free country to recruit civilian workers to be part-time spies for the government, particularly if they have access to individuals' homes or property. Like other policies dreamed up by the Bush Administration in late 2001-2002, it had serious slippery slope potential and it is a good thing that this was nixed and replaced with more sensible policies. If the Obama Administration were collecting the contact information of people who opposed his health plan and then handed it over to the FBI or DHS, that would also be a problem. That doesn't seem to be what is going on, though.
8.4.2009 11:56pm
JSinAZ:
It is particularly important to provide the White House with as much assistance as possible to drive this lucid and well-understood initiative to its rightful conclusion, defeating ideological resistance with procedural transparency and bipartisan comradeship. The efforts of the administration in this respect is like a cool, refreshing breeze on a mountain slope after being freed from the mire in a festering swamp of corruption, ennui and apathy!
8.5.2009 12:08am
ChrisTS (mail):
Thanks Owen. I was starting to think no one actually read either EV's post OR the WH message.
8.5.2009 12:21am
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
Well, under the private system, when stories like this [denial of care] get out, the company will either lose customers or change their policies. If this was my private insurer, then I would change plans.
Son, this is the Real World, not libertarian paradise. All of the private insurance agencies are maximizing their profits by screwing customers. None of the private insurance agencies are worried about going out of business for lack of applicants. I realize this contradicts GLibertarian theory. Draw your own conclusions.

Try googling 'rescission'.
8.5.2009 12:38am
Peyton Manning:
I'd kill a snitch.
8.5.2009 12:45am
jt007:

Gee Bob, you don't see a difference between asking people to tell them about possibly false claims about the health care proposals (just see anything by DangerMouse as an example), and actually asking people to spy on people they have special access to?

Bob, you knocked it out of the park. The liberal response is nonsenical snark because they can't refute what you said. See you liberal knuckleheads, terrorism is a real threat. I know this because after two years of campaigning against the Bush Administration's tactics against terrorism, the idiot who currently occupies the Oval Office has maintained 90% of those policies and liberals suddenly have no problem with them (Guantanamo is still open and we're past 100 days, the battlefield in the war on terror is worldwide, terorist detainees can be held indefinitely, the military tribunals are suddenly constitutional, state secrets are to be protected in court proceedings, etc.). On the other hand, the Obama policy is to snitch on Americans exercising their first amendment right to criticize Obama's power grab ("You never want a serious crisis to go to waste"). You see this crisis that began with idiotic Democrat housing policy is nothing but an opportunity for the Democrat party to expand and consolidate the power of the federal government. That is the basis for their desire for Americans to spy on one one another in support of Obama's nonsensical attempt to expand coverage, increase preventative care and cut costs. The Bush Administration wanted to protect our national security. The Obama Administration wants to expand its political power. I'm not surprised that liberals are completely in support of the latter after opposing the former.
8.5.2009 1:35am
Leo Marvin (mail):
ChrisTS:

Thanks Owen. I was starting to think no one actually read either EV's post OR the WH message.

You may have time to read it. I have to go demand my Congressman produce Obama's birth certificate.
8.5.2009 3:24am
Ace:
The fact is, the White House will have your contact information (and thus much more) and your views, which are opposed to the Administration. It is a leap of faith to assume good faith on the part of the Administration. I suggest having ZERO faith in the good faith of any administration when the central government is so powerful and is looking to grow increasingly so.
8.5.2009 3:36am
Ricardo (mail):
Ace, whoever monitors flag@whitehouse.gov may have your email address. What will they do with it? Sign you up to receive more p0rn and v!@gra advertisements from spammers? Send you nasty emails?

If they want to find out who you actually are, in many cases they would need to subpoena the email provider to first get your IP address and then trace the IP address to the subscriber information your ISP has on file.

Guess what? Secret agents of Obama's Agency for the Promotion of Truthfulness and Prevention of Falsehood could be getting IP addresses from the VC server right now! Maybe Eugene posted this message in anticipation of the responses that would follow as fodder for Obama's secret agents.

I trust everyone criticizing Obama on this comment section is using an anonymous proxy server with 128-bit SSL encryption to do so?
8.5.2009 4:05am
DiversityHire (mail):

If they want to find out who you actually are, in many cases they would need to subpoena the email provider to first get your IP address and then trace the IP address to the subscriber information your ISP has on file.


I get your overall point, but a lot of email providers send SMTP headers (e.g., "X-ORIGINATING-IP") that identify the host from which the email was sent. Yahoo does this. I think hotmail used to. So flag will know your email and where you like to compute.
8.5.2009 4:40am
Ricardo (mail):
DiversityHire, in the case of chain mails that get forwarded on, this header would likely get cut out in the forwarding process. And I imagine most people emailing flag@whitehouse.gov would themselves hit the forward button which would cut out the IP address.
8.5.2009 5:22am
jay77 (mail):
1) Zeke Emanuel, Rahm Emanuel's bro and Obama's health czar, only 10 years ago in an academic paper here: PDF
took the position that rationing health care was necesary, and making value based judgements on worthy recipients of govt health care such as a 25 yr old vs a 65 yr old. And he did so with ideological, complete with "how do we persuade the masses". Obama and Orszag have plainly said the way to lower health costs is to provide less care.

Brian K, you sound reasonable. Obama's surrogates and people in positions of influence DO NOT. I can NOT know that. They have proven to have extreme left wing views. You sound like if you were a czar, you would be more reasonable so far. That is, if your not an astroturfer sent here by Axelrod from flag@whitehouse.gov.

2) Obama on Single Payer System
The Obama media team, of which the flag@whitehouse.gov is a part of, is claiming Obama was taken out of context on the single payer quote. Clearly, they are lieing.

I also can NOT know this.

I also can NOT know the extent to which the leftists take language and abuse it and contort it. such as health care being a "right".

Brian K., Why do you trust what the Obama team is saying?
I would like to know how it is that you can NOT know this, as well?

Because if anyone says they are for this, but emphatically tell another they are for that... I bounce them out of my circle of trust faster than Calista Flockhart pushes away cheeseburgers. Politicians, even faster.
8.5.2009 6:34am
Owen H. (mail):
Oh, I see. If you email the President with concerns or criticism, you go on a little list...
8.5.2009 7:12am
Bill P. (mail):
"The Administration is trying to promote a particular political agenda..."

They have no business doing this. The executive is supposed to enforce the laws made by Congress & conduct foreign policy w/ the assistance of Congress.
8.5.2009 8:08am
Tim McDonald (mail):
Where else have I read about a regime that encouraged reporting friends and family who critized the government. Oh yeah. Never mind. Don't want to invoke Godfrey. Nothing to see here. Move along quietly now.
8.5.2009 8:24am
Countrylawyer (mail):
The reason this request catches my eye with more than a, "Uh, yeah. Right," response to it is the same reason that I don't have discount cards at the grocery store: information aggregation. John Doe at this e-mail account, or this street address, sent me this scandalous lie which suggests that end-of-life counselling, courtesy of government-paid actors (and not, as hitherto, by one's own attorney, pastor, doctor, or hell . . . even bartender) in a government-dominated system, is contained for as-yet unexplained reasons in a bill which is being touted as saving money and ensuring that everyone, everywhere, under all circumstances, has access to all the medical care they think they need. Now John Doe, his e-mail account (which may actually be his employer's), his address, and all manner of information is available for aggregation with voter rolls, tax records, 501(c)(3) membership information, driver records, hunting license records, census records . . . the list goes on and on, and that's just the government sponsored information, to say nothing of information generated and freely sold by private actors (like grocery store marketing associations).

Once generated, that information is another data point on this person. It can be aggregated, mined, analyzed, and the results . . . er, ummmm . . . acted upon either by the IRS (as was specifically threatened against even the employees of the secured bondholders of Chrysler by no more junior a member of the administration than the Secretary of the Treasury) or other official organs, or provided to any of a host of ACORN-like organizations for action-with-deniability. Think The One doesn't coordinate with them? Then how did ACORN get access to Opromptr's donors? And why was the newspaper story about that killed in the days before the November election (hint: can you say, "game-changer," (not my words, by the way, but the newspaper's) boys and girls?

The assumption that this particular administration intends with this turn-your-neighbor-in scheme "nothing more than fixing intentional disinformation" requires a leap of good faith about these Chicago alumni that I'm not willing to make, having seen, inter alia, how they've done "little people," people who are alarmingly like me, who have dared to jerk The One's pants down in public.

But here's my real reason for thinking the plan scary: Are we willing to make that assumption of good faith about all future administrations? Once this sort of program is out there, tested, and functional, boyzngirls, you can't put that shit back in the horse. Yeah, Bush's people may have monitored traffic for purposes of national security. But you know what? I don't consort or communicate with, or provide financial or other support to, people and organizations with known connections to terrorists; I'm not scared of Bush-style monitoring. But the proposed program does not deal with national security, or anything even remotely critical to our national survival or vital interests.

Think all such fears are irrational? The Dear Blog Host on this site should be able to recall the name Pavlik Morozov.
8.5.2009 9:45am
Cato The Elder (mail) (www):
Meh...I will stand up and say that I think Ricardo's criticism of this whole hubbub is correct; if Obama wanted our names and addresses, there are alot easier ways for him to get it. From the little I skimmed, I never even saw an appeal for those things -- it asked only for arguments and websites, I think. Be watchful, be wary, but I think we right-wingers should take the higher road on this one.

Rather, I think this is just another example of the elitist framing of debate the Left so loves. Contrary facts or interpretation becomes "dis-information", papers borne of statistics become "partisan", and omission of irrelevant claims becomes "dishonesty". If the arguments are remotely compelling, then one's opponent is never arguing in good faith.
8.5.2009 10:36am
ruralcounsel (mail):
SeaDrive, re the "granny-killing nonsense":

This from the Obama appointed "health czar" Dr. Ezekiel Emanual...

"Medical care should not be given to those who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens. An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia."

"Unlike (health care) allocation by sex or race, allocation by age is not discrimination."

"Doctors take the Hippocratic Oath too seriously as an imperative to do everyting for the patient regardless of the cost or the effects on others."

Don't act surprised. This form of rationed care is the only natural endpoint of cost control advocated by the administration. How else can the government prevent people from freely spending on health care? We do it because we want to. They see a revenue stream that they don't control, and they want it. We frogs are in the pot, and they're starting to turn up the heat.


AS for the main topic of the thread, I concur with those who advocate caution and scepticism with regard to the government's goals and intentions. Second commentor stevesturm had it exactly right; the disinformation is just as likely to come from the Obama administration as its opponents. They can't sell the truth, because we wouldn't buy it.
8.5.2009 10:44am
SG:
She ended up getting the chemo drug anyway because of the public outcry and dying 5 months after her terminal diagnosis, exactly her prognosis without the new drug. A sad and tragic case, but not the "liberals kill old people!" case conservatives make it out to be.

Correct. It doesn't support the "liberals kill old people" argument; it supports the "nationalizing health care will bankrupt the nation" argument.

Seriously, who thinks that nationalized health care is going to save money, when any proposed cut, even just to growth, will trigger a raft of campaign ads about how "Sen. Smith voted to kill your grandmother"? This provides an object lesson in exactly how tragic cases will inevitably ratchet up health care spending.

There's no way that we'll effectively hold the line on health care spending until after we've max'd out the national credit card (i.e., Chinese willingness to lend us money).
8.5.2009 10:48am
Sarcastro (www):
SG has a great point. Except for how the government already provides health care for the old in the form of Medicare, nationalized healthcare will buckle under the weight of the old!

Then we will be bankrupt grandma killers like all those other nationalized healthcare countries totally are.

Because once something becomes an entitlement, America is dooomed!
8.5.2009 10:56am
Cato The Elder (mail) (www):
Sir Castro,

How is the trajectory of Medicare spending looking like nowadays? Aren't we also trying to "bend the curve" with that hoary beast as well?
8.5.2009 11:01am
Bob from Ohio (mail):
Thanks, Owen et al for proving my point.

Liberals: Bush bad, Obama doing what is needed

Conservatives: Obama bad, Bush doing what is needed

Its just team rooting.
8.5.2009 11:27am
Bozoer Rebbe (mail) (www):

The Dear Blog Host on this site should be able to recall the name Pavlik Morozov.


I have a number of friends who are formerly Russian Jews and they all know Pavlik's name. The regime actively promoted his story.

Totalitarians aren't ashamed of their methods, so it doesn't surprise me that statists are defending activities that if done by Republicans would have them screaming.
8.5.2009 11:38am
SG:
Sarcastro:

You may think you're being sarcastic, but what you're saying is straight-up truth. Go read the SSA trustee's report. Medicare is hopelessly underfunded, and requires gargantuan tax increases and/or benefit cuts ("The Medicare Report shows that the HI Trust Fund could be brought into actuarial balance over the next 75 years by changes equivalent to an immediate 134 percent increase in the payroll tax (from a rate of 2.9 percent to 6.78 percent), or an immediate 53 percent reduction in program outlays, or some combination of the two.") to be viable on a medium-term (75 years), and even larger numbers to be viable beyond that.

Just providing health care to the elderly is bankrupting the country - Medicare alone is projected to consume 11.4% of GDP by the end of the trustee's projection. Do you have any other (unwitting) words of wisdom to explain how this problem is made better by making this same basic program a mass entitlement? I guess having more beneficiaries increases the political will to cut benefits.
8.5.2009 11:46am
jpdav (mail):
If you think Joe the P was not a plant to "gotcha" Obama, you are sadly mistaken.

That post, unintentionally, tells us exactly what is problematic about what Obama is doing here.

Joe was playing catch with his son when Obama came up to him, and asked if he had any questions. Joe had one; Obama answered it honestly; Joe didn't like the answer and said so.

And what ensued? A full-scale hit job on Joe, down to his tax returns, his professional licenses, and his real name. And he gets called a "plant" on VC.

So now Obama wants the email addresses of everyone who criticizes his health plan? Any chance these will be conveniently leaked the media? We're in for more JTP treatment for those who doubt The One, and it's not healthy.
8.5.2009 11:59am
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
From the White House blog:

For the record, the President has consistently said that if you like your insurance plan, your doctor, or both, you will be able to keep them.


Leaving aside for the moment the question of whether President Obama has actually "consistently" said this (as opposed to hedging with subtle qualifiers like "so long as [your private health insurance] is as generous as the public option"), if the bill he's actually supporting and telling Congress that it needs to be passed quickly says something different or if estimates are that tens of millions of us with private health insurance will actually lose it, which is really the "disinformation"?
8.5.2009 12:06pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Thanks, Owen et al for proving my point.

Liberals: Bush bad, Obama doing what is needed

Conservatives: Obama bad, Bush doing what is needed

Its just team rooting.


Not really. I gave President Clinton a pretty wide berth when he had to make decisions about handling foreign policy including air strikes in Iraq and his passage of the Iraq Liberation Act. Conversely I was very critical of how the administration "phased in" over several years Medicare Part D to get it "under budget" (similar to the way that Obamacare is being "phased in" so they can say with a straight face it won't cost a Trillion dollars).

My point is that my decisions about whether to give the federal government the benefit of the doubt depends a lot on what it is that they're doing or trying to do as opposed to whether I voted for the people in charge. Conduct our nation's foreign policy or prevent a terrorist attack? I'll give them a pretty berth (within some limits) because by necessity they have to operate with information that can and should not be made public with stakes that are literally life and death. Nationalize part of the economy or loot the treasury to pay of their supporters? Not a chance in Hades.
8.5.2009 12:13pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
My reference to "the administration" which passed Medicare Part D is obviously Bush 43's.
8.5.2009 12:13pm
Mac (mail):

SeaDrive:
If you go back to the time of Hillary-Care, the right wing had a wonderful time with malicious interpretation of various clauses. And right now we have the granny-killing nonsense. Obviously, the internet-aware White House wants to get in front of these things before they go viral, if possible. It seems prudent to me.


Uh, SeaDrive,

Hilary had a Democratic Congress and could not get her plan past the Democrats. They choked on it and did so without any help from the Republicans.

Re granny-killing nonsense, George Soros is a major funder of the Left and the Democrats. He was so angry with his dying father for not choosing to be euthanized that he refused to go see him. Obama's Science advisor wrote a text book recommending forced abortion and that sterilants be put in the drinking water to reduce the population. And, who is it that just suggested that killing a deformed or disabled new born baby is not really killing a person? I forget if it was the same science guy or someone else, maybe Singer?

In addition, my son was married in France. His wife's grandmother died a week before the wedding of breast cancer. She died a long, slow, painful death as France's socialized medicine refused to treat her as she was "too old". As treatable as breast cancer is, especially when you get it at an older age, there is no reason for anyone to not be treated and there was no reason for her to die of breast cancer.
8.5.2009 1:32pm
Sigh:
Zeke Emanuel is not Obama's "health care czar" and none of the abstract principles of distributional ethics he develops in academic articles has any relevance to the likely contours of health-insurance reform legislation. Indeed, the major criticism being made by deficit hawks is that the legislation does not do enough to contain health-care costs because it doesn't include any rationing provisions.

I love the way these arguments unfold:

P1: bizarre interpretation of clause in health-care legislation
P2: refutation of interpretation via accurate description of clause
P1: invocation of purported malevolent intent of liberals as rejoinder

It's like you can see the confirmation bias whirring inside someone's brain.
8.5.2009 1:38pm
Sigh:
Addendum: the house bill does more than any legislation in years to prevent de facto health-care rationing by restricting the ability of insurers to deny covering treatment.
8.5.2009 1:40pm
fritzthecat (mail):
Just an anecdote: a few years ago I had a letter to the editor published. The letter was critical of former Indiana US Representative (big time politico) Lee Hamilton. Three weeks later I was audited by the IRS. Coincidence? Perhaps. Regardless, I no longer write letters to the editor critical of anyone in government.
8.5.2009 1:45pm
Mac (mail):

Brian K (mail):
They might outsource the "counseling" to people like ACORN.

HAHAHAHAHA...i literally laughed out loud at this one!

You really are no longer playing with a full deck of cards. Why anyone would fall for the right's conspiracy theories involving ACORN and everything imaginable that is evil is beyond me.



Conspiracy theories? Then why is ACORN under inditement in 14 states for voter registration fraud?
8.5.2009 1:49pm
Sarcastro (www):
I totally see the causal connection between Medicare being underfunded and the new health care plan also being underfunded!

Because those dastardly elderly will find some way to be paid for twice!
8.5.2009 2:03pm
Sarcastro (www):
And don't call my Sir Castro! That's my Dad's name!
8.5.2009 2:04pm
Mac (mail):
jt007:

Excellent post.
8.5.2009 2:26pm
SG:
I totally see the causal connection between Medicare being underfunded and the new health care plan also being underfunded!

It seems you picked wrong cartoon character to model yourself after. May I suggest Dumbo? Or perhaps Goofy?

I'll spell it out in small words for you. As the number of people receiving benefits increases, so does the cost. We can't afford the people now covered. Since it isn't going to be cheaper when you cover more people, nor will it get easier to cut the benefits when there's more people who will be affected by any cuts, then the new program will either be underfunded, require ruinous tax increases and/or heavy borrowing or introduce rationing. Or some combination of all of the above.

Sarcasm doesn't work when it's just stupid.
8.5.2009 2:51pm
Sarcastro (www):
[SG, above, people were pointing out that the lions share of costs come from end of life care, and that once those people get put on the public option and suddenly entitled to care, the system will break. As these people are already covered, this was the silly argument I was addressing.

As to the lack of cost savings, I think additional costs is the most likely scenario. I myself have no problem with this, as I think a civilized society should view health care as an entitlement.

But that is not the realm people are arguing on. Obama says there will be cost savings. I doubt it, but here are the arguments I've heard:

The current plan of wait till things get bad and then go to the ER for free is not known for it's cost effectiveness. Furthermore, the private, market-created bureaucracy of HMOs has not proven more efficient than government run medicare.]
8.5.2009 3:06pm
PC:
It's like you can see the confirmation bias whirring inside someone's brain.

No worries. Obama has a plan to drill inside those brains to attach a dynamo and solve our energy problems! This all happens at the FEMA Happy Camps run by ACORN. Also, forced gay marriages, and after you get gay pregnant, forced gay abortions. And Sharia. Also.
8.5.2009 3:24pm
Mac (mail):

Sigh:
Addendum: the house bill does more than any legislation in years to prevent de facto health-care rationing by restricting the ability of insurers to deny covering treatment.


The house bill also will not allow insurers to deny a policy to anyone because of a pre-existing condition. Ergo, people can cheerfully wait to buy insurance until they get sick and then drop it when they are well again and no longer need insurance.

I think this is a great idea, but why stop with health insurance? Why don't we apply this rationale to all insurers? When my house burns down, then I can buy homeowners insurance. When I get into a wreck, then I can buy auto insurance and drop both as soon as everything is fixed.

We are not talking about forcing auto and homeowners insurance companies to do that because it would bankrupt them. Ditto with health insurance companies. Then the government can take over the entire system as there won't be any health insurers left. The government can also mandate coverage of anything they want insurers to cover which can make the policies so expensive no one can afford them. Same result. You really think any business is going to compete with the government and win when the government wants them out of business?
8.5.2009 3:45pm
Marky Mark (the 2nd) (mail):
I'm a little flabbergasted that you folks on the Left have so quickly forgotten the dark night of fascism that was falling over America from 2000 to 2008. To refresh your memory-- remember how happy you were when Big Brother Bush put out the call for all "misinformation" about the Iraq War to be reported to the Administration? You know, so those errors could get, um, corrected?

Remember how happyhappy we all were to finally have a government that cared so darn much about us that it would keep track of our little straying minds, and keep us on the path of righteous thinking?

Yeah... me neither.
8.5.2009 4:16pm
SG:
I myself have no problem with this, as I think a civilized society should view health care as an entitlement.

That's fine to say, but there's ultimately a finite amount of resources that society can apply to anything, including health care. The question isn't whether our society has to put its poor and elderly on ice floes (it doesn't and shouldn't), it's how much care can our society provide and how should it be provided.

I see a role for the government in being a provider of last resort (a universal catastrophic policy, or perhaps a VA-style system of hospitals &clinics). But there has to have some sort of cap. Not "has to" in a political sense, but "has to" in a there's only so much money and there ain't no more. Calling health care an entitlement doesn't make resources infinite.

So while there will always have to be hard choices to be made, I'd prefer to leave as much of that in the hands of individuals, and government-funded health care is not viewed as entitlement, but more like a privilege. Hopefully that privilege works out (although in the long-run we're all dead), but you not being denied something you're "entitled to" if the government chooses not to provide some treatment because the health care budget was finite.
8.5.2009 4:17pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
Thorley,

The people who say "[Bush/Obama] bad, [Obama/Bush] doing what is needed" are the people who say "[Bush/Obama] bad, [Obama/Bush] doing what is needed." The fallacy is attributing those statements to the "Left" and to the "Right," which by some definitions of "Left" and "Right" would mean everyone says it.
8.5.2009 4:27pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
SG,

So while there will always have to be hard choices to be made, I'd prefer to leave as much of that in the hands of individuals

There's the nub of the disagreement. I'd rather have the rationing done by a democratic government, with all the imperfections and distortions of a political process, than by an insurance company that profits by screwing people who need medical care the most. In the former instance, we can buy supplemental insurance for what the government doesn't cover. In the latter, the government safety net only kicks in when the patient is bankrupt.
8.5.2009 4:51pm
Shalom Beck (www):
"I take it that they think, as do I, that blog posts or e-mails to friends about health insurance reform are pretty safe from legal punishment and governmental harassment."

To believe this you have to have tenure.
8.5.2009 5:23pm
Brian Garst (www):
I think you missed this one pretty bad, Eugene. This is troubling on several levels.

This is not just a political entity seeking to know what arguments it needs to rebut. The address listed is @whitehouse.gov, not @DNC.whatever. This is official activity of the United States government, and not just the democratic party.

In addition, it couches it in terms of "disinformation," but the substance of the request makes quite clear that the White House views any dissenting analysis, no matter how significantly it is substantiated, as disinformation. So not only is this a troubling abuse of government resources for political purposes, but it distorts the debate in such a way as to make words like "disinformation" utterly meaningless. The erosion of language and truth is a well documented tactic of authoritarians.
8.5.2009 5:25pm
PC:
This is not just a political entity seeking to know what arguments it needs to rebut. The address listed is @whitehouse.gov, not @DNC.whatever. This is official activity of the United States government, and not just the democratic party.

This. This is a political thing involved in pushing an agenda. Setting up an official White House email address is tone deaf at best. If the Dems ran this through the DNC or one of 100 other organizations there would be no issue.

In addition, it couches it in terms of "disinformation," but the substance of the request makes quite clear that the White House views any dissenting analysis, no matter how significantly it is substantiated, as disinformation.

Hmm. Not seeing that so much.

So not only is this a troubling abuse of government resources for political purposes, but it distorts the debate in such a way as to make words like "disinformation" utterly meaningless.

May be troubling, probably not an abuse, and it doesn't really distort. On this very thread you have people like DangerMouse talking about how "Obamacare" will kill old people. Not quite Soylent Green, but not actually honest either.

So not only is this a troubling abuse of government resources for political purposes, but it distorts the debate in such a way as to make words like "disinformation" utterly meaningless.

And now we descend back into the "it's okay if my side does it" bit (unless you were taking up arms during the past administration about "authoritarian" behavior). I don't think the language is being misused, but it looks bad to do this sort of thing out of the White House.
8.5.2009 6:09pm
bbbeard (mail):

The Administration is trying to promote a particular political agenda. They are naturally and reasonably interested in hearing what the arguments against it are, and doubtless sincerely believe that many of the arguments may be unsound or even factually false. They want to rebut such arguments, but they can't do so promptly unless they hear about it promptly.


As multiple commenters have pointed out, if the Obama administration were "reasonably interested" in discussion, they wouldn't start by labeling all criticism as "disinformation". And I suppose politicians have always tried to create the impression that their pet policy initiatives have absolutely no drawbacks, but who believes them? Good politicians let that impression of benevolence remain implicit... so why try to refute every argument?

And gee, I've heard that google thing is pretty fast. Maybe if they wanted to find out what opposition is brewing, they could just hire a teenager to log onto that internet thing and type in a few variations on "obamacare sucks". I bet they would learn lots about the arguments against their health care plan. Or they could just listen to Rush and Hannity and Boortz.

Seriously, what is this all about? Do you really think they are trying to get ahead of the national rumor mill -- the part of the rumor mill that uses private email and conversations (but not the web!) to spread "disinformation"? I can't believe they're compiling a list of political enemies, either -- it would be far more efficient to buy (or to subpoena) a few mailing lists. In the end I have to believe it's just stupidity on their part -- I predict the email account they advertised will be flooded by opponents of the legislation in a matter of days -- it will look like a DoS attack.

BBB
8.5.2009 7:47pm
ruralcounsel (mail):
Sigh:

Addendum: the house bill does more than any legislation in years to prevent de facto health-care rationing by restricting the ability of insurers to deny covering treatment.


That isn't the rationing provision, that's the 'drive the private insuror's out-of-business' provision. How many insurance companies want to sell you a home owners policy when your house is already on fire?

Yeah, lets require a private entity to accept offers that are guaranteed to make them lose money. The purpose of insurance is to spread risk among a pool of insured. Not assume exorbitant risk and join an economic suicide pact.

Not the "health czar"? Seems like semantics to me.




"Ezekiel J. Emanuel, a prominent bioethicist at the National Institutes of Health--and the brother of incoming White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel--will serve as a senior counselor at the White House Office of Management and Budget on health policy, two Democratic officials said Thursday.
8.6.2009 8:16am
Rob in CT (mail):
The "kill granny" stuff is obvious nonsense, and I think that's the sort of thing the WH wants to counter-spin. I doubt they are looking for personal information so they can smear regular Americans who disagree, but I'll keep my eyes open on that one.

I too am quite concerned about the cost issue. If you refuse to ration healthcare, particularly at the end of life (and this is the real problem - not "OMG, they'll kill granny!"), you're probably not gonna "bend the curve" much are you? I buy into the idea that you can save some money by getting people regular care instead of having them show up in the ER. Fine, ok, but those savings won't be enough.

So we seem to have a fundamental problem here: nobody wants to ration healthcare, really. Conservatives are most fired up about the idea of the gummint doing it. Liberals hate it when private insurers do it. Under the current system, ~15% of the population is largely left out and those of us with insurance (setting aside the gold-plated programs available to, say, US congresscritters) have to hope that our employer-provided plan is sufficient and/or we have enough personal wealth to cover what our insurance denies. And we can't even afford that. I'm sympathetic to the idea that other wealthy nations have figured out how to deliver universal healthcare that their populations generally like, so we should be able to as well. Yet I worry that we - being the precious exception that we are - will manage to create a system with the downsides of those foreign systems w/o the upsides. Just the pessimist in me, I guess. And yet, I do want reform to pass, b/c the status quo is unacceptable.
8.6.2009 10:51am
Tailgunner (mail):
I just reported YOU, Mr Volokh, for seditious and untrue comments regarding Dear Leader's health care plot (I mean, plan).

I'm sure you have no problem with your name, URL, IP and whatever else the federal government collects in emails a part of the permanent record.

Have fun and wait for that night time knock on your door.
8.6.2009 10:42pm

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