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National Conversations:

Althouse criticizes what she calls the Orwellian use of "conversation" in current national debates:

Man, "conversation" has become one of those Orwellian words. There it is in Obama's NYT interview, where he's saying something that invites the relabeling that Sarah Palin so effectively slapped on it — "death panels" ...

"I think that there is going to have to be a conversation that is guided by doctors, scientists, ethicists. And then there is going to have to be a very difficult democratic conversation that takes place." [President Obama]

Conversations! Damn! As if the government does not have power! Oh, but it's "not determinative," you say. It's just "some guidance." He said that, see? Ugh! Spare me! We're right to be afraid now, while the man is burbling about conversation. You know damned well he's about to say and now the time for conversation is over, and we must pass legislation. Before, he was all quick, shut up, it's an emergency, pass the legislation. People freaked, so then he deemed the period of freakage part of the conversation, and there, it has occurred, and now: shut up, pass the legislation.

This makes me recall - perhaps not too surprisingly - a bit of a book review I wrote in the TLS in the 1990s of Hillary Clinton's It Takes a Village, which also begins by calling for a ... conversation:

Clinton begins by saying that "whether or not you agree with me, I hope it promotes an honest conversation among us". It is quickly evident, however, that she intends a conversation with the parents of America in much the same way that my mother, when I was a child, intended many conversations with me - the conversation was not "honest" or "over" until I came to agree with her.

PeteP:
He knows he has until the end of the year to get his agenda pushed through - ( he hopes ) without any meaningful debate or change, without even being read. After that, in 2010, Congress goes into 'get re-elected' mode and all they care about is fund raising and vote-buying. In 2010, NO ONE in Congress is going to take any risks, not really, that might effect their desired re-election.

Statistically speaking, Obama is going to lose seats in both Houses in 2010. For a variety of reasons :

Simple historical ' turn of the tide' - high tides do not last forever, everything goes in cycles.

In 2010, Obama is not running for office. His campaign organization will not be in the game, the effects of a Presidential campaign where the Top Names bring out voters are not in play.

His lefty liberal base is PISSED ! He's basically ( in their view ) dropped them now that he got what he wanted from them, and they will NOT turn out to vote like they did in 2008.

Many on the other side, and in the middle, ARE inspired to defeat the leftist agenda. Just look at the health care town meetings etc.

'Health care reform' is now dead. Obama KNEW he had one shot - to get it passed ( before the bill was even written, let alone read ) in August, and that didn't happen. Now, it's had to to be read and put under a bright light, and the country is in rebellion over it. It will NOT pass this year.

Which means Obama just got knee-capped. His cap and tax energy disaster is dead in the water, and will stay there.

He can't AFFORD a conversation, not one where people other than him get to speak. He's tried very hard to prevent it, but he failed. And with that, his policies are also failed.

He said in a speech the other day 'We don't want these other people to do any talking, we want them to shut up and get out of our way". Well, thank the Dieties, it didn't work. This is still, for the moment, America.
8.16.2009 8:54pm
SuperSkeptic (mail):
Well, it is Un-American not to have a conversation...
8.16.2009 8:58pm
Brian K (mail):
wow! i knew conservatives were a fearful bunch...but not even i though use of the word "conversation" would have conservatives running to don their yellow pants.
8.16.2009 9:18pm
Cato The Elder (mail) (www):

Clinton begins by saying that "whether or not you agree with me, I hope it promotes an honest conversation among us". It is quickly evident, however, that she intends a conversation with the parents of America in much the same way that my mother, when I was a child, intended many conversations with me - the conversation was not "honest" or "over" until I came to agree with her.

This tendency of the Left is not only idiosyncratic to the health-care debate, though we clearly seeing it exposed more fully here as the debate grows more contentious. Just look the shameful manner by which Megan McCardle is treated in her comments section by her ideological opponents. See also the case of Bryan Caplan, libertarian economist, when he repeatedly makes overtures to Paul Krugman to rigorously discuss insurance markets and policy as the latter snidely dismisses him time and again. Of course one mustn't forget the prototypical example, Ezra "Unbearable Lightness" Klein. In general, once one happens on to a politically contentious issue, you will only hear calls for a constructive debate from them if they feel they have the upper hand (facially).
8.16.2009 9:23pm
Bruce Hayden (mail):
I think that the problem is that we didn't have the conversation before huge legislation was drafted and everyone took fairly hard positions.

My view right now is that the Democrats problems here resulted from some "hide the ball". There really is a funding problem for Medicare, that is scheduled to get far, far, worse as my generation retires. But it looks more and more like their solution to that is to throw the elderly in with everyone else (in particular, with the "public option"), and then implement the necessary rationing - necessary because price and quantity will be even more divorced through government payment of much of our medical care. And, then, the elderly would wake up one day and find that most of the rationing was falling on their shoulders.

I also think that tying all this to the "uninsured" was also a strategic mistake. Somewhere around 1/3 of them are illegal aliens, and so it is easy to tie death panels for the elderly to covering illegal aliens.

But the Adminstration and the Democrats running Congress figured, I think, that they had the votes, and so didn't need the conversation. But they may not have the votes, since their majority in the House is sitting in seats held by Republicans four years ago. These are the Blue Dog Democrats, recruited primarily because they could run well against Republicans in swing districts. But if they vote the way that Pelosi is pressuring them, they are likely to be out of office in less than two years.
8.16.2009 9:29pm
flashman (mail):
I have always found the use of the word "conversation" in a meaningful discussion to be a euphemism for "consensus," which itself is a meaningless term, especially when used by the left. My brief but misguided effort to work in academia taught me that when someone uses “conversation” and “consensus” in the same sentence their real objective is to get you to come around to their point of view through verbal exhaustion. They’re relentless, and typically wrong and are using the façade of polite language to make themselves, and their intended and often sycophantic audience, feel better about themselves and their “honest” efforts at creating a “dialogue.” When someone uses these words I know to watch my back.
8.16.2009 9:47pm
11-B/2O.B4:
Hysteria and overuse aside, "conversation" is what you want when you don't have the power to do what you want. They tried to ram the HC bill through, it didn't go. Now they will want to talk it over, shed the real egregious parts, and get some sort of cockeyed compromise through so they can claim victory. Because if this keeps on the way it has been (and if anyone ever crunches the math on how this was supposed to "save money") this won't be the only dead bill on the floor of the House. Just as Bill Clinton's political clout never quite recovered from his bizarre and disastrous handoff of health care to his wife, so Obama faces the permanent shrinking of his personal influence if he can't get something to go. That's why he never even bothered to endorse any particular bill. He knows that something with the word "health care" in the title has to pass, or his presidency will be forever diminished.
8.16.2009 10:14pm
D.O.:
I think, what is covered and what is not will not be written into the bill and then when time comes for issuing actual policies this "conversation" is supposed to take place. I think this is what Obama saying, am I wrong?
8.16.2009 10:25pm
Stolidus:
"Guided" conversation is not conversation. I have encountered the Orwellian chill of "guided" conversation in realms other than politics (e.g. business), and they are typically nothing more than the dissemination of one person's point of view along with the discouragement of opposing views (i.e. the thinking has been done, just trust us...)

Of course, commenters that seem to think this sort of thing is a tactic of the left, or that we didn't have many "guided" national converstations during the last administration, are simply delusional; it is a cynical tactic that few on either side have eschewed.
8.16.2009 10:34pm
Bruce:
You guys are freaking out over "conversation" now? Wow.
8.16.2009 10:45pm
A Law Dawg:
You guys are freaking out over "conversation" now? Wow.


If by "freaking out" you mean "rolling eyes" then yes, and justifiably.
8.16.2009 10:49pm
Allan Walstad (mail):

it is a cynical tactic that few on either side have eschewed.

Exactly. Pols are always playing games with words. That's what they're good at, left and right.

Obama is going to lose seats in both Houses in 2010.

I sure hope you're right. Not that the Repubs are any better, really. It's just that given the choices available these days, gridlock is your friend. The less the pols "accomplish," the safer our wallets and liberty are. One of my favorite mantras is "we can't afford to do nothing." Well, if the alternative to doing nothing is to make things even worse, give me a big helping of zilch, thank you.
8.16.2009 10:51pm
drunkdriver:
This brings back memories of Sheldon Hackney, who in the first Clinton administration wanted a "national conversation" on diversity- the government even helpfully distributed packets so we would know how to have this conversation.

More recently we have the Ackerman/Fiskin "Deliberation Day" proposal.
8.16.2009 11:06pm
Borealis (mail):
Wow. Remember when a loon named Cindy Sheehan was all the news in August because she camped near Crawford, TX? The press in August is at its worst.
8.16.2009 11:16pm
Jim Rhoads (mail):
Bruce Hayden:

BINGO.
8.16.2009 11:26pm
zuch (mail) (www):
Prof. Anderson:
This makes me recall - perhaps not too surprisingly - a bit of a book review I wrote in the TLS in the 1990s of Hillary Clinton's It Takes a Village, which also begins by calling for a ... conversation...
That makes me recall Peter and Lou Berryman's wonderful song: "A Chat With Your Mother"

That said, what's the problem with using "conversation"? Does such imply something bad or undesirable? Is such implication present in the word itself, or rather in your own fears and paranoia? Why?

Cheers,
8.16.2009 11:46pm
Thoughtful (mail):
Surely you realize "conversation" is part of community-organizer lingo. It's right up there with "teachable moment"
8.17.2009 12:06am
Mark N. (www):
Is this really either left-specific or recent... or even politics-specific? It seems like I've been hearing this phrase as long as I can remember, in all sorts of contexts, usually with the same undertones of, "and I have an idea of what I want the result to be". Fairly recently, a professional society in my field called for "a conversation" about reforming the curriculum for the 21st century, by which they meant that they had a reform proposal that they wanted people to read.
8.17.2009 12:21am
Splunge:
I can imagine Obama issuing that famous line about "conversation" from "Cool Hand Luke:"

What we have here is a failure to communicate.

Heh.
8.17.2009 12:22am
DiversityHire (mail):

what's the problem with using "conversation"?

"Conversation" implies some balance in information exchange and attention between participants. A "national conversation" is an impossibility, unless Swanson's in front of Fox News is "Dinner with the President." I have the same problem with the word "community" used to identify political interest groups.
8.17.2009 12:26am
Leo Marvin (mail):
I agree with her. The one thing I simply will not tolerate is being listened to.

Wow. Ann's officially lost it. The good news is now she's qualified to strap on a Nazis sign and head for the nearest town hall.

"You know damned well he's about to say and now the time for conversation is over, and we must pass legislation."

From her mouth to God's ears.
8.17.2009 1:43am
Leo Marvin (mail):
... and yes, of course by "God" I mean my Lord and Savior Obama. Which is why Ann's whining is so silly. Even if we stop conversing he can hear all our thoughts.
8.17.2009 1:47am
Borris (mail):
Leo:
Way to avoid any hint of racism.
Good job.
8.17.2009 2:21am
David Schwartz (mail):
It occurred to me that one thing that might help preserve innovation, minimize the damage a public option can do, and that could be supported by both sides is this:

We have a health care plan run by the government. It provides whatever level of health care the political process leads to.

However, people are allowed to opt out of it. If they do, they can apply the amount the public plan would have spent on them (determined based on their health records each year) to the plan or medical care of their choice. They may add money to this from their own resources or their employer may.

A person may opt out of or into the public plan at any time. However, there will need to be some restriction on getting the payment resumed if you opt out and then opt back in (perhaps a two year waiting period?)

In other words, if you get a plan that doesn't cover brain surgery, you can opt into the public plan, get your surgery, and then opt out. But you don't get any money from the public plan for two years. (This doesn't screw over the public plan, since they'd wind up paying for your surgery, if they cover it, anyway. They pay the same amount.)

I realize this doesn't solve everything. And it's not the best thing in the world. But I think the left will like it because it gives them 100% coverage for whatever procedures they opt to cover. I think the right will like it because it preserves innovation, employer-provided coverage, private insurance, and so on.

The fight will turn to what the public plan will cover. That will effect even those not on it because the more the public plan spends, the more wealth will be redistributed. But at least it won't have as much ability to screw up the country's health care.
8.17.2009 2:26am
Chico's Bail Bonds (mail):
Wait, what?
8.17.2009 2:44am
Leo Marvin (mail):
Borris:

Leo:
Way to avoid any hint of racism.
Good job.

Huh?
8.17.2009 2:47am
Ricardo (mail):
"I think that there is going to have to be a conversation that is guided by doctors, scientists, ethicists. And then there is going to have to be a very difficult democratic conversation that takes place."

What is the exact objection to this? I didn't realize we lived in a utopia where everyone gets all the medical care they need without limit, regardless of whether they have the money to pay for it. In the words of the State Bar of Texas, "In Texas, each non-profit hospital is required to provide a certain amount of free health care to people who have no health insurance, or cannot afford to pay for hospital care."

Note it says "a certain amount of free health care," not "unlimited free health care." The exact amount of health care to be provided presumably came out of "a conversation that is guided by doctors, scientists, ethicists." This may well have been followed by "a very difficult democratic conversation."
8.17.2009 3:24am
eyesay:
I have long followed the Volokh Conspiracy because of the intelligent level of discussion among the bloggers and in the comments, even among those I disagree with. So, I am dismayed that the, uh, conversation has stooped to the level of discussing non-existent death panels. There is no health care proposal on the table that has a provision for the creation of panels to decide that it's time to pull the plug on Grandma. The idea that President Obama or the Democrats in Congress have a proposal involving death panels is a lunatic right-wing talking point, no more and no less.

The New York Times covered this August 13 in an article titled False ‘Death Panel’ Rumor Has Some Familiar Roots. The article began
WASHINGTON — The stubborn yet false rumor that President Obama’s health care proposals would create government-sponsored “death panels” to decide which patients were worthy of living seemed to arise from nowhere in recent weeks.
I shall not be bothered to debate this further and I will ignore all lunatic assertions that “death panels” are part of any proposal on the table. They are not. Shalom.
8.17.2009 3:49am
Borris (mail):
Leo:
It is well established that any criticism of Obama is an act of "straight up" racism.
By acknowledging Obama's divine nature as, for example, a "lightworker", you avoided any possible reading of criticism of Obama that may have been mis-construed into your original post.
Thou shall not criticize Obama, even if it is for something as minor as his choice of the word "conversation".
8.17.2009 4:11am
donaldk2 (mail):
I bow to no one in my disdain for Obama, but -

does "conversation" mean anything more than "exchange of views"?
8.17.2009 4:34am
David Schwartz (mail):
Any plan will necessarily have some provisions to decide what health care it is going to cover and what health care it is not. Providing everyone with every bit of health care they can find a doctor willing to provide is not possible.

It is, however, utterly bogus to refer to them as "death panels" unless the plan does not include the right to purchase additional health care privately or it excessively encumbers that right. It is comparable to calling the eligibility determinations for food stamps "starvation panels".

That said, the "death panel" core idea is actually a good one. We waste a lot of money in this country cruelly extending, ever so slightly, the life and suffering of people who have no desire to be helped in that way and for which there is no reasonable moral justification for doing so.
8.17.2009 4:46am
Mr L (mail):
I like how the (quite valid) complaints about containing costs by cutting back on lifesaving care to the elderly and worries about voluntary end-of-life counseling sessions uncomfortably wedged in the middle of a cost-cutting bill were ignored for weeks, but Sarah Palin engages in a little hyperbole and suddenly now they all want to have a conversation - but only about how 'the right' apparently thinks there's going to be Mengele-like panels deciding if Grandma lives or dies.

And of course that's silly - you can't control costs from millions of elderly on a case-by-case basis! You need nice, 'independent' bodies with the ability to mandate changes in coverage - anything that improves quality of coverage or 'efficiency', but only if it cuts costs - and very minimal Congressional oversight. Death panels? Silly bunny, we need a bureaucracy for this.

Look, let's be honest: we spend a boatload of money very inefficiently - 1% of patients eat up more than a quarter of care. Sorry, Mr. President, but you don't have a choice: take your lumps for pulling the plug on Granny or lose affordable health care entirely. The European systems you're using as a model do manage better results for cheaper...but they also fare far, far worse than the broken ol' US in terms of cancer survival and such. And there's a reason for that.
8.17.2009 5:04am
BGates:
What we have here is a failure to communicate.

Any man listenin' to Rush Limbaugh spends a night in the box.

Any man not agreein' to my legislative agenda spends a night in the box.

Any man put in the box by the last administration gets my sincere apologies and a job as groundskeeper at a golf course in Bermuda.
8.17.2009 5:16am
Ricardo (mail):
Sorry, Mr. President, but you don't have a choice: take your lumps for pulling the plug on Granny or lose affordable health care entirely.

Sure but Obama isn't the first person to approach this debate honestly. Many free-market or conservative think tanks like Cato and Heritage have long pointed out that projected growth in Medicare spending is not sustainable. The U.S. either needs to increase revenue with European-style tax rates or needs to cut Medicare spending by "controlling costs" -- and these organizations come down on the latter side. These are intellectually honest conservatives, though, not something-for-nothing Republicans. The hypocrisy of attacking a Democrat who wants to control government expenditure is astounding.

The Republican Party really has no way to honestly deal with the health care issue since neither solution (higher taxes or reduced benefits) are politically viable. They are better off going on the attack which is exactly what is happening.
8.17.2009 5:41am
mattski:

It's just that given the choices available these days, gridlock is your friend. The less the pols "accomplish," the safer our wallets and liberty are.


Doing nothing is the first choice of those who benefit from the status quo. But it ignores the direction we're heading, which is bankruptcy due to spiraling health costs.

And it is very silly to be afraid of conversation.
8.17.2009 5:58am
Independent historian (mail):
Conversation requires listening as well as talking. Web culture works against that. Reagan and Bush I-era supply sider Bruce Bartlett yesterday discussed the rise of niche cable tv and radio outlets that appealed to political partisans. According to Bartlett, "The Internet completed the circle and provided for complete detachment of conservatives from the mainstream media. They could now get 100% of their news filtered through a conservative lens. They no longer had to confront any facts they deemed inconvenient or without a ready-made response that either refuted them or interpreted them in a way conservatives could rationalize. The result is that many conservatives live in a cocoon as well, completely insulated from any facts or opinions that are counter to their worldview."

The same is true for liberals, who can spend all day looking at Daily Kos, Firedoglake and such like. Right or left, it's easier to wrap oneself in the cozy blanket of like-minded forums than to venture out to engage meaningfully with the other side. Ideological moderates and political independents may be more likely to read and consider arguments made in web forums by both sides, simply because they often represent a complicated mix of conservative and progressive thinking on fiscal, social, and defense issues.

Some say that the Internet promotes interconnectivity. But if you look at any newspaper's message board, you see an awful lot of people calling each other morons simply because they hold differing viewpoints. If conversation has become a scary word, it may be because web culture encourages the big sort or hostility or high school-type pissing contests and posturing more so than real debate or true dialogue.
8.17.2009 8:16am
Assistant Village Idiot (mail) (www):
If we thought he meant actual conversation we'd be all for it. The objection to the term is that when folks use it in most contexts, they mean the opposite. There is every reason to suspect that the opposite of a conversation is what is slated to occur.

That's for the commenters who don't seem to get what the word "Orwellian" means.

Dig?
8.17.2009 8:49am
Independent historian (mail):
Like it or not, wringing hands over conversation, even conversation that a writer calls Orwellian, is a net loser for conservatives. That is, if the purpose is to make conservatives appear strong and confident of how their ideas play out in the marketplace of ideas. (Who gets to define what is Orwellian, anyway?) Don't forget the baggage conservatives trail from the last eight years. Indulging in so much angst over conversation -- of any kind -- just gives ammunition to authors such as John Dean, who has criticized "authoritarian oonservatives." Moreover, like it or not, arguing against conversation signals avoidance. (Heaven knows the questions of increasing generational inequity, demographic burdens, and unfunded mandates in Medicare, to which George Bush added trillions with the prescription drug benefit, deserve addressing in conversation, whether the trigger is Orwellian or not.) Anything that opens ideologues up to becoming fodder for the writers of the deliciously watchable The Daily Show represents a poor tactical choice.
8.17.2009 9:12am
krs:
Who gets to define what is Orwellian, anyway?

No one anymore. It was a good word once, but through years of misuse I think it's come to stand for any quibble with another person's word choice meant to imply that the speaker isn't fully sincere.
8.17.2009 9:25am
egd:

The Republican Party really has no way to honestly deal with the health care issue since neither solution (higher taxes or reduced benefits) are politically viable. They are better off going on the attack which is exactly what is happening.


Good to see left-wing lies still have some play left in them.

Just like with TARP II (Son of TARP), the left is throwing out the idea that the Republicans in opposition don't have a plan to deal with health care. And just like with TARP II, the Republicans have presented an alternative.

We're not debating the Republican plan on the national stage because it doesn't stand a whelk's chance in a supernova of ever getting passed.
8.17.2009 9:27am
Independent historian (mail):
An additional observation. Conservatives need to look at issues such as conversation in a broad context. When I referred to Bush era baggage, I meant things like the silly loyalty pledges that attendees at some (not all) overly screened Presidential events had to sign while 43 was prez. Or the fact that one of the best known and frequently quoted collective conservative blogs (The Corner at National Review Online) doesn't have a comment function. No matter how robust the language used by a Cornerite, it's undermined by the inability of readers to push back or question the premise.
8.17.2009 9:33am
Widmerpool:
BG Gates--for that funny post--you do NOT get to spend a night in the box.

As for President Obama, do he keep in mind that "he's a natural born world-shaker."
8.17.2009 9:41am
11-B/2O.B4:
Let me ask the defenders of "conversation" if it was a "conversation" when the President got a prime-time special on network television, some two hours long to promote his health care plan, and not only was the opposing side excluded from the special, they weren't even allowed to run paid advertisement during it? A couple months back, before the jobs data ruined optimism over his stimulus, before his inevitable popularity drop, there was no talk of "conversation". Now, I don't cringe at the term, I welcome it, because I understand what it means.

And for the hand-wringing over "death panels", the idea is not that these advisory bodies will start out the gate by denying care. That's not how the law is written, so the defenders are quite factually correct. What they fail to foresee is that there is no legal framework to stop those panels (or similar ones) from shifting their mandate slightly in the name of cost control (you know, in about ten years when we start seeing the price tag). If universal health care is a "moral imperative" as I've seen here before, then write it into the law that no one, ever can for any reason be denied care. Because putting all the medical record on one system is going to save us enough money to spend as much as we want right? If denying care isn't going to be part of cost saving, then put THAT in the bill, make it law. Oh, and I'd like the president's promise that "you won't be waiting in any lines" included in the bill, and I'd like hte whole health care package to become null and void the first time there's a line. Also, I'd like a pony, and a monster truck, and a bottle of Laphroaig 18.
8.17.2009 9:43am
Houston Lawyer:
I can eat fifty eggs.
8.17.2009 9:57am
yankev (mail):

Doing nothing is the first choice of those who benefit from the status quo. But it ignores the direction we're heading, which is bankruptcy due to spiraling health costs.
Yes, that's a key theme of Obama's "conversation" -- anyone who thinks his health care proposal is a bad idea must be fully enamored of the status quo and either a heartless greedy doctor or insurance company who unjustly benefits from the status quo, or a Republican obstructionist (that's not as tautological as you may think, mattski, all us Republicans are obstructionists but not all obstructionists are Republican), or someone duped by one of the above.

Believe it or not, matski, some of us think that whatever the problemes of the status quo, the pending health care bills will increase and not decrease the risk of bankruptcy and spiralling costs. Some of us also think that if we do need to reform or restucture of a segment of the economy that accounts for trillions of dollars annunally, it should be done in a careful, informed way and not in a manner that invokes false urgency, relies on false promises, and demands support of complex thousand-page legislation that not even its supporters have read, let alone analyzed.

In other words, yes there are problems. If they need to be addressed by government (which is by no means a given), let's not take an action that even the Congressional Budget Office says will increase rather than decrease the cost of bankruptcy.

There's an ethnic joke from the Iron Range about a guy who accidentally drops a quarter down an outhouse while he's out deer hunting. So he takes his wallet, his car keys, his watch, his wedding ring and his shotgun and tosses them down the outhouse too.

His buddy says "Hey, [ethnic name omitted], what're ya doin"?" [ethnic name omitted] replies "If you t'ink I'm goin' down dere for a lousy two bits, you're nuts."

Moral: don't try to improve a bad situation by making it seriously worse.
8.17.2009 10:20am
Mark Buehner (mail):

What they fail to foresee is that there is no legal framework to stop those panels (or similar ones) from shifting their mandate slightly in the name of cost control (you know, in about ten years when we start seeing the price tag)

This is exactly it. Dems are playing a very disingenuous game with this debate. They are promoting plans that will create inevitabilities down the road that most Americans are deeply uncomfortable with, but since these consequences aren't directly spelled out in the bills, they can claim that isn't the intent.

Well intent is fine. I'm sure nobody intended for any of the bad things that government produces to happen. Unintended consequences are inevitable, but it is especially dishonest to know about them beforehand and hide behind the fact that you simply didn't intend them. You're policy guaranteed them, but they are a side effect and therefore not your fault.

Critics are noting that jumping out of a plane without a parachute is reckless, no matter what you INTEND. Smacking into the ground at terminal velocity may not be the intention, but it is inevitable. Government taking over healthcare WILL be more expensive, and it WILL lead to worse care for most people. These are inevitabilities every bit the same.
8.17.2009 10:29am
MarkField (mail):
I think Prof. Althouse has ssen too many movies.
8.17.2009 10:31am
Mr L (mail):
The hypocrisy of attacking a Democrat who wants to control government expenditure is astounding.

Not so; while controlling costs is necessary, people deserve to know what those controls are and how they'll be implemented. Wildly optimistic assumptions, obfuscation of unpopular cuts via bureaucratic means like the IMAC proposal above, and millions upon millions in marketing (the one thing this administration seems to do really well) don't really qualify.

It's also worth noting that - based on a quick check - entities like Cato aren't complaining about cost controls. The articles I pulled up attacked the proposals for increasing the ties between employment and insurance (which Obama repeatedly cited as a problem when making the case for reform), reducing competition between insurers, projected increases in premiums, and specific claims by the administration ('you can keep your current plan', etc.).
8.17.2009 10:48am
einhverfr (mail) (www):

'Health care reform' is now dead. Obama KNEW he had one shot - to get it passed ( before the bill was even written, let alone read ) in August, and that didn't happen. Now, it's had to to be read and put under a bright light, and the country is in rebellion over it. It will NOT pass this year.


I don't think it needs to be dead though. Obama wants to sign something and call it a victory, but the correct approach would be "one issue a year" where health care reform is broken down into different issues to be discussed and debated independently instead of one bill that will either please a small segment or nobody at all.

IMO, the place to start would have been with national employer mandates to purchase health insurance for employees. We could discuss where and what shape these should take and come up with something that would be reasonble (personally I would favor a 500-employee rule. Below 500 employees, no obligation, but above 500 employees, you have to provide health coverage as part of standard benefits).
8.17.2009 11:06am
Dan Weber (www):
If we haven't descended into total stupidity, when Obama says "conversation" he doesn't mean "agree with me."

If you watched his Town Hall on C-SPAN Saturday night (I think it was live from Boulder, but don't quote me on that), someone claimed that the public option would put private plans out of business. And Obama said (to paraphrase), "you're right, there can be ways that the public option would unfairly compete." And then Obama went into a fairly technical description of how a public option could crowd out competitors because it could use its implicit government guarantee to get better financing.

Obama seems very willing to "conversate" about real problems with proposals. But when idiots bring up utter nonsense like death squads, it's not something Orwellian to refuse to deal with those shmucks.

(And for the record I'm not very happy with anything that Congress has proposed so far.)
8.17.2009 11:34am
AF:
Contra Althouse, "death panels" are a completely unjustified term for the modest cost-saving measures the Democrats want to implement for Medicare (which do not involve denying anyone treatment but only (1) paying for counseling about end of life care decisions, and (2) creating a panel to study what treatments are effective, and potentially providing that only demonstrably effective treatments be paid for by the government, but NOT deciding whether individual patients receive treatment).

But put that point aside. What we have here is the self-identified party of limited government (and their allies) literally screaming bloody murder in opposition to very minor cost savings in a government entitlement program.

There is no party of small government. There is only a party of effective big government, and a party of wasteful big government.
8.17.2009 11:45am
DangerMouse:
I shall not be bothered to debate this further and I will ignore all lunatic assertions that “death panels” are part of any proposal on the table. They are not. Shalom.

Bwahahaha... You lost that debate already, bub.

Oh, and for the record, "death panels" is a great way of summarizing Obama's "difficult" conversation in which he wants his unelected panel to basically tell seniors to off themselves when costs run up. That's why the conversation is difficult, otherwise, it's easy to say that seniors should live.
8.17.2009 11:55am
Allan Walstad (mail):
David Schwartz:

...one thing that might help preserve innovation, minimize the damage a public option can do, and that could be supported by both sides is this:

We have a health care plan run by the government. It provides whatever level of health care the political process leads to.

However, people are allowed to opt out of it. If they do, they can apply the amount the public plan would have spent on them (determined based on their health records each year) to the plan or medical care of their choice. They may add money to this from their own resources or their employer may...

The fight will turn to what the public plan will cover.

Exactly. And it won't be a once-for-all fight. If the plan provides an essentially blank check for all treatment, it will easily win the race with Social Security to bankrupt the country. If the care is limited sufficiently to make the plan sustainable, then more affluent folks will opt out to get stuff that less-affluent folks in the public plan don't get, generating intense political pressure to spend more on the public plan and/or prevent opting out--because, you see, it's "unfair" that more affluent people can afford care that less affluent people can't. Which puts us right back where we are now politically, except at a higher level of government involvement. Another turn of the ratchet.

Here's a different idea: get the feds the hell out of medicine, into which there is virtually zero Constitutional basis for them to meddle anyway. Let consumers and providers of medicine transact freely, and let all of us who are concerned about the medical needs of the poor contribute voluntarily to charity.
8.17.2009 12:04pm
yankev (mail):

But put that point aside. What we have here is the self-identified party of limited government (and their allies) literally screaming bloody murder in opposition to very minor cost savings in a government entitlement program.
What we have is a party trying to push very complex bills through in record time so as to profoundly restructure a major segment of the economy in ways that people justifiably fear may reduce their freedom to make choices about their own health care and increase the federal budget at a time when the economy is already in turmoil, then using a combination of name calling, intimidation, dishonesty and even physical violence in an attempt to push the bills through without adequate debate or analysis, and then blaming the opposition for the fact that rumors are flying.



There is no party of small government.
Sad but rue.


There is only a party of effective big government, and a party of wasteful big government.
That would almost be funny if it weren't so sad that people actually believe it. Nothing wasteful about fderal money going to pay for remodeling the home of a mayor/former athlete who supported the president. I admit, though, President Obama did act promptly and efficiently in firing the independent inspector who blew the whistle on the diversion of government funds. The president was also efficient in the way he funneled government money to the criminal organization that helped his campaign commit voter registration fraud on a massive scale.

With apologies to Barry Goldwater, efficiency in the service of expanding government power and corruption is no virtue.
8.17.2009 12:11pm
geokstr (mail):

einhverf:
...the correct approach would be "one issue a year" where health care reform is broken down into different issues to be discussed and debated independently instead of one bill that will either please a small segment or nobody at all.

I wholeheartedly agree, but how about we start with some serious tort reform first, to 1) reduce the malpractice insurance premiums paid by doctors and hospitals 2) reduce the amount of costly testing done to pre-emptively defend against lawsuits, and 3) reduce the incentive for slick lawyers to channel dead babies in closing arguments and then run for VP. That's a good way to start controlling costs, while at the same time controlling lawyer's income, a two-fer.

Dan Weber:
If you watched his Town Hall on C-SPAN Saturday night (I think it was live from Boulder, but don't quote me on that), someone claimed that the public option would put private plans out of business. And Obama said (to paraphrase), "you're right, there can be ways that the public option would unfairly compete." And then Obama went into a fairly technical description of how a public option could crowd out competitors because it could use its implicit government guarantee to get better financing.

That's not the only way for the "public option" to unfairly complete. Since it would have the implied authority of the government behind it and the biggest pool of customers, it would do what Medicare and Medicaid now already eggregiously do, pay set rates that are below cost, forcing the doctors and hospitals to further shift their costs to those with private insurance, forcing their rates up.

Has anyone seen a study of the effects of current cost shifting on private insurance premiums? I'll bet that it is not insignicant. And since no one really "sees" the cost of Medicare/Medicaid, just the rising costs of medical care on them personally, the perception is no doubt that it is the greedy private insurance companies that are raising their rates to stuff their own pockets.
8.17.2009 12:13pm
AF:
What we have is a party trying to push very complex bills through in record time so as to profoundly restructure a major segment of the economy in ways that people justifiably fear may reduce their freedom to make choices about their own health care and increase the federal budget . . . .

If the bill is too "complex" for you to be expected to know what's in it, I don't see how you can insist that your fears are "justifiable." In fact, they are not, for the reasons described above. (The only parts of the bill that will increase the budget are the expansion of care to the uninsured. The provisions that are being complained about as "death panels" decrease the federal budget.)

at a time when the economy is already in turmoil, then using a combination of name calling, intimidation, dishonesty and even physical violence in an attempt to push the bills through without adequate debate or analysis, and then blaming the opposition for the fact that rumors are flying.

I blame the people who are spreading false rumors for the fact that false rumors are flying. I guess I just believe in personal responsibility. I reject the idea that lying has social and environmental causes.

With apologies to Barry Goldwater, efficiency in the service of expanding government power and corruption is no virtue.

These needs to be rewritten as "With apologies to Barry Goldwater, efficiency in the service of expanding government power and corruption is no virtueMedicare is no virtue" because Medicare is what we're talking about.

Oddly, however, I don't hear the Republicans calling for the repeal of Medicare or otherwise cutting it. They are just opposing making it more cost-effective.
8.17.2009 12:24pm
/:
But do you chase them with molasses?
8.17.2009 12:27pm
David Schwartz (mail):
Exactly. And it won't be a once-for-all fight. If the plan provides an essentially blank check for all treatment, it will easily win the race with Social Security to bankrupt the country. If the care is limited sufficiently to make the plan sustainable, then more affluent folks will opt out to get stuff that less-affluent folks in the public plan don't get, generating intense political pressure to spend more on the public plan and/or prevent opting out--because, you see, it's "unfair" that more affluent people can afford care that less affluent people can't. Which puts us right back where we are now politically, except at a higher level of government involvement. Another turn of the ratchet.
I think we'll have this problem with any politically possible health care system. The point of my plan is not to solve that problem but to minimize the harm solving it badly will do. (And to protect innovation and competition while still providing universal coverage.)

But you're absolutely right that the only thing my suggestion does to cut costs is make it possible for the government to not pay for procedures that people still get.

Here's a different idea: get the feds the hell out of medicine, into which there is virtually zero Constitutional basis for them to meddle anyway. Let consumers and providers of medicine transact freely, and let all of us who are concerned about the medical needs of the poor contribute voluntarily to charity.
Unfortunately, there isn't the political will to do that properly. And doing that improperly will result in substantially the same problems we have today where people with no money and no insurance show up at emergency rooms with life-threatening conditions. And there isn't the political will to throw them out onto the street.

I think we're stuck with another system we can't possibly afford, and the best we can do is make it not screw us over while it's bankrupting it.

Imagine if we would up with a social security system that prohibited private retirement accounts.
8.17.2009 12:55pm
yankev (mail):

If the bill is too "complex" for you to be expected to know what's in it,
Not quite what I said, is it? But go ahead and personalize this; the more the Democrats personalize the debate, the better chance that their power grab will fail.

I don't see how you can insist that your fears are "justifiable." In fact, they are not, for the reasons described above. (The only parts of the bill that will increase the budget are the expansion of care to the uninsured.
If you believe that the budget will not be increased by the creation of a federal bureacracy to establish minimum coverage levels, create and administer a public option, determine what treatments are and are not cost effective, and administer payment, then I think you are seriously mistaken. If you think that the current proposals do not risk running existing insurance out of business, the risk of reducing Americans' choice over our doctors and treatment, and the risk of increasing both the burden on small business and the power of large business over smaller competitors, then I disagree with you there as well.


I blame the people who are spreading false rumors for the fact that false rumors are flying. I guess I just believe in personal responsibility.
Then I take it you blame the President and his staff for the disinformation they are deliberately spreading.


I reject the idea that lying has social and environmental causes.
I suggest you learn the difference between lying and spreading a rumor that one mistakenly thinks is true. I suggest you also read some industrial pyschology -- when people are deprived of meaningful information about something that is important to them, they tend to imagine the worst, and those fears quickly turn into rumors.

Few voters have the skill to wade through thousands of pages of densely written jargon. Few of those with the skill to do so have the time, and many of those will not do it unless being paid to do so. The administration -- who DOES have the knowledge -- has been caught telling a few whoppers about the bills' contents and effects. If you truly believe that all the rumors are coming from a well paid well orchestrated front group for the insurance companies, Dick Cheney and Karl Rove, you are going to continue to mis-assess the situation.
8.17.2009 1:27pm
Dan Weber (www):
for the modest cost-saving measures the Democrats want to implement for Medicare (which do not involve denying anyone treatment

In any other year, in any other universe, the Republicans would point out (quite correctly!) that just because the government doesn't give you something it does not mean that the government is forbidding you from getting it.

I thought this was a fairly big foundation of the Republicans. Yet, for some reason, if the government plan didn't cover something, it's now actively putting people to death?

it would do what Medicare and Medicaid now already eggregiously do, pay set rates that are below cost, forcing the doctors and hospitals to further shift their costs to those with private insurance, forcing their rates up.

Only if doctors are required to accept Public Option participants, and nothing I've seen so far says that.

You want an example where the government limits the health care it provides? Look at Britain. Most people get their own private insurance just fine. It would require that the government-run health care providers be politically independent of Congress, which is hard for me to see Congress doing, but I can still point out the specific flaws rather just declaring it won't work.
8.17.2009 1:39pm
Crunchy Frog:

If the bill is too "complex" for you to be expected to know what's in it, I don't see how you can insist that your fears are "justifiable." In fact, they are not, for the reasons described above. (The only parts of the bill that will increase the budget are the expansion of care to the uninsured. The provisions that are being complained about as "death panels" decrease the federal budget.)

How the hell do you know? If it's too complicated to know what's in it, it's too complicated to know what's not in it. Not only could it end up covering illegal aliens, but conceivably it could cover alien aliens in area 51, or District 9, or wherever. The point is, nobody knows anything, and we're all supposed to take it on faith that it's all going to end up with sunshine and rainbows, if only we act RIGHT NOW, no questions asked.
8.17.2009 1:41pm
AF:
Not quite what I said, is it? But go ahead and personalize this; the more the Democrats personalize the debate, the better chance that their power grab will fail.

I didn't mean to personalize it, yankev. I just assumed that you were including yourself in the category of people who could be excused for not understanding the plan because it was too "complex." I assumed this because you didn't actually respond to my substantive point about the plan.

In fact, I agree with you that the complexity of the plan is a problem and that ordinary citizens have a good excuse for understanding it or even mistakenly believing false rumors. The people who do not have an excuse are the professional politicians who have been spreading false rumors, knowing they are untrue, ie lying.

And of course, I agree that lying about the plan is wrong no matter who does it. Please give me an example of President Obama lying about it.
8.17.2009 2:04pm
yankev (mail):

that just because the government doesn't give you something it does not mean that the government is forbidding you from getting it.
Hillary's bill did criminalize furnishing or receiving health care for pay outside of the system, or offering to do so. Obama care does not go that far, I am told. It was Obama, of course, who chose to demonize greedy doctors who supposedly perform unnecessary surgery in order to line their own pockets. His history of scapegoating gives me no confidence that any additional government intrusions will not be expanded.
8.17.2009 2:05pm
AF:
If it's too complicated to know what's in it, it's too complicated to know what's not in it.

Good point. Now that you mention it, I oppose the bill because it provides for locusts and the slaying of the first born.
8.17.2009 2:06pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Hillary's bill did criminalize furnishing or receiving health care for pay outside of the system, or offering to do so. Obama care does not go that far, I am told. It was Obama, of course, who chose to demonize greedy doctors who supposedly perform unnecessary surgery in order to line their own pockets. His history of scapegoating gives me no confidence that any additional government intrusions will not be expanded.


Good point, I would just add that the way the Obama administration and members of Congress who supported TARP rushed to demonize AIG analysts for the retention bonuses that they were promised with the full knowledge of the administration before AIG received the bailout funds suggests that they wouldn’t have any qualms about attaching new conditions onto any doctors who treat ObamaCare (or even Medicare or Medicaid patients) after the fact. No doubt if there is any language in this bill which gives the Sec of HHS or some new body any sort of rule-making authority, without a specific prohibition to the contrary, that authority can and will be used to attach new conditions onto doctors.
8.17.2009 2:29pm
bender:
Another 'health care' post that adds nothing to the debate.
8.17.2009 3:20pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
Borris:

It is well established that any criticism of Obama is an act of "straight up" racism.

I thought I gave you some helpful advice about this.

By acknowledging Obama's divine nature as, for example, a "lightworker", you avoided any possible reading of criticism of Obama that may have been mis-construed into your original post.

Thou shall not criticize Obama, even if it is for something as minor as his choice of the word "conversation".

I have no idea what you're talking about. But what really scares me is you seem to think I said something you agree with.
8.17.2009 5:21pm
yankev (mail):

Please give me an example of President Obama lying about it.

Do half truths count? "If you like your current plan, you can keep it" - until the public option plan puts it out of business, or until it is changed beyond recognition by the new minimum coverage requirements, or until the five year phase out for non-conforming plans (for self-insured; shorter for thrid party insurers) kick in.

"If you like your current doctor, you can continue to see him" -- except that house bill lets your primary care doctor determine what specialists you can see, what tests and procedures you can have, and when.

The proposed law won't add to the deficit.

There is a crisis that requires enacting the law before Congress recesses.

Doctors perform unnecessary tonsillectomies to fatten their own wallets.

Turning the health care industry over to the government will reduce fraud, waste and inefficiency.

Please give me an example of his being truthful about it.
8.17.2009 7:22pm
/:
Do half truths count?

Don't forget "if [the plan didn't do some thing], the AARP wouldn't support it".
8.17.2009 7:28pm
yankev (mail):

I thought I gave you some helpful advice about this.


Yes, you advised Borris to

Give it a break already. Right wing hacks everywhere are cringing in embarrassment.
Sadly, left wing hacks are not yet cringing in embarrassment over the silly racism charges that Borris so rightly ridicules. Unless this is your way of saying that even if left wing hacks are unaffected, the antics of Krugman, Garofalo et al leave you cringing in embarrassment, in which case I applaud you.
8.17.2009 7:46pm
Independent historian (mail):
Experts in the presidency and those who understand executive decision making argue these issues differently than do posters on message boards. They understand what the men at the top face and the difficulty of resolving the often intractable issues with which they grapple. Nothing divine about it for Republicans and Democrats alike.

Nor does anyone who has worked with or studied Presidents think that chief executives even wish to be seen as divine. They would laugh at the notion. That's just something on the outside that started on message boards while 43 was in office. Left wingers who didn't have a good counter to an argument sometimes would call Bush the Divine Leader. You occasionally see the term flung at 44 now. But not by anyone who has worked with senior government officials. People who know what Presidents of both parties face inside the Oval Office didn't do it while Bush was in office, either.

Health care is a particularly difficult issue to resolve due to several elements: cost containment, coverage of the population, and level of care. There also are fiscal and generational equity issues, which conservative columnist Ross Douthat was brave enough to touch on in today's New York Times. (I'd like to see more of that type of courage.)Medicare, which some present day protestors fail to recognize is a government run program, faces huge shortfalls. Unless something is done, those only are going to increase. In the fedeal budget as a whole, discretionary spending continues to shrink while mandatory spending increases. That has implications in a number of areas, including defense and national security. The public loves hearing politicians say "no new taxes" but few citizens think through the ramifications of clutching their wallets and shrugging off widening revenue and expenditures gaps.

Given demographic trends, it is clear that Medicare is on an unsustainable path. And of course, life expectancy has been increasing. No matter how the present debate plays out, I don't see how all Baby Boomers who are approaching retirement age are going to get the levels of care through Medicare, into very advanced old age, that many older Americans now are getting. And who knows what their children and grandchildren will face. Are sustainability and stewardship part of the conversation right now? Of course not. As much as Americans of both parties in the post-World War II era embraced the idea that "you can have it all," there really is no such thing as a "free lunch." Something's gotta give, and it will.
8.17.2009 7:58pm
Independent historian (mail):
Politics aside, I would think most people in both parties understand that Barack Obama faces something no other President has faced in the potential for an extraordinarily ugly type of opposition by some people based on the color of his skin. One would like to think such race based opposition is small. Some of it might be hidden. No one would argue that it does not exist at all, in some dark corners. And not so dark. Anyone who reads the Internet knows that there is some of that there, we've all seen racial slurs used against him in some web forum or other. I don't think any of us here would say that it doesn't exist, no matter how badly its existence, even among a minority of the citizenry, reflects on America. Consequently, the potential and the reality of such ugly opposition highlights Obama's incredible bravery in choosing to run for President in a country where most people do not look like him. That he did run and won speaks to an amazing level and type of courage, one many people could not muster in similar situations. That has nothing to do with policy or ideology, I raise it because of how it speaks to his qualities -- as a man.
8.17.2009 8:19pm
Independent historian (mail):
Politics aside, I would think most people in both parties understand that Barack Obama faces something no other President has faced in the potential for an extraordinarily ugly type of opposition by some people based on the color of his skin. One would like to think such race based opposition is small. Some of it might be hidden. No one would argue that it does not exist at all, in some dark corners. And not so dark. Anyone who reads the Internet knows that there is some of that there, we've all seen racial slurs used against him in some web forum or other. I don't think any of us here would say that it doesn't exist, no matter how badly its existence, even among a minority of the citizenry, reflects on America. Consequently, the potential and the reality of such ugly opposition highlights Obama's incredible bravery in choosing to run for President in a country where most people do not look like him. That he did run and won speaks to an amazing level and type of courage, one many people could not muster in similar situations. That has nothing to do with policy or ideology, I raise it because of how it speaks to his qualities -- as a man.
8.17.2009 8:19pm
juris_imprudent (mail):
This "conversation" has but one purpose: conversion to the side calling for the conversation. Convert or be over-run.
8.17.2009 8:25pm
Moneyrunner43 (www):
Independent historian shorter version: RACIST.

An important and necessary part of any conversation about Obama.
8.17.2009 9:34pm
11-B/2O.B4:

Politics aside, I would think most people in both parties understand that Barack Obama faces something no other President has faced in the potential for an extraordinarily ugly type of opposition by some people based on the color of his skin.


You're an imbecile. My bad, I didn't realize my political opposition was racist. My opposition is based on the fact that our president, my commander in chief, evidently doesn't comprehend the concept of balanced budgets. I was just as chagrined when Bush advocated the Patriot act, which violated some of my most deeply held political beliefs. So screw you, and your simplistic idiocy. Obama faces NO serious race-based opposition, and those who claim it are nothing but racists themselves, who cannot imagine that anyone would oppose their messiah without some sort of deep-seated racial agenda. News flash: people can disagree without race playing a role, and the merest fact that you are defending the MOST POWERFUL MAN IN THE WORLD on the grounds that he is being discriminated against makes you a moron. A very thick-headed and stupid excuse for a human being. Grow up and learn to have a real opinion.
8.17.2009 11:10pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
yankev:

I thought I gave you some helpful advice about this.

Yes, you advised Borris to

Give it a break already. Right wing hacks everywhere are cringing in embarrassment.

Sadly, left wing hacks are not yet cringing in embarrassment over the silly racism charges that Borris so rightly ridicules. Unless this is your way of saying that even if left wing hacks are unaffected, the antics of Krugman, Garofalo et al leave you cringing in embarrassment, in which case I applaud you.

If you're saying I was wrong to suggest Borris isn't in perfectly good standing with right wing hacks everywhere, I stand corrected. Yes, I'd be embarrassed by Garofalo's recent dopey comment if she represented or spoke for me, but she doesn't. It's not like she's a former governor or beauty pageant contestant. She's just a comedian. I do stand behind most of what Krugman says, but that still leaves a lot I disagree with, some of it strongly. But if he's ever written anything I'd call embarrassing, I haven't seen it.
8.18.2009 1:30am
eyesay:
Crunchy Frog wrote
If it's too complicated to know what's in it, it's too complicated to know what's not in it. Not only could it end up covering illegal aliens, but conceivably it could cover alien aliens in area 51, or District 9, or wherever. The point is, nobody knows anything, and we're all supposed to take it on faith that it's all going to end up with sunshine and rainbows, if only we act RIGHT NOW, no questions asked.
In other words, Crunchy, you haven't read the bill and you are making shit up. The bill explicitly excludes illegal aliens. Just because you haven't read the bill and you don't know anything doesn't mean that nobody has read the bill and nobody knows anything. Also, nothing is happening "right now" because "right now" the House and Senate are in recess and representatives and senators are in conversation with their constituents, who are asking questions. Nobody is forced to take anything on faith.
8.18.2009 2:31am
Independent historian (mail):
That I referred to the potential for a type of ugly opposition to Obama from the time he announced his candidacy for President in 2007 and praised his courage is not threatening to anyone who might read it here. It is not realistic to say that that type of opposition did not exist anywhere in 2008. Web forums displayed it. I didn't say they did here, I spoke of what I've seen over the last year and a half around the Internet, in some news stories, in signs held by supporters of other candidates. Moreover, there is nothing wrong with pointing to one man's courage. Our fabric as a nation is not that fragile, it just is not. Courage is not a finite quality, one of which there is less to go around, if an observer points to one person having it. Nor is there a single type of courage, bravery comes in many forms, physical and moral. That I praise it in one man who showed it in 2007 in entering a field of candidates, and took on the job he won in 2008, knowing what might lie ahead, does not mean others cannot aspire to it. The opportunities are many, for people of all types and beliefs, in public life and private life alike.
8.18.2009 6:16am
yankev (mail):

I raise it because of how it speaks to his qualities -- as a man.
He seems to be a devoted father and husband. Other than that, he has yet to display any qualities I find admirable. Am I supposed to admire his deliberate misrepresentation and vilification of his enemies? His scapegoating and refusal to take responsibility? His profligacy? His blatant dishonesty? His willingness to coddle brutal dictators and assorted racists and anti-Semites? His self-aggrandisement? His willingness to employ racism when it suits his needs? His use of threats and violence to silence his opponents? His flagrant contempt for the American people he is supposed to lead? His ignorance of history (or less charitably, his willingness to distort history)? His utter gracelessness? The corruption he tolerates among his supporters? His punishment of those who uncover the corruption? Sorry, these are not qualities that I admire.

I'm not sure whether I am more disgusted over his bowing to a foreign monarch, his repeated insults to various reliable US allies, or his self-congratulation over catching a fly. But more disgusting than any of it is the unadulterated praise of those who think he is the best thing to ever happen to the US.
8.18.2009 2:30pm
eyesay:
His utter gracelessness? Compared to President George W. Bush, who gave an unexpected and unwelcome shoulder rub to German Chancellor Angela Merkel (video) and who as governor of Texas laughed and mocked a woman on death row whom he denied clemency? Compared to President George H. W. Bush, who barfed on Japanese Prime Minister Miyazawa Kiichi (find the video yourself)? Compared to President Ronald Reagan, who portrayed Hitler's soldiers as Nazi victims, and who, rather than taking responsibility, made excuses for failing to take precautions to prevent the bombing of the U.S. military installation in Lebanon? Please excuse me if I don't find President Barack Obama as utterly graceless. And please supply examples and citations for each of your other ridiculous accusations.
8.18.2009 3:46pm
/:
Compared to President George W. Bush[?] Please excuse me if I don't find President Barack Obama as utterly graceless.

I didn't think being utterly bereft of a quality was a comparable quantity. But it speaks volumes that this is the only response ever made. Maybe you'd prefer how Obama compares unfavorably to Bill Clinton, or even what we know of Hillary Clinton as an executive.

And at the very lest, you have to give Bush credit for not acting like a child crying about being kicked in the shins.
8.18.2009 4:57pm
rarango (mail):
Can anyone tell me precisely why we need health care reform?
As nearly as I can tell those advocating for it:

(1) cite the stat of 47 million or so americans unemployed--of course when you subtract illegals and those who have opted to forego insurance for what ever reason, the figure is probably somewhat less (and we don't know how many illegals are in this country nor do we know how many people have volutary foregone health care insurance).
(2) argue that our health care outcomes are not as good other nations; I think that may be a function of what outcomes we choose to use and certainly there appears to be no agreement on them. I assert and can cite epi data that our outcomes are in fact quite good. Others can make equally plausible arguments. This is clearly an area where a conversation is possible and agreement on metrics it seems to me would clarify our options whichever way we end up going with health care.
(3) argue the whatever our health care outcomes, they cost too much. I can understand that point, but don't agree with it only because the cost-benefit analyses are much to complex to run much less agree on.

For the life of me, I am not aware of any other arguments that can be deployed in favor of reforming health care. I am of the opinion that the current system is just fine; it seems to me that those wishing to change need to start the conversation by stating precisely why they want to change it.
8.18.2009 5:02pm
rarango (mail):
oops--in my 5:02 above, change unemployed to uninsured sorry
8.18.2009 5:08pm
yankev (mail):

His utter gracelessness? Compared to President George W. Bush, who gave an unexpected and unwelcome shoulder rub to German Chancellor Angela Merkel (video) and who as governor of Texas laughed and mocked a woman on death row whom he denied clemency? Compared to President George H. W. Bush, who barfed on Japanese Prime Minister Miyazawa Kiichi (find the video yourself)? Compared to President Ronald Reagan, who portrayed Hitler's soldiers as Nazi victims, and who, rather than taking responsibility, made excuses for failing to take precautions to prevent the bombing of the U.S. military installation in Lebanon?
Please show me where I cited any of those as examples of grace. Or of anything else.

please supply examples and citations for each of your other ridiculous accusations.
I don't have all day, so here are just a few.

His profligacy?
How much did the deficit increase during his first 6 months in office, as a direct result of his stimulus program that has done little to produce jobs but much to reward his supproters?

His blatant dishonesty?
The health care bill won't increase the deficit and can be paid for with savings and a tax on "the rich". Anyone who earns $250,000/year is rich. (There is a big difference between rich and high income.) He supports second amendment rights (despite the survey he signed saying he opposes them, which he denies having seen despite it having his longhand notes on it.) Doctors perform unnecessary tonsillectomies to boost their incomes. Opposition to his health care proposals are organized by the insurance companies and "big pharmacy" (one of which paid for $12million in ads to SUPPORT his plan).


His willingness to coddle brutal dictators and assorted racists and anti-Semites?
Who kissed up to Hugo Chavez? Who bestowed the Medal of Freedom on Mary Robinson?

His self-aggrandisement?
His own presidential seal (while still a candidate, yet) and motto. Grecian columns and campaign rallies that could have been scenes from Triumph of the Will.

His willingness to employ racism when it suits his needs?
Skip Gates. And his refusal to disavow the nonsense spouted by various flaks -- the Joker poster is racist, opposing health care reform is racist. Hillary's "# AM" ad was racist. Not to mention 20 years of tolerating and using Rev. Wright.

His use of threats and violence to silence his opponents?
Whose campaign threatened TV and radio stations with loss of their license for running ads exposing his positions? Whose attorneys tried to get the Justice Department to investigate those stations?

His flagrant contempt for the American people he is supposed to lead?
I see, bitter people clinging to their guns and their religion is an expression of respect.

His ignorance of history (or less charitably, his willingness to distort history)?
The fall of the Soviet Union had nothing to do with US resolve. A Jewish homeland in Palestine, which had been authorized by the League of Nations a decade before Hitler took power and had been the subject of political advocacy and self-help for decades before that, was the result of the Holocaust. George W. Bush accomlished nothing worthwhile during his presidency. All problems the US faces today were caused by the Bush adminsitration. attack.

His utter gracelessness?
Returning the bust of Churchill to England. Giving Queen Elizabeth a 'gift' consisting of his own recorded speeches. Being photographed with his feet on the Oval Office desk while talking to foreign heads of state.

The corruption he tolerates among his supporters? His punishment of those who uncover the corruption?
You can't pretend you do not know about the mayor who had diverted federal funds for his own use, and that Obama fired the independent inspector who uncovered it. Not to mention nominating a tax cheat for secretary of treasury.

You may now respond by ridiculing these examples and pointing to others who have done things as bad or worse. None of that will change the truth of what I have said.
8.18.2009 5:54pm
Independent historian (mail):
There is not truth here. Just differing perceptions, authentic merely to those who hold them, nothing more, nothing less.
8.18.2009 6:27pm
David Schwartz (mail):
I am of the opinion that the current system is just fine; it seems to me that those wishing to change need to start the conversation by stating precisely why they want to change it.
It's, among other things, not sustainable. And it's unfair -- hospitals are required to provide medical care even to those who cannot pay, and those who responsibly pay for their medical care or coverage are forced to subsidize those who prefer to foist the risk onto others.
8.19.2009 5:06am
yankev (mail):

It's, among other things, not sustainable. And it's unfair -- hospitals are required to provide medical care even to those who cannot pay, and those who responsibly pay for their medical care or coverage are forced to subsidize those who prefer to foist the risk onto others.
Somehow I don't imagine the current proposals improving that situtation. If anything, the public plan option, increased mandates as to covered treatments, and turning coverage decisions over to governmnent bureaucrats (not that they belong with insurance company bureaucrats) are likley to make things worse, and single payer to make them worse yet.
8.20.2009 1:48pm

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