Friday, August 14, 2009

Political Update for August, 2009

Do you find listening to the health care debate on television a bit boring? I sure do, and I like C-Span. Imagine how most people feel. I know it is important and I believe we need to straighten out the insurance issues quickly, but it just puts me to sleep. The house bill is well over 1000 pages long and in such arcane language that I have not heard one even reasonably definitive description of what is in it. Do not be fooled into thinking that the congressmen know. They are certainly not going to read it. They will rely on what their leaders tell them is in it, who will rely on their staff, much like the stimulus bill earlier this year.

I know there are others who think it’s strange that politicians, commentators and whomsoever can’t agree on what’s in the damn thing, and when they do argue about it, they never refer to the text of the bill itself, but not enough. It would be like having a theological discussion about whether Adam makes an appearance in Genesis, but no one actually reads from it. But, this is the way we have always argued about politics. The internet adds resources we never had until very recently, but it is never used for that.

So, although I touch upon health care here, but I’ll mix it up with my usual rants as there is always something new to say about it.

Trillions and trillions

I sighed a few weeks ago when I was listening to Peter Schiff, a stock broker and economic commentator who made loud predictions of the collapse of the U.S. economy before it happened and is now maybe/maybe not running for Senator from Connecticut. He understands that our economy is based on myths, yes myths, a firm belief of mine (why else would I sigh? He agreed with me). As he points out, we borrow money from countries like China and then use it to buy their products. We buy more than we sell from every important economic partner. We tax, regulate and unionize business to the degree that it doesn’t pay for companies to make products here, because they can’t compete with companies that go elsewhere. Consequently, if they can leave, they leave or start up elsewhere. We tried to put everyone in a house whether they could afford it or not. We continue to uptick our deficits to unprecedented levels and talk about balancing the budget. I have no idea what Schiff’s other political views are, although he sounds like a conservative, so I can’t say if I agree with him on everything or would even vote for him. Probably not. I end up being disappointed by almost everyone. But, at least, he understands economic mythology. If he sounds like Ron Paul, he was his economic advisor during the campaign. And the part of Ron Paul which is realistic is good stuff (the other part, well . . .).

When our economy is obviously made up of mythical elements, why would we pay attention to obvious signs of trouble? Because it is much more comforting to say, yeah, but the market is going up and I want in. Frankly, after watching the huge gains in the market for the past few months, I just bought back in (expecting it to come to a screeching halt thanks to my few shares and, I just may have accomplished that – there will be a collapse but I am pretending to myself I will get out before it). I can scream all I want about our economic system, but I can’t change it. That would take millions of people carrying on about it and its not going to happen. The best thing to do is manage your risk as best as you can and try to be careful.

Now that we have spent and pledged trillions and trillions of dollars, we run the risk of trying to make sure almost everyone has health care - certainly a noble goal – and perhaps only to find that only the well off will have good health care. As always, I am amazed by the amazing coincidence that conservatives and liberals throughout the country know how they stand on the bill without even knowing what is in it. I don’t know what’s in it any better than anyone else, but to me that means I don’t know how I feel about it. But, when it comes to the public option, I’m pretty sure I do. Consider how well government has handled its duties in the past, how poorly it routinely performs (if in the private sector, they would all file bankruptcy), how much money it costs not to mention how much money they often lose track of. Probably not a good idea. Ironically, Obama’s own attempt to allay fears about health care led him to use an example pitting the bankrupt post office against Fed Ex and UPS, which means – what? (I think you know).

I am not sure if a public plan of sorts will be in the final bill voted on in congress. It is seemingly the biggest reason for the anger in the country about the bill (of course, liberals/Democrats would say those are conservatives, but, conservatives are citizens). If it is in there, I agree with those who believe that in time it will suck the air out of the air for private health care companies, who will be unable to compete against a company that can just make money when it is doing badly. Once public health care becomes a monopoly, well watch out. Naturally, if public health care will cut my bill a few hundred dollars a month, I’m signing up.

But, let’s be fair. When government puts its collective mind to something, it makes happen, right? Take the foreclosure situation. Nine months ago we faced the possibility of record setting foreclosures. Government took action to stem the tide and . . . completely failed. They did try, but, nearly ten months after the financial meltdown we have set a new record for foreclosures in July, the third such record in just five months. In fact, foreclosures went up 7 percent in July. The nature of foreclosures tells us that they will go down eventually, but we should not be fooled into thinking that means everything is better. It means that a lot of people have already been foreclosed on and we’ve almost run out of them for the time being.

What is the state of our economy actually? When POTUS gives his first State of the Union speech, he will say “The state of the Union is Strong!” or some such nonsense. Yet, we have no safety nets which don’t show strong signs of future collapse (social security, Medicaid, etc.) in the not too distant future. We are at the point where some people hope they die before these systems collapse. To the contrary, public jobs like police, toll takers, garbage collectors, etc., have gone from underpaid to extremely well paid with pensions which will eventually bankrupt the municipalities. I have a friend who makes $175,000 a year as a police officer. He works hard and is a good cop who cares about what he does, but his pension, but if he retired now, he will get more than half that for doing nothing, and he is only in his 40s. Good for him and others like him, but, can we afford it as a people? You’ve heard the stories about retired toll collectors making six figures. Nothing against toll collectors (I have a sudden fear of being targeted by E-Z Pass when I’m next traveling), but that is a real problem.

The bane of my existence

In the middle of it, as with all things political in the U.S., stand the two political parties and ideologies which run this country. Often they do keep each other from the worst of their good and bad intentions (each would be at the least, a benign tyranny if extended to full power and benign tyrannies don’t end well) but also make sure they take care of themselves as a symbiotic despot. It is sometimes hard to believe that this is true, because no matter how old you are, you have lived in a country where we have had two dominant parties making sure that no other ideology can take root for your entire life. It’s hard to see how things can ever improve with this system. It guarantees, for example, that the party in power will always be for spending more, as only the minority ever cares to anything but talk about deficits.

And, thus, we continue to live in a country which prides itself on its openness and fairness but will always be institutionally grossly unfair to any elected politician with an independent mindset. You want to get anything done in either house of congress, you MUST kow-tow to either the Republican or Democratic leadership. You must caucus with one of the parties.

Let’s take a look at just how crooked our system is. Recently I listened to an absurdly youthful appearing congressman on the floor of the House of Representatives named Jeff Flake, R-Ar. (he looks to me 15 years younger than his 46) who I hope we will hear more from, unless he morally crumbles and starts taking money himself. He goes after pork barrel spending in a more detailed way than the few others in government who seem to care at all.

Here’s an outtake, long but worthwhile, from what I heard back in July as he attacked the spoils system during a debate on a defense bill. I found it fascinating:

There are 109 Member-requested earmarks in the bill; 43 of them are going to powerful Members of Congress who serve in leadership or as appropriators, committee chairs, or ranking members. That represents about 40 percent of the share of earmarks being taken by less than 24 percent of the Members of the House.

I am sure my colleagues will tell me that these projects are sorely needed at the military bases they are earmarked for and that service members will suffer without them, but what about the many installations that don't receive Member-requested earmarks in the bill and the service members stationed there?

Neither Camp Lejeune nor Camp Pendleton received any Member-requested earmarks in the bill. Each of these camps houses a Marine Expeditionary Force comprised of tens of thousands of marines who deploy with great frequency. I am willing to bet that each of these installations have suggestions for new structures to build. Why haven't they received any earmarks in this bill? The answer is pretty simple: Neither of them resides in a district represented by a powerful Member of Congress.

The earmarks in this bill total more than $578 million. . . Of that dollar amount, more than $240 million are being taken home by powerful Members of Congress. That is nearly 41 percent. When you take into account earmark dollars secured by rank-and-file Members in conjunction with powerful Members, that number jumps to more than $300 million, or 52 percent.

So just to reiterate, the earmarks in this bill favor powerful Members by a ratio of 2 to 1. One-quarter of the Members of this House are associated with more than half of the earmark dollars in this bill.

I wish I could say that this is an anomaly, but this is pretty consistent with the rest of the appropriation bills we have considered so far this year, and I have a chart that demonstrates that. . . . Again, those are committee chairs, leadership, or those on the Appropriations Committee, representing 24 percent of the Members in this body. In the CJS bill that we considered earlier, 58 percent of the earmarked dollars went to just 24 percent of the Members.

In the Homeland Security bill, 68 percent of the earmarked dollars went to just 24 percent of the Members of the House.

In the Interior bill, 64 percent of the earmarked dollars went to just 24 percent of the Members of the House.

In the Agriculture bill, 67 percent of the earmarked dollars go to just 24 percent of the Members of the House.

And in this bill, 52 percent of the earmarked dollars go to just 24 percent of the Members of this House. That is a pretty stark pattern.

There are different types of earmarks, obviously. There are those that are simply wasteful. We see those for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and whatever else that is easy to laugh at. Sometimes it is small amounts of money and sometimes it is a lot larger.

And then there are those, particularly in defense bills, where you are giving no-bid contracts to private companies. There is often a pattern of campaign contributions coming back to Members who secure no-bid contracts in private companies. That does not describe what is going on here.

These earmarks, as I mentioned, I have no doubt that they are for a legitimate purpose. But here is another problem with earmarking: It represents a spoils system where rank-and-file Members of the House are not given access to those that others are.

In the Homeland Security bill, it was particularly stark. As I mentioned, a huge percentage, nearly 70 percent, went to just 24 percent of the body. In fact, more than 50 percent went to just 14 percent, those represented on the Appropriations Committee, and these were for predisaster mitigation programs, flood control districts and the like. I don't think Mother Nature decides, I'm going to hit those districts represented by appropriators more than I am going to hit other districts. It is just because they are able to do it, and so they do it. So the rest of the country that competes for these grants on a competitive basis has, at least in that case, 25 percent of that account is earmarked before they can even compete for the rest of the grants that are given out on a competitive basis. Madam Chair, that is just not fair. That is just not the way we should do this. I think we ought to rethink this and we ought to strike that funding in this bill

He’s right. This is unfair. It’s corrupt. It’s insane. But, as powerful as Flake’s arguments are, it went virtually unnoticed in the media. Notice, he’s not even talking her about the insanely wasteful earmarks – the bridges to nowhere, or the earmarks that are payback or a bid for campaign contributions, and those are big problems. Yet, the “good” earmarks he describes, the ones which actually serve a purpose, show the institutionalization of the corruption and that is even worse. It is simply the way we have always gone about business and maybe few care. They should. Flake does not get cheers from his peers, although I imagine he gets a few private pats on the back in lieu of votes. Yet, in response to Flake, a political opponent stood and not too politely suggested he shouldn’t challenge the integrity of other members. The amendment Flake sought was voted down. In all, he has set a record in the appropriations committee of well over 500 amendments for the defense spending bill to cut out earmarks. He loses them all. Few will notice. Fewer will care. We will just print more money and give it to the lucky people who live where the powerful members of congress do.

I note that many of the figures I ballyhoo in these pages for economic wisdom (again, meaning they agree with me) are at least fiscal conservatives, maybe they are just plain conservatives (I don’t look). Right now, I believe they have a better economic theory. Emphasize theory. Of course, when they had their time to rule, they were as bad or worse as Democrats have been when it comes to spending, corruption, procedural game playing, etc. I’d like to know just when Flake started pounding on earmarks as I believe he is on his fifth or sixth two year term. Was it just since 2006, when Democrats took congress back? I don’t know the answer and my doing a Jeff Flake research paper is not going to happen. But, he should keep it up now even if it is partisan.

In the meantime, the appropriation committee added 4 additional planes to the 4 new planes that the pentagon asked for with respect to government, not defense, use – 3 Gulfstreams and a 737. Reputedly, these additional planes would mostly be used by congresspersons themselves. It has caused enough controversy that it appears that the committee is now backing down. John Murtha (the king of earmarks, by the way) has said that if the Pentagon doesn’t want the extra planes (they didn’t ask for them) then they won’t appropriate them. Sounds like sour grapes to me. The days of senators and congressmen flying all over the world at public expense should be ended by greatly restricting it. I have trouble of seeing why congresspersons need to travel to war zones or disaster sites, where their visits are often more trouble than they are worth in terms of security, manpower and military personal. It’s just not necessary and we all know they really go abroad as a type of vacation or to make photo ops for themselves (and I’ll politely skip visiting their girlfriends).

Well, when we vote for people with R and D next to their names we get what we deserve – which brings me to my next topic.

You all get what you deserve

Any number of times during the past campaign I have said to friends and family on both sides - you will get what you deserve. What I meant by that is that their anger, name calling, unfair attacks, made up facts, attempts to intimidate and drown out the opposition, etc., all beget more of the same from the other side and we will continue in this partisan system where both sides idiotically think they will ultimately win and the other side will go away. It seems to me that most people believe that such behavior cannot be avoided, and that since the other side does it unilaterally with glee, the only thing to do is jump in and do the same.

It can be argued that it is just human nature to attack the other side and defend our own. Not only do these tactics not always prevail, but I don’t believe it is helpful to us in the long run. But, it is very ingrained in our system and changing it will be a long, long, uphill struggle. But, so was ending slavery and Jim Crow laws. So was giving rights to criminal defendants. But, culturally, in our country at least, even heated public political discussion rarely ends in violence. The angry town hall meetings congressmen are facing right now regarding health care are a good example. They are sometimes rowdy, and often impolite, but I haven’t seen much violence, although a few people have been carried out for disturbing the proceedings. In some other countries, these political fights routinely turn to violence. It gives me hope that we can someday turn the bumper sticker discussions, exaggerations and character assassination to actual valuable political discourse. Not too long ago Newt Gingrich and Charles Schumer debated each other on stage in New York City, sort of a short version of the famed Lincoln-Douglas debates. It was a good idea. It should happen a lot more.

It is unfortunate that most people’s beliefs do seem to be established by identification with political ideologies or parties, usually the one they were brought up with. It’s not that different than religion. They hear someone on their side say something and they are much more likely to agree with it or believe it. This is hardly news. Most of us know this in general, except who among us believe it applies to ourself in particular? A few MRI studies seem to support the common sense idea that political reactions are, at least at first, emotional, before there is an attempt to rationalize. However, if I believe that, and I do, I can’t also logically believe that I’m somehow exempted from it. All anyone can do, is try to challenge their own knee jerk reaction. One way I personally try and do this is by being a fence sitter – that is, by taking my time in making up my mind (ten years on the death penalty). Don’t think this is bragging. Many people find fence sitters of the worst sort. They do so because if people try and rationally think about issues, and try not to just be for one team, it makes a mockery of the partisans bias.

For example, a liberal recently told me that she didn’t think Sarah Palin was attractive at all. Okay, taste is individual, but we do have such a thing as consensus (although one recent study shows men have greater consensus than women when it comes to attractiveness). I haven’t seen any studies on the affect of political views on who we think is attractive, but want to bet that conservatives think she is better looking than liberals do. That’s a study I’d like to see. I’ve heard the same thing from conservatives about Nancy Pelosi – that’s she is ugly. Although Pelosi is much older than Palin, I find it hard to believe that if conservatives were not aware of who she is they would not find her attractive for her age. Ugly? Come on.

This is no different than when we played baseball as kids and somehow people on each team always saw the guy running to third as safe or out depending on which side they were on. Maybe there is something wrong with me, a symptom of existential alienation, but that always infuriated me. Of course, I quickly learned that the best way to get your own team mad at you was to agree with the other team about a call or rule. Bringing it back to politics, this is in turn analogous to the hatred conservatives have shown for Arlen Specter, who left their team for the Democrats for political reasons, and the hatred Democrats showed for Joe Lieberman who merely agreed with the other team on a few issues.

Sonya Sotomayor’s now famous wise Latina speech tried to make the point that our judgments are affected by our experiences in life and if we want to be as impartial as possible we need to recognize this and then try to weed out these unfair inputs as best we can. I do believe it is at least partially possible. One problem in achieving this goal is that most people don’t seem to believe they are biased in the first place, but that they are moderate and impartial, even if they always vote for one party or listen to one side. It may be impossible to self judge this attribute

One of the ways that partisanship manifests itself is in believing wild stories about the other side. Recently, I read a conservative blog post by Ann Coulter which listed crazy things liberals believed. I’m not going to copy her whole post but she included things like:

-O.J. is innocent;
-Sarah Palin's infant child, Trig, was actually the child of her daughter;
-Justice Antonin Scalia threw the 2000 election to Bush so that his son could get a legal job with the Labor Department;
-Duke lacrosse players gang-raped a stripper;
-Bill Clinton did not have sex with "that woman";
-Heterosexuals are just as likely to contract AIDS as gays;
-John Edwards didn't have an affair with Rielle Hunter;
-Bush knew about the 9/11 attacks in advance.
-Bush was holding Osama bin Laden and planned to release him just before the election.
-the World Trade Center was blown up with explosives, not taken down by terrorists in airplanes

She listed many others, some of which I thought were fair accusations as I do many of those listed above (although beliefs concerning OJ are more racial than political; I’ve never heard liberals deny the John Edwards affair and 9/11 conspiracy theorists come in all flavors). Being Ann Coulter, her glasses only allow her to see the world from one angle. I commented there substantially as follows in my usual long winded fashion:

Some liberals also believe that Bush was going to declare martial law and make McCain president, that Palin wants to punish women who claim to be rape victims and led cheers calling for Obama's death during the campaign. But conservatives are just as eager to believe nonsense:

-the birthers;
-Barack Obama is a Muslim;
-he ascribes to his former pastor's anti-American rantings;
-he is a Marxist (socialist leaning economic policies yes, but a Marxist?);
-when Obama gets elected whites will be forced to pay black's income tax;
-America is no longer a capitalist country (Glenn Beck recently);
-gays are trying to force heterosexuals to be gay (how?);
-immigrants don't have to pay taxes for seven years on businesses and then can switch them to their relatives so that they never have to pay them;
-99% of taxes are paid by the rich (although, of course, they do pay most of them);
-"marriage" is the only word ever that cannot change;
-the U.S. is a "Christian nation" (despite the first amendment);
-liberal politicians are more likely to cheat on their wives than conservative politicians (as recently as a few days ago)
-Japan is a civilized country because after WWII we forced them to be Christians (I've heard Ann say this herself);
-the ice caps are growing (forget whether global warming is real, the caps are shrinking);
-national security letters were necessary and never used irresponsibly;
-wiretaps were not abused during the Bush era (still believe that one, don't you? It’s quite possible it still is);
-no innocent man has ever been executed under the death penalty;
-all prisoners kept at Guantanamo Bay were terrorists (why did Bush release most then?);
-most blacks are on welfare;
-pro-choice supporters want to require abortions (so silly it hurts - you can find extremists on almost anything, but really?).

How many times do I have to tell you, partisanship makes everyone a little crazy. That's my point. I’m sure I will be saying it again. And again.


  1. Like the Jeff Flake tidbits. He sounds too honest to have a long career in congress. To get a graduate degree in counseling psychology one has to take a course that involves uncovering and coming to terms with your personal biases. Seeing as how it is practically impossible to provide therapy without being aware of them. It's too bad this course isn't required in high school. I agree with you that most folks aren't even aware they have them, let alone that they color almost all their opinions.

  2. We will see when the right takes power again someday if Flake will still be complaining about leaders dominating earmarks. That would impress me even more.

  3. I was waiting for a few comments before posting but it's been a few days and only a few comments so here goes. BTW Bear must be busy...his comment was really short.
    Another BTW Hey Bear update your blog.

    I'm sorry to hear that the internet hasn't reached Buchanan yet...or you would know from empirical studies that the antarctic ice sheet (where 80% of the world's fresh water is stored) has been growing rapidly and is above the avg of the last 30 yrs. I'm wondering how that can be if the earth is warming. If one puts a chunk of ice in an oven it melts evrywhere. part doesn't melt and part doesn't expand. Also, as to another of the almost infinite areas in which I can educate you try checking into solar cycle 24 and the current lack of sunspots (approaching modern records) and that correlation with the Dalton minimum and Maunder minimum.

    That said, I agree that a true, rational debate about a specific bill can not be had without a bill being extant. Further, any representative, in the face of an extant bill who hasn't read it in its entirety is betraying his oath of office and should be thrown out of office. And, there was a raeson our teachers told us "no Cliff's notes" for literary works. Same applies to sweeping legislation.Thst, however, is a political consideration.

    But, I think you frequently blur the line (I'm not sure if it's intentional or inadvertent ) between "partisan" and "idealogical". I can promote (or dipsute) a policy on idealogical grounds without it being necessarily partisan. I am opposed to govt run health care no matter who promotes it on philosophical grounds. It doesn't matter what the particulars are: I'm against it. Partisan implies that you want your SIDE to win not our IDEA to win. If that's what you mean I would agree more with your observations. However, you can't call one who stands for or against an idea (if he stays consistent) partisan. I would call that principled.

    Another thing I notice. You seem reluctant to espouse support for politicians who you think are "consrvative" You go out of your way twice in this post to say that even if you agree with someone you don't want to find out that they are conservative and you might not vote for them if you did.
    Why is that?? What is it about conservatism that you find so frightening??

    Many of the problems you address I agree with in priciple and could be eradicated by term limits and an overhaul of congressional rules. (Aint gonna happen).

    Going back to your lists of myths:
    Some of these things on both sides are opinions of a qualitative nature- not empircal right or wrong facts. You are right that they are more held by "lefties'or "righties" depending on which but most (unlike ice extent and aids) can't be proven or disproven to a scientific certainty. You and I both believe OJ was guilty but neither one of us can prove it for certain.

    So, Do you see a difference between partisanship and ideology?

    And, Why do you seem afraid of conservatism??

  4. That was some comment. I wrote an answer and then must have gone to another webpage before I saved it, so this is take two. I could just write a) I think you are wrong – overall the ice sheets are melting and b) you are complaining I am being unfair to conservatives in a post where I praise two conservatives and no liberals - huh? But, since you were so passionate, I will write practically another whole post to explain myself. I’ll try not to miss anything.

    I agree that there is a difference between ideology and partisanship, just as there is a difference between jurisprudence and partisanship, but almost always, partisans are ideological. And many people are partisan. So, the two often run together.

    Let me see if I can take your comment and show you what I mean by partisan reactions. I have two examples. The first is the ice issue:

    Your comment indicates you made a jump that I often find people who are conservative (and yourself identify as conservative for the most part) make if you say anything, ANYTHING other than – “there is no global warning and any fact, idea or thought to the contrary is complete idiocy.”

    I am agnostic about global warming. I have seen very little, if any, solid evidence that the globe is warming on the average. Certainly the last ten years there is no evidence of it, and the last 100 so little that it can’t be considered substantial. Yet, because I am not willing to decide what I think about the weather based on politics, I can listen to both sides and, if I don’t think there’s enough evidence, NOT come to a conclusion. I can also take individual facts on each side that seem convincing to me without feeling I have to disparage it because my pro or con global warming position requires it. I can believe there is no convincing evidence of global warming AND believe that the ice sheets are melting (I didn’t even say why – I don’t know). Satellite photos show that the sheets at there edges are melting far faster than the increasing thickness in the middle of the sheets.

    You will notice that I actually said in my post that I WASN’T discussing whether there is global warming, but just whether the ice sheets are melting. Ask yourself why you automatically reacted as if I was attacking a cherished conservative belief.

    Personally, I believe that no one who is not a professional in this field can even take much of stab at it. Simply keeping up with the debate is not enough. My reading laymen’s physics because it interests me, does not qualify me to have a serious opinion about string theory or dark matter. Experts don’t know much. Also, because the debate has been poisoned by partisanship, it is no longer easy to know what sources to even trust. Conservatives trust those who agree with them and liberals the same. I feel that you can probably trust very few sources and I sure don’t know which ones.

    By the way, your assertion that you can’t have warming in one part of the earth without it warming everywhere cannot be correct in a complex weather system like Earth. Think about it.

  5. A quick comment on the public health insurance option: If there is none, then the only winners here are the insurance companies, who must be salivating. I just changed plans to reduce my monthly charge, but they are insisting on billing me on the 28th of the month and I want to be billed on the 6th (and they are billing me twice in one month because of this). They keep giving me stupid reasons. I am now looking at a third plan which may be cheaper and better (and hopefully they will not bill me on the 28th). And I'm just lucky I'm healthy or no one would talk with me at all!

  6. Those companies wouldn't talk to you if you were unhealthy because we have an insurance problem in this country. And we should try and fix it, but not by destroying the companies or doctors.

    You didn't say which big government programs you thought were feasible models? You probably can't (no one can - the value of the military is measured in other ways), but still think we should have the government take over? Why? So they can be a monopoly. You know what monopolies do. Or just be unfeasible the way of social security is? You know what monopolies do. As much fun as every one made about "death panels" that actually could be a reality through government bureaucracy, not evil.

    We have government care already. I don't mind government safety nets. They are terrific to have there if you need them. But, they are not self sustaining and we see what happens with them. Do you ever here anyone bragging about their medicare/medicaid?

    I dislike insurance companies (having worked for three) but I'd rather have private agreements (policies) than government care. We'd all like something for free or cheaper (and maybe for someone else to pay for it). As I said, if the government option is cheaper than my own insurance, of course I'd do it. Almost everyone else would too. But, it is better to legislate that insurance companies cover certain things and don't exclude for certain others than to make them compete with the government.

  7. Once again you are wrong...but I repeat myself. i agree that in a complex system like the earth there is natural variability to weather/climate which would allow for a variety of weathe revents. But, the AGW theory is that manmade emissions are dramaticall and catastrophically warming the entire earth. If such is the case the entire world should be experiencing warming on a continuing, predictable level. As you admit, it is not. As to icecaps at the pole- go look at some satellite pics from NASA fercrissakes. You can see them superimposed over previous years----not shrinking but growing.
    You missed my entire point about conservatism. Not that you praised 2 conservatives but that you seemed embarassed or apologetic about so doing. And that if you REALLY knew their general political positions you probably wouldn't vote for them . that is the issue I was raising. What is that about???

  8. Aye yay yay (is that how you spell that?). Okay, one more time but immensely shorter.

    Again, you are having a knee jerk reaction to arguing global warming which I never argued about in my blog or comment. I could care less what anyone's theory is about it. I am saying that some areas get hotter/colder over the year on average and some the opposite. Period. However, go to the website from NSIDC from which you sent me the picture supporting your belief that the ice is growing and you will see that THEY THEMSELVES say that it has been shrinking for thirty years and that although 2009 did not set a new record low, it is considerably worse than 1979-2000 data. I don't know how you are arguing this. Pick a new fight. You are having a severe anti-liberal partisan flu. I won't deny you are an independent minded conservative, but you are off your meds on this one. The ice is shrinking.

    We must be going in circles on this conservative thing because I'm not even sure what we are arguing about. If it makes you happier - I happen to like the things Schiff and Flake said that I quoted, but I might like them in general a lot less if they turn out to be too conservative OR liberal, although the chances of them being too liberal are pretty slim given that they are conservatives (wouldn't you say).

    Thank God next week's blog is historical in nature. My blood pressure is rising.

  9. Actually David, I know quite a few people who are surviving only because of medicaid and medicare. (I was the wrong one to ask that question to.) That they cover or don't cover is not the whole issue. If you can't afford the insurance, it doesn't matter what they cover. So, in effect, we already have "death panels," not a la Palin, but a la insurance companies. You don't have money; you die. No, the gov't is not perfect - far from it - and I don't think that everyone will go running to a gov't option - but that's the point; it's an option - and that option, if it is cheaper, will hold down costs. Right now, it's also costing tons - through the hospital ER's, etc. We pay for it in our taxes, and then of course are the people who get worse, or who die (and then cost nothing). I am not advocating that we have only one system or insurance company - but that the 43 million people who have no insurance can get it somewhere. I already experienced all this - when I lived in Israel (but at least I had insurance). The number one reason there that people went to the medical clinic (instead of work) was to see their friends. But if I went an hour early, I discovered I could get what I needed and leave (sad tho about not seeing my friends).

  10. As I've said before (maybe in here - so many comments I can't remember) I have no problem with safety nets and they do not compete with private firms. However, the way we do them they are not financially stable as everyone acknowledges. Moreover, I've never heard people bragging that they are so lucky they have medicare instead of private insurance. The whole point of the public option is to have it much cheaper, and private companies cannot compete against a public company which can print money. As I also said, we do have a big insurance problem, but there are better ways to take care of it. All the countries that have public options are struggling with their systems too, but all countries are not the same. I don't see it co-existing with insurance in this country. When it becomes a monopoly, their will be death panels of a sort and then there will not be options. I always forget the name of the Canadian who operates as a broker for Canadians who can't get life saving treatment in Canada so they have to come here, but everyone should listen to what he has to say, at least. What we need is a system where people who don't have employee benefit policies can share in low prices and people can't be excluded because of prior illness (much like the system we have in all states so that even the worst drivers can get auto insurance). I disagree with conservatives who think we shouldn't even have safety nets but also with liberal thought that more government is always the solution.

    You haven't answered the question - which big government program is financially stable? We know not it's not the post office.

    I still like my suggestion from a few months ago. Charitable donations to pay premiums and other necessary care for people who can't should be made a tax credit. That way it stays private, is not anti-competitive, works because the profit motive drives it, and would include almost all people - you might barely need medicare and medicaid.

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About Me

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .