Idiot Nation, Idiot Press

The Daily Kos goes after Politico for the way that it han­dled Palin’s claim over the health care plan:

Seriously? Seriously?

Yes, seri­ously. It falls to Politico to take a story about a national fig­ure mak­ing up whole­sale a crooked and ridicu­lous story about how Democratic “Death Panels” are com­ing after her dis­abled child if we dare reform health­care, and turn it into an absolutely straight news story.Well done, Politico. Absolutely mas­ter­ful. I couldnt come up with a more embar­rass­ing exam­ple of the national polit­i­cal media as lazy, stu­pid, worse-than-useless prop if I tried.

As the Daily Kos points out it should not be too much to ask for an insti­tu­tion like Politico to point out how bla­tantly igno­rant and idi­otic Palin’s state­ment is. Instead of doing so though they sim­ply quote her and lend a ounce of cred­i­bil­ity to her claim.

Life expectancy and the health care debate

Matthew Yglesias today rebuts this sta­tis­tic about life expectancy in the Netherlands ver­sus the United States:

At birth, some­one liv­ing in the Netherlands can expect to live 2.35 years longer than some­one born in the US, but at age 65, the dif­fer­ence is reversed, and some­one liv­ing in the US can expect to live 0.4 years longer than some­one liv­ing in the Netherlands. This dif­fer­ence can be explained by assum­ing that semi-socialized health care is bet­ter for young and worse for old peo­ple, or, at least as likely, dif­fer­ent poli­cies are not the main cause of the dif­fer­ence. [empha­sis original]

Yglesias writes that:

But inso­far as we want to exam­ine the health care issue, both sides of this fac­toid sup­port social­ism. Dutch peo­ple of all ages enjoy a quasi-socialized sys­tem of health insur­ance pro­vi­sion (by European stan­dards, there’s a lot of pri­vate sec­tor involve­ment in Dutch health care). Americans under the age of 65 par­tic­i­pate in an over­whelm­ingly pri­vate sec­tor health insur­ance mar­ket. But Americans over the age of 65 par­tic­i­pate in a Canadian-style national health insur­ance scheme known as Medicare. The data, if we want to take it seri­ously, indi­cates that the Dutch sys­tem is bet­ter than pri­vate sec­tor med­i­cine but worse than Medicare and tends to sup­port a “Medicare for all” approach.

This reminds me of the inter­view that John Stewart did with Bill Kristol in which he gets Kristol to admit the supremacy of the government-run mil­i­tary health care system.

It just seems so bla­tantly hyp­o­crit­i­cal for peo­ple to extol the virtues of Medicare and mil­i­tary health insur­ance and yet con­done a pub­lic option for health care. Despite this we’re still hav­ing to rely upon peo­ple like Yglesias and Stewart to point out this hypocrisy. This should be what the Democrats do if they really want this plan to pass.

Politics and rationality

Matthew Yglesias posted this the other day con­cern­ing the idea that Obama’s tax pro­pos­als were sim­ply too ratio­nal. The rea­son for this in Yglesias’s eyes is that Congress if full of “Senate mod­er­ates” who he describes as “some­one who takes his party’s pro­pos­als, objects to them, waters them down a bit, and then con­grat­u­lates him­self on a job well done. Which is great if his party’s pro­pos­als are unduly immod­er­ate. But it’s big-time trou­ble if his party puts a rea­son­able, mod­er­ate agenda on the table.”

With this in mind the solu­tion for Obama would have been to pro­pose a ridicu­lous tax law, Yglesias gives the exam­ple of a top mar­ginal tax increase of 43 per­cent, so that the “Senate mod­er­ates” then object and “nego­ti­ate” the pro­posal down to what Obama wanted to actu­ally accom­plish in the first place.

Seems to me a pretty fair char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of how much of Congress works. Far too fre­quently do I hear Senators and Representatives rais­ing objec­tions over what are really quite ratio­nal proposals.

Sidenote: While read­ing Hanna Pitkin’s “The Concept of Representation” for a pol­i­tics class on Democratic Theory I came across this line

Politics abounds with issues on which men are com­mit­ted in a way that is not eas­ily acces­si­ble to ratio­nal argu­ment, that shapes the per­cep­tion of argu­ments, that may be unchanged through­out a life­time. It is a field where ratio­nal­ity is no guar­an­tee of agreement.

Seems that this idea of irra­tional pol­i­tics has had some trac­tion for some time. I won­der why no one takes it into account when mak­ing policy.

A-Rod and Steroids

Doug Glanville has a post on the New York Times that is the best sum­ma­tion of the prob­lem with focus­ing all of the blame and atten­tion upon Alex Rodriguez for his recent admis­sion of steroid use dur­ing his time with the Texas Rangers. In the arti­cle Glanville, who played with A-Rod in 2003, writes that:

In the end, it isn’t about Alex Rodriguez, though we are mak­ing it about him. He must be in quite a dark place, because he could always rely on the authen­tic­ity of his tal­ent to over­come any crit­i­cism of his civil­ian self. Now that is gone, and I am sure the pub­lic will exact a price from him for years to come. Sure, all this has come about because of cer­tain choices he made, but he was outed by forces beyond his con­trol, in a way that was not hon­or­able. That is not good for any of those 1,200 play­ers who were tested. That is not good for any­one. And why focus on Alex Rodriquez and not the other 103? Why weren’t there leaks about everyone?

We should step back and think about what we really want to gain from this sit­u­a­tion. While I was play­ing pro­fes­sion­ally, it was dis­turb­ing to watch play­ers cut cor­ners through chem­i­cal means to get to that next con­tract. But I don’t see the good in sell­ing our souls while claim­ing we want to chase the devil from our midst.

I hope we learn how to keep our word. If the tested play­ers had known up front that the results were going to be made pub­lic (or that there was even a chance that they might be), not a sin­gle one would have agreed to coop­er­ate, and it has very lit­tle to do with hid­ing any­thing. It has every­thing to do with pri­vacy. Being A-Rod should not change that fact.

Amen. These play­ers agree to anony­mous test­ing so that Major League Baseball could see if it had a major drug prob­lem. They com­plied with the test­ing, and when the results came out they agreed upon a harsher penalty for offend­ers. The play­ers lived up to their end of that bar­gain and ulti­mately it is the sports reporters and Major League Baseball that didn’t live up to the agree­ment by pub­li­ciz­ing (even through leaks) the results.

Aristotle on Democrats

I’m read­ing Aristotle’s “The Politics” right now for a class on Democratic Theory. In Book 3, Chapter 4 he writes some­thing that I found to be quite applic­a­ble to cur­rent American pol­i­tics and specif­i­cally to the Democratic reac­tion to Barack Obama’s vic­tory in the elec­tions. In this chap­ter Aristotle writes that:

Hence this too has been rightly said–that it is not pos­si­ble to rule well with­out hav­ing been ruled. Virtue in [each of these] cases is dif­fer­ent, but the good cit­i­zen should know and have the capac­ity both to be ruled and to rule, and this very thing is the virtue of a citizen–knowledge of rule over free per­sons from both [points of view].

This spoke to me in real­tion to the esta­tic reac­tion among Democrats to Obama’s elec­tion. Suddenly a mass of peo­ple has decided that they need to be involved in pol­i­tics, com­mu­nity ser­vice, and day to day polit­i­cal news. Certainly part of this is due to the ever-worsening eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion, but it seems unde­ni­able that part of it is also a result of Democrats now being the “rulers” to use Aristotle’s lan­guage. What I won­der is where was all of this polit­i­cal activism dur­ing the past 8 years? There were cer­tainly just as impor­tant of deci­sions being made dur­ing this time, but instead of being involved in the process the mass of Democrats seemed to be largely apa­thetic to the daily actions of George Bush.

To me a dis­turb­ing num­ber of Democrats, per­haps epit­o­mized by some of those cur­rently serv­ing in Congress, are happy to extol the virtues of the American polit­i­cal sys­tem when they con­trol the pres­i­dency and both houses of Congress, but once the other party gains con­trol they revert right back to decry­ing how dis­as­trous that party is for America and how bro­ken the sys­tem is. This kind of hypocrisy just doesn’t sit well with me and is one of the main rea­sons why I largely abstained from vot­ing for can­di­dates in this past elec­tion: they’re all equally hyp­o­crit­i­cal and despicable.

Protecting Wild Utah

The New Republic’s Energy and Environment blog has an arti­cle today about Ken Salazar, the new inte­rior sec­re­tary, and his effort to repeal one of the last-minute Bush admin­is­tra­tion laws. In the clos­ing months of the Bush admin­is­tra­tion they passed a bill that would open up large tracts of Bureau of Land Management land in Utah. The prob­lem is that Salazar has sim­ply stalled the open­ing of these lands for drilling, which is cur­rently a legal prac­tice. From the article:

Unfortunately, there’s an under­ly­ing prob­lem that still needs fix­ing. In offer­ing the leases for sale in December, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was sim­ply act­ing in accor­dance with the new resource-management plans for its lands in Utah. These plans, which the Bush admin­is­tra­tion rushed to com­plete before the end of last October, leave about 80 per­cent of the BLM’s 11 mil­lion acres in Utah open to energy devel­op­ment. If the BLM con­tin­ues to man­age its Utah lands accord­ing to these guide­lines, which are sup­posed to last for 20 years, then this week’s envi­ron­men­tal vic­tory will only be a tem­po­rary one. Conservation groups are chal­leng­ing the man­age­ment plans in court, and their law­suits may well be suc­cess­ful. But the Obama admin­is­tra­tion needs to start draft­ing replace­ment plans that take into con­sid­er­a­tion the sen­si­tive nature of Utah’s red-rock coun­try by putting more of it off-limits to drilling.

I would love to see the Obama admin­is­tra­tion expand fed­eral pro­tec­tion through not only Utah but much of the other semi-protected fed­eral lands in other states. Traveling through Southern Utah dur­ing my Freshman year here at Whitman was sim­ply amaz­ing and truly cre­ated a new sense of envi­ron­men­tal­ism in me. I only wish that the lands stay pris­tine so that oth­ers can have the same expe­ri­ence that I was for­tu­nate enough to have.

Link via Utah Drilling Stopped. But For How Long? — Environment and Energy .

Obama’s fired up

It’s good to see Obama push­ing the Democrats again to think in a new way and to push for some­thing other than the same solu­tions. At a Democratic cau­cus retreat he speaks of how “the scale and the scope of [his stim­u­lus plan] is right.” It’s refresh­ing to see a President speak can­didly and elo­quently in front of cam­eras and micro­phones. No longer do we have a bum­bling man behind the mic. Despite the grim econ­omy it’s refresh­ing to see and hear Obama as our President.

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