Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Stay classy, America

This doesn't directly impinge on me, since my subnormal conversational skills, palpable insecurity, unsettling lack of eye contact, facial expression, or vocal intonation, and abhorrence of the accursed light of the sun make the threat something of a moot point, but it still caught my attention: Pseudo-nonpartisan political group Rock the Vote has put out a new video urging people not to have sex with anyone opposed to health care reform. (Hat tip: Crash Landing.)

Ironic, really. Whenever I see something in the news about the efforts of liberal statist groups like Rock the Vote, "I wish these people would stop trying to fuck me" are usually the first words to pop into my head.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

I suppose straddling the line between socialism and fascism counts as "bipartisan"

The debate over health care has had me thinking about the question of where to draw the boundary between a a private firm intertwined with or heavily regulated by the government and an arm of the state that merely maintains the forms of the private sector. It's been frequently pointed out, correctly, that the obvious purpose of the "public option" is to serve as a Trojan horse for single payer. Even without the public option, though, the "reforms" that seem most likely to pass would effectively eliminate private insurance.

The most frequently referenced issues, now that the public option seems to be out of the running, are the insurance mandate and insurance for people with preexisting conditions. The mandate is basically a payoff to the insurance industry: The government imposes new controls on them requiring them to do things that do not make financial sense if you're actually in the insurance business, and in return the government will force everyone to buy their product. The insurance companies get more money, the government gains greater control of health care, and the benevolent champions of the working man in Washington, D.C. get to impose a large, regressive I-swear-it's-not-a-tax on everyone.

In this scenario, in what meaningful sense is the insurance industry "private" any longer?

The insurers would be government agencies in everything but name, and the insurance they “sell” would simply be a welfare program (albeit one that, like social security, would produce a net transfer of wealth from the relatively poor to the relatively rich) disguised as a commercial transaction. They would exist to serve purposes chosen by the government, their activities would be controlled by the government, and their funding would be given directly to them by the entire population under threat of government force. They would have some internal autonomy and some scope to compete with each other, but that means little to this issue. Even communist countries experimented with letting the managers at state-owned factories make some independent decisions. They'll be about as "private" as a public school district.

The only notable difference, so far as I can tell, is that the people in charge of distributing insurance will be making a hell of a lot more money than your average Department of Health and Human Services manager.

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Is actually learning some basic facts about a politician before you start worshipping him too much to ask?

So, President Obama has announced the deployment of more troops to Afghanistan. To their credit, more liberals have attacked this decision than I expected. In many such cases, however, my respect is somewhat tempered by the fact that many of them are getting indignant about the fact that their beloved has betrayed them by doing exactly what he had always explicitly said he intended to do. Obama advocated the idea of escalating in Afghanistan well before he was elected, after all. He became the "peace candidate" because he was Not Bush, and Bush was a warmonger, and so Not Bush must be a great lover of peace. QED.

The result is actually remarkably similar to the subject of a recent post, the myth of Leon Trotsky the good Communist. Both men have an admiring mythology built around them that is not only at odds with the facts, it is explicitly contradicted by the glorified hero's own words!

This is a predictable outcome of both the way Barack Obama ran his presidential campaign and the way most of the media covered it. The elections always heavily emphasize general concepts tied to strong emotions- Freedom, Hope, Compassion, Children, Patriotism, Danger, Those Other People We Can't Stand- but Obama went further in emphasizing cheery platitudes and good vibes over actual policy and political philosophy than any other major politician I can recall in my lifetime. He was a unifier, he was pragmatic, he was nonideological, he was understanding he was hopeful, he was an historic milestone in America's racial history, he was Not Bush. Most of the mainstream media, thoroughly biased in Obama's favor and not especially politically incisive even at the best of times, indulged this.

John McCain often wasn't all that much better, his persona heavily dependent on his military service and on the reputation as a "maverick" that he had received during his stint as the media's favorite Republican earlier in the decade. I'll say this much for McCain, though: I doubt anyone supported him because they had fallen under the impression that he was a peacenik or a supporter of gay marriage or an opponent of big business.

It's not that Obama didn't have concrete beliefs- his campaign site had an extensive platform outlining his proposed policies. And yet, such was the fervor around him that he was able to rally a passionate following with the most vacuous campaign since "Tippecanoe and Tyler too". He isn't anti-war, but he's a man of powerful charisma who seemed like he ought to be, and who people wanted to be anti-war
, and that was enough.

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