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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Can you diagram this sentence?

Do you remember how to diagram sentences? Help me diagram this one:
No taxation without representation.

I ask because I think it describes my overriding political philosophy more closely than any other pithy political slogan in history and yet people who claim to idealize the political movement where it originated are so opposed to everything I believe. What gives?

Maybe I would make it "no imposition without representation" but that "imposition" would certainly include taxation, so I don't think that's the disconnect. Also, I see the whole sentence as vital to it's meaning... the imposition, the representation, and the logical construct "no X without Y." It would not mean the same thing to say "no X and we demand Y" or just "we demand Y" or "No X.... " or "I'm a retard with a gun who doesn't know anything about history or political philosophy, but I am angry and easily propagandized by xenophobic sentiment."

Maybe it's just my interpretation, but I was thinking a sentence diagram might help to clarify the distinction.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Too Disconnected Healthcare Debates

I think I just realized where the disconnect is!

Ultimately, the one rational argument against a modern healthcare system is the Friedman-style philosophy of self interest and greed as a force for good. There is validity in the free-market principles themselves. We could have that debate, but that's not the debate we see. Instead the debate is jumping from one outright lie designed to drum up fear to another. Which leads me to the disconnect.

It's in the "self interest" of the wingnuts to lie and drum up fear to help them win the political fight. So, this is one of the places where Friedman's philosophy fails. In political debates and arguments over questions of knowledge and fact, it creates misunderstanding and moves us further away from solving the problem at hand.

Another place that pure self-interest fails is in healthcare economics. Healthcare businesses generally make more money the more ill we get and the more expensive care gets. Insurers benefit because they get to "skim" from a statistically much larger pool of money as costs increase [I'm not opposed to insurance -- just stating the fact of how the business model works]. So, it's in their interest that we pay a higher portion of our GDP in healthcare costs and it's in their interest that we need more treatments and procedures. Sure, you could have informed [or just frugal] consumers to counteract those forces, but in a purely market-based system, the only people who would really understand medicine in all its technical detail would be people who profit from more illness, more treatments, more procedures, and higher costs.

This of course doesn't prove whether healthcare is better in a pure market-based system, a purely socialized system, or a hybrid. All we really have are metrics. The metrics and the ethics implied by them is what this debate should be about. Look at all the variety of solutions around this country and the world and the wealth of DATA we have on the cost and quality of outcomes! It's amazing how much there is! Even more amazing is how little of it we are talking about in a debate that is presumably about the cost and quality of healthcare!

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Healthcare Debate In a Nutshell

Progressive: Look at this data. We can have a better healthcare system!
Reactionary: So it's going to cost more?
Progressive: No. Less.
Reactionary: So less quality healthcare?
Progressive: No. More. Did you look at the data?
Reactionary: That's socialism! They are going to take away our freedom!
Progressive: Okay, we'll make it optional. But did you look at the data?
Reactionary: That's not your choice to make! It's my choice! You are not allowed to give me a choice because it was already my choice to begin with.
Progressive: Uhm...... Okay.
Reactionary: No! It's not okay! This ... means ... WAR!


Where's the Debate?

So are there legitimate arguments against this thing? Sure. Consider the horrible quality of care in countries with nationalized healthcare. As explained in this editorial, "Hawking wouldn't have a chance in the UK, where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless." Of course, they have now corrected the article by removing the original reference to Hawking and including a correction at the top that they regret having "implied that .. Hawking ... did not live in the UK." Yes, Hawking is from the UK and has turned up to defend his nation's healthcare system.

So they had to fib a little, but their point remains intact: there are legitimate arguments against modern healthcare systems like those of every other developed country in the world. For example, Conservatives for Patients Rights found three cases where the British NHS fell short of expectations illustrating the problems with socialized medicine. Although two of the three later complained that their views were misrepresented and that they actually support the NHS and universal healthcare, but again these are just anecdotes anyway. Nothing ever goes wrong in the US healthcare system, right? ...as long as you are wealthy or have a job that offers insurance and the insurance company decides to cover you, right? No mistakes here!

To be fair, I'm sure they could have found three Brits to prove their point if they had tried a little harder. I can find plenty of anecdotes from the US to prove the point that the the US system lets people down. We can find nationalists/patriots in every modern industrialized nation who swear that their system is the best. Wouldn't some metrics be more meaningful than dueling anecdotes? I think so. Are there legitimate arguments against "socialist" healthcare systems like the ones every other industrialized nation in the world has? I'm sure there are. I just haven't found anyone who takes the opposing side yet. Plenty of people screaming "bloody murder! Fascism! Communism!... BOO! Be afraid, they are coming to get us!" But no one yet who is willing to discuss the metrics, ethics, and market forces rationally from the opposing side. I'm waiting. Until then, don't accuse me of name calling, you F*CKING RETARD!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Gingrich v Gingrich, and Palin Forgets Her Own Name

Perhaps Palin and Gingrich aren't so nuts after all. Maybe Palin is just dumb and Gingrich is just a shameless bloodthirsty monster.

According to an old press release, Palin publicly promoted end-of-life planning -- dedicated a day to it as governor of Alaska. The evidence is still up on the Alaska state web site. I'm not sure why she has changed her position so abruptly that she now considers the promotion of such activities tantamount to Marxist death panels, but I suspect it has something to do with the intricacies of the executive office. Consider the time Palin went on "Stump the Candidate" and she couldn't name a supreme court decision she disagreed with other than Roe. While it's sad that she couldn't name Dred Scott or Plessy v Ferguson, it is even more sad that she couldn't think of the Exxon case she had publicly criticized only three months earlier. So perhaps Palin is a bad example here since she is lacking in the mental capacity needed for a fair debate.

Consider Newt Gingrich, then. Gingrich also has come out against the provision to cover end-of-life counseling, a provision sponsored in part by Johnny Isakson, a Republican from Georgia. This puts Gingrich at odds with Isakson, but it also puts Gingrich at odds with another Republican from Georgia named Newt Gingrich. Just prior to this issue being raised into the spotlight, Gingrich himself suggested for Medicare exactly the provision being debated in this bill. Of course, to be fair, it also puts Isakson at odds with Isakson... no wait, I think he switched back again.

In conclusion, WTF?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Time Has Come

When a person's mind is so degraded that they are no longer connected with reality and when they have become such a burden that their continued existence does more damage than they ever had to offer in positive contributions, it is time for that person to pass away.

That's why I believe it is time to euthanize Sarah Palin. I would typically say that someone with resources should be allowed to employ any available and legal technology to extend their own life as they choose. When it's no longer a question of whether a person will die but when they will die -- when death appears imminent, we should look to help them strike a balance between extending life and allowing them to die with dignity and without too much unnecessary stress. Each person should be allowed to decide for themselves, within reason, how that balance should be struck. This general framework remains equally valid even as individual options, such as euthanasia or the world's most expensive hospice care, are removed from the equation by ethical and practical considerations.

I believe this general view is shared widely among reasonable people. But I would hope as a civil society, we can all agree to make an exception in the case of Sarah Palin.

P.S. This was originally intended as a joke, but I have since realized that the logic here is more sound than anything ever heard out of Palin's mouth. It makes me wonder whether I should adopt this as a legitimate way of thinking about Palin. Then I realize the argument is flawed and more than little scatter-brained, so I must reject it as the nonsense it is. But isn't it elitist of me to reject an argument just because it is logically and ethically flawed? If I reject it simply for being nonsense, then I am an intellectual elitist and a threat to Palin's ideology, but if I accept it, then I am a potential threat to her person. Either way, I find that there is no common ground to be had.