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America vs. The World

The big trouble with dumb bastards is that they are too dumb to believe there is such a thing as being smart. — Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Seven things Dems and Reps should do to avoid pissing off moderates

Some words of wisdom from the extreme middle:

Democrats: stop turning global politics into a popularity contest. Though an America that’s loved has more potential power than an America that’s despised, you have to acknowledge that large populations will always dislike and blame us for reasons beyond our control. (We represent the status quo, and unhappy people hate the status quo.) America requires just enough popularity to retain authority in an increasingly democratic world—any less and we’re pariahs, any more and we’re suckers. That being said, we’re a long way from that minimal level of popularity.

Republicans: stop working religion where it doesn’t belong. Hundreds of years ago, a couple of heretics named Copernicus and Galileo dared to engage science free of religious intervention, and that seems to have worked out for everyone. Today, we need to follow that example by keeping creationism and “intelligent design” out of classrooms, by pursuing stem cell research like a first-world nation, and by acknowledging abortion as a proven way to reduce poverty and crime. Let the scientific Renaissance live on. Jesus will understand.

Democrats: Stop pushing for nationalized healthcare. Europe’s cushy healthcare structure is so expensive, it currently threatens to bring down entire economies when Baby Boomers start retiring in five years. So while a significant chunk of Americans can’t afford medical care, we need to approach this with our heads, not our hearts. That means baby steps: start by making preventative and critical care more available, then find a way to give insurance companies an incentive for adjusting prices and accommodating subsidies at the state and federal level. Our goals should be realistic—if we can’t get the healthcare we want for ourselves, let’s aim to get it for our grandchildren.

Republicans: stop blocking gay rights. Republicans may claim a history of defending civil rights, but a political party is defined by what it is, not what it was—and what you currently are is a party searching for a Constitutional Amendment that takes rights away from a specific group of people. At some point, you need to realize that gays are the new blacks, and they’ll eventually get the rights they deserve, so stop embarrassing yourselves and let this one take its course.

Democrats: stop thinking only with your hearts. The concept of “redistribution of wealth” is shortsighted, socialist and (to most red-blooded Americans) truly sinful. A government collects taxes with the permission of its citizens, and it does so with the understanding that it will use the money in a manner that best benefits the nation as a whole—at the very least, better than if those dollars were spent privately. Just remember: tax revenues and social programs are a means to an end, so don’t be surprised (or upset) if your dollar goes to pesticide research instead of the homeless.

Republicans: stop thinking only with your wallets. Adam Smith was dead-on when he said “it is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.” But that’s not to say that what’s best for your particular bank account is always best for America as a whole. Sometimes we should embrace that small extra tax or fee (within reason, of course) that may improve our aggregate social health or snowball into economic growth. Just realize that a true laissez-faire economy exists only in textbooks, and a helping hand doesn’t have to be associated with a bleeding heart.

Everyone: Start keeping an open mind. Generally speaking, the other side’s extremes are not much more evil or idiotic than your own—they just see the world through a different lens, emphasize different details and draw different conclusions. Most Americans want a country that is strong, smart and successful, but what that means and how to get there vary person to person, and sometimes even one person’s means and ends don’t line up. So let’s think before we make blanket accusations, avoid the name-calling and try to minimize selective reasoning. You’ll be doing yourself—and your party—a huge favor.


Anonymous P. Pirx said...

Well congratulations. A marked improvement on the recent fare here.

Few technical comment:

On point 3: One significant step that can be taken to make health care more available and affordable is a large scale reform of the US legal (especially, tort) system. Between malpractice insurance and a host of "cover your ass" measures, a huge amount of resources is being wasted unproductively and to nearly everybody's detriment.

On point 4: Let's begin by being truthful, you cannot talk about "taking a right away" when said right hasn't been granted yet. And the proper way to have it granted is through the democratic process. Marriage is a social institution, not an individual one, thus society should've its say. Attempts to circumvent the democratic process through appeal to courts are dumb, dumb, dumb. Bound to provoke backlash (as they did). I realize that the legislative process can be slow and frustrating but when done with, it has a large measure of finality. On the other hand, any right you get granted courtesy of few sympathetic justices and without adequate support of public opinion, is bound to generate endless strife (as it did in the case of abortion) and can be just as easily taken away by few less sympathetic justices.

On points 5-6: Using siple minded and extreme caricatures of both sides' positions doesn't serve well the noble goals of this article. You keep going this route and you end up with something like the last comment to the previous article.

Finally, on point 7: Yes, yes, yes.

Blogger Gordon the Gnome said...

Wow, Pirx. It's just never enough for you, is it?

On point 3: Yes, let's minimize abuse of a legal system that's currently killing affordable health coverage. But that's only one hurdle that's essential to cross, not a solution in itself.

On point 4: I believe in an America where certain rights exist as a default setting, and shouldn't have to be "granted" on a case-by-case basis. That being said, sure, let's make gay marriage and gay adoption legit through the Legislative Branch, not the Judicial Branch. That's why I'm reaching out to the party that opposes gay marriage by over 75%... once Republicans are no more than 50% opposed, this issue can move forward.

On points 5-6: You're a smart guy, Pirx, but you're clearly blind to the extent that you yourself speak like a "caricature" of your side. The fact that you take offense to this dead-center editorial and repeatedly show an unwillingness to meet halfway does both you and your party a great disservice. I know you don't need me to tell you that your last sentence on this point ("You keep going this route...") completely contradicts your triple-agreement with point 7.

A great man once told me, "when you argue with a fool, chances are he's doing the same thing." I take that to heart. I hope you can do the same.

Anonymous P. Pirx said...

Oh, I could say this is enough for me and leave it at that but just a tad of disagreement (conjured, if necessary) is needed to liven things up:-) If all we'll get hee is sweet agreement and mutual congratulations, this blog will gradually descend into the "echo chamber" limbo. Wouldn't want this to happen.

So, one more short go.

On point 3: I fully agree, this is not a solution, just an incremental improvement. However, as we don't have a full solution at hand and don't even know whetehr a single grand solution exists, identifying the bits that can be fixed or improved will be a step in the right direction.

On point 4: Now, this is important. Contrary to what we may want to believe, rights do not exist in vacuum, as disembodied concepts. All rights are ultimately grounded on social acceptance and, absent such acceptance, no right can be stand for long. Vox populi, vox dei. The rights we take for granted now as (in your words) "default settings" are those which already attained social acceptance. Being optimistic, I believe that new rights will be added as they go through the same process. Trying to bypass this process is stupidity of the highest order. Activists should realize (well, would the realize that much they wouldn't have been activists:-) that "in your face" tactics tend to backfire badly on such issues. Sure, one may get a great high from energizing his base, but the opponents base will get energized just as well and lots of bystanders will get quite pissed.

On points 5-6-7 combined: Yes, of course my comments on the first two contradict the comment on the last one. It is because, in fact, the last one stands in contradiction to the first two. Read all three together and judge for yourself. Note, I didn't write "you keep going this route..." as an expectation of you doing so (I know that you're far too sensible for this) just to point to an example at hand (obligingly provided by another poster) to where this route leads for those who follow it.

And, as for the final statement, yes, wise words, very wise. We're in full agreement here.

Blogger Gordon the Gnome said...

In the spirit of conjured argument, here's one more pass.

Point 3: Sounds like we're saying the same thing at this point. Which means if we want to disagree, we'll have to move on to Point 4.

Point 4: Looks like we've drawn different conclusions from the history of granted rights in this country. You view rights being legally granted only once the achieve social acceptence, which I'm not arguing against... clearly my goal is to shift social acceptence, particularly among Republicans who oppose gay marriage by a ratio of almost 4 to 1 (whereas Democrats are right around 50/50). But as specific freedoms have been granted to specific groups over time, I hope Americans eventually learn that freedoms are not meant to be shilled out one at a time—when that occurs, it's generally a case of righting a wrong, so maybe we could eventually learn to follow these patterns and not have to go through such drama every time. In other words, it's not that 1865 is when blacks first deserved freedom, or 1920 is when women first deserved to vote, but rather those are the years when it was acknowledged that the situation was wrong and needed to be corrected through legistlature. Let's stop nickel and diming our collective freedom, shall we?

Points 5, 6 and 7: More often that we'd like, stereotypes are stereotypes because they're true. Just because I observe a characteristic inherent to well over 50% of each party doesn't mean I'm making unfounded blanket insults. I make sure my insults are well-founded. ;)

Anonymous P. Pirx said...

I think that we've a significant philosophy difference here. I'm not sure whether it can be bridged but, since the topic is interesting, I can't resist the temptation to give it another go.

You would like to stop nickeling and diming freedom and award all the rights at once? Which rights? Rights, and duties and social rules do not exist as independent objective entities. There are no objective criteria, comparable to measurement in science, to establish which social rules are "right" and which are "wrong". There is not even an agreed upon definition of "right and "wrong" in this context, and no stone tablets where the authorized, final list of rights and obligations is written down. Well, to be exact, there are people who claim that such stone tablets do exist but when asked to produce them all they can show are unauthenticated paper copies:-) And, note, what they claim to be listed there doesn't necessarily correspond to what you or I would like to see.

Bottom line, rights and freedoms do not reside in the physical world but in the world of concept and perceptions and, as society changes, those may change as well. And when they change, this should not be seen as "correcting past wrongs" but as redefining the boundaries between what's right and what's wrong, no more than this.

Now, the changeover process may be tedious and ugly at times, due to social friction and social inertia. It isn't as if at a specific point of time everybody wakes up in the morning and declares "hey, our society has changed, time to change the rules". No, you've a gradual process, with various groups, small at first, at times growing later, pushing for change, while other groups, being happy with the status quo, defend it. Sorting this all out may (and usually does) take couple generations or so and there are no apriori rules to determine who is right and who is wrong. Of course, you may feel absolutely sure that your position is right, but so do the people on the other side. The situation is symmetrical, whether you like it or not. So, the clash of competing opinions will (and must) continue until a sufficient number of people adopt one or other position to make it, by definition, the correct position.
Of course, once this happen, the winning side declares that "justice has won" and that's how it goes down in the history books. The following generations
learn this in school and end up being absolutely sure that this was a struggle of good people with bad people and the good people won. Only, mind you, no matter which side wins, that's how it is going to be written down:-)

So, to summarize, this is not a battle between right and wrong but a clash of differing social mores and perspectives. You may be quite sure that you're right and the other side is wrong but the other side is just as sure as you're. This shouldn't stop you from pursuing your objectives but some perspective is needed. And, no, you cannot skip the regular season and the playoffs and arrive straight at the awards ceremony. It doesn't work this way.

Blogger Chance-86 said...

*head implodes*

Seriously, I've remained fairly quiet in the blog lately, as the 'real world' has been far more demanding than usual. On two of these topics, I started yelling at my computer screen, so I knew that it was time to log in.

Before I start, let me state 2 truthes in NO uncertain terms. First, I am gay---and I make no secret of it. Second, I am a Libertarian that has a tendancy to lean Republican if pushed in a close election (my views of the current administration not-withstanding)
I am a very unpopular fag. I wear flannel, I drive a 4X4, and I prefer watching football with straight guys to singing showtunes in Wrigleyville. Oh yeah, and I'm also the fag who stands up and tells the ones who are screaming for 'gay right to marriage' to shut the hell up. Just as the GOP can't legislate religion or morality, the Dem's can't legislate acceptance. Contrary to my show-tune schreeching friends, I think the issue here is a compromise of terms. Although 60-some odd percent of Americans stand opposed to 'gay marriage', that number drops significantly if you change the wording to a 'state-recognized civil union.' Now, before the left-wingers start throwing coat hangers at me (like they did in 1972), let me be the first to say that 'yes, I realize that it is an unfair compromise.' Yes, we deserve the right to marry. No, we should not have to beg for rights that should be "default settings"--great term, gordo. But the fact of the matter is that the real world is more complicated than black and white. The real world has in it emotion and misunderstanding and fear.
I stand for a state recognized civil union. I stand for it because it is a step that will be accepted and open the door to the future. I'm a pragmatist. I am looking at the end-game. I don't care how we get there. If the religious zealots want to say that marriage is a religious institution, then fine: let them have it.
Here's the reality of the matter: in 2001 my lover was killed in a car accident. We had been together for 15+ years. I was not allowed to be in the ER to hold his hand when he died. I couldn't even get the ER to tall me when he died...I had to call a 'real' family member. I had no right to his personal possesions, even the ones that I had bought for him. I had no rights to our mutual belongings if they were in his possession (his apt---which, ironically, I paid the rent on). In short, according to the law, I was a stranger.
Fuck symantics. Give me rights. That's the grit of the matter.

Blogger Chance-86 said...

OK, Rant number 2...I should just learn to drink less caffeine....

National Healthcare.

Why wouldn't we want national healthcare? I mean look at how efficiently and economically the government runs. Yeah, lets have healthcare run the same way...or NOT.

Is our current healthcare system broken? Yes. but is de-privatizing it the answer? Not in my book. Our tax dollars can barely pay for the Medicare system as it stands today, and we want to expand it (or a similar monster) to cover 4X as many people as it does today? simple math tells me that it would cost 4X as much to run. --not so-simple math says it could be much, MUCH more--
I, unfortunately, deal with Medicare/Medicaid billing every day of my life, and I will tell you that I will do everything in my power to NEVER have to go on Medicare. EVER. Medicare (or any socialized medical system) bases all decisions on the guidelines of "medical necessity." Ironically, it is the govenment that determines 'medical necessity,' not the Physician.
For example, let's say that I have a young pregnant woman come into my clinic that is on Medicare (for whatever reason). ACOG guidelines say that we give her a Syph test and an HIV test on her first visit, because positive results can so adversely affect the baby (obviously). Medicare will not pay for these tests because they do not consider them to be medically necessary. If that woman is HIV positive, we can start her on a regimen that will, most often, keep the baby from being infected. But Medicare says that they will not pay for the test to find out. What are they thinking?? I deal with these sorts of ridiculous decisions day in and day out. Ironically, if the Doc ordered the test and we don't draw it because Medicare won't pay for it, we are now negligent. So, if she turns up poz and infects the baby, we can be sued for millions. So what happens? often, we do the tests anyway and the cost gets absorbed by the system, forcing private insurance premiums to go up. If that private money disappears, there will be no way to absorb the costs and the tests will simply not get done.
Because the reimbursement rate is so horrible from the public insurances, the clinics have to be run like machines. Too many patients, not enough staff. It's the only way to stay in the black. Once the institutions are no longer running in the black, facilities will suffer and worse yet, research will cease.
The healthcare industry is ridiculously inefficient, but many of these problems could be fixed by capping insurance rates...we pay 250K per year per doc for OB malpractice insurance in my department. Frivilous lawsuits and rising insurance rates are forcing the cost of healthcare up on the average of 8% per year. As if that isn't enough, we have a gentle giant who has laid in bed with us and slowly cut our throats. I speak of the black widow: Blue Cross/Blue Shield. In fashion of the monopolies of the late 1800's, BC/BS has gained so much negotiating power that they are starngling the profit (and thereby the new construction and research) out of our healthcare system. Each hospital/clinic contracts with different insurance companies to negotiate a 'reimbursement rate.' The bigger the company, the less they are willing to reimburse, because they know that we don't want to lost their clientele. So what has happened in healthcare is: BC says they will only reimburse at 60 cents on the dollar. the hospitals agree because 70% of their business is with BC subscribers. Knowing that they can't survive on 60 cents/dollar, they raise rates 40%. BC pays, but raises their premiums. The people who get really screwed are the ones who have to pay out-of-network percentages or worse, who have to pay cash. But (and yes, this rant is leading somewhere) what happens if the system is deprivatized? well, anyone want to take a stab at what our reimbursement rate is for Medicaid? less than 10 cents on the dollar. Medicare? about 20 cents.
There are reasons that people come from out of the country to use our healthcare system. It's called specialty medicine...which medicare/medicaid DON'T cover. Reform? yes. Socialization? not in my lifetime *i hope*

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