Monday, August 31, 2009

The Importance of Real Debate

One of the saddest things that have happened over the past several years is the total and utter lack of a real debate over issues in Washington, D.C. There was a time when the leaders of both parties could sit down, have a bourbon (or two) and hash out a solution to a problem Did that solution always work? Hell, no. But both parties were on the same page, and the debate was open and honest. For me, the last time this happened was during the debate on education which lead to the "Leave No Child Behind" bill. Ultimately, the bill was flawed and has been a disaster, but the debate was honest.

In the wake of Ted Kennedy's death, its appropriate to note the lack of a true debate in Washington over health care, torture, or the economic stimulus package. And apparently, the climate change bill is also going to be a rough one. The problem is, essentially as I see it, that the two parties live in two completely alternate universes. So instead of arguing the how - as in how do we fix this problem - the Parties argue whether or not a problem even exists. Health care, for instance, is tremendously overpriced in this country (we spend more per capita than any other country in the world, by far), and that has lead to bankruptcies and poor health. But instead of arguing how health care reform should be structured, Republicans argue that there is no problem, or worse, make up things about health care reform.

Where are the arguments about streamlining the health insurance market? Where are the arguments against burdensome regulation, or tort reform? In short, where is the honest conservative argument about health care? Or torture? Or climate change? The Republican argument seems to be to deny the existence of any problem. And ultimately, these made up facts have become an identity and not a philosophy. And that's a shame because conservatives have good points to make. For instance, the deregulation of the trucking industry was, all in all, a good thing. Welfare reform has been largely successful (I think). In other words, the conservative voice, or the good government voice, has been an important part of the Republic.

What's more, I deeply fear the insanity of identity politics in this country. Every day I see more and more harbingers of political violence in this country. Listen to this:

Now, Glenn Beck is a total nutcase, but he's alleging a coup by election - in other words, Obama has taken over the government by winning an election - something that has been done by both parties since 1801. Beck is practically encouraging the violent overthrow of the United States! We have pastors praying to God for Obama's death, and their parishioners are carrying assault weapons to Obama's events. Only 42% of Republicans are certain that Obama is a citizen of the United States!

True, the Democrats have, in the past, demonized the right. As the years rolled on during Bush's tenure as President, we became more and more strident against him. Though, to be honest, he did a lot to encourage our ire. But that outrage and anger took years to develop, and the anger was over policy - Iraq, torture, climate change, Katrina, etc. And it took even longer for our leadership to even acknowledge the anger we felt - this, by the way, is a continuing theme: Republicans fear their base, and are responsive to them (no matter how crazy the base gets), Democratic Leadership thinks the base voters are a bunch of dirty fucking hippies and ignore them. *bangs head against wall*

Ultimately, the change occurred because the Republicans realized that they could win more debates by being ruthlessly partisan, no matter what the facts were. And politically, that's the right move. What drives me nuts here is that the Democrats having faced this exact problem for the past thirty years have yet to realize that they need to be partisan in return. But despite what the Democrats do, something has to break with the Republicans - they can't keep doing this.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Whole Foods CEO is an Idiot

First off, everyone read this article. I'll wait for you to finish. . .okay, so it seems that John Mackey, the Whole Foods CEO thinks that the public option, and any government sponsored health care is a bad idea. Okay, its an old article, but I think it belies my point in yesterday's post. Namely, the very people Whole Foods relies on for its products - the farmers, artisans and ranchers - would all benefit greatly from a public option.

By and large, the farmers, ranchers and artisans are all small business owners, who struggle not just to provide health care to their employees, but also to provide health care to themselves. Most of these individuals live very, very close to the edge. Now, the utility of such occupations is much higher than in other occupations - I'm fairly certain that these guys are much happier than I am in my chosen profession - but everyone needs some room for comfort. As health care costs increase (and they will), more and more farmers, ranchers and artisans will leave the food market and get white collar jobs. For most supermarkets, which depend on larger and more profitable growers, this won't be a big deal. But Whole Foods depends on the farmer willing to grow weird crops organically. So as these guys leave the market, Whole Foods loses suppliers. The end result is that Whole Foods is going to end up buying the same crops as everyone else.

Now, considering that Whole Foods' market strategy is selling unusual and organic products at fairly high prices, selling the same products as everyone else is bad. Market-killing bad. Without health care reform, Whole Foods is in danger of losing its market share - hence the idiocy of John Mackey. Oh, and by the way, most of his customers are the kind of crunchy, granola types who are strongly in favor of single payer health insurance. So, he's managed to piss off his customer base too. Nice move.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

About that Public Option. . .and how to deal with the Birthers. . .

One of the great controversies in the current health care "debate" (total and utter panic would probably be the right description of what's going on right now), is over the public option. As a progressive, I'm all for it, but most conservatives are completely against it. Not only is the public option opposed, but its mere mention leads to comparisons to Nazism and Hitler (though, again, the Nazis tried to eliminate Germany's public health care program).

But while the public option has been compared to Nazism or Socialism, I think the public option is far, far different. Its about recreating the American frontier. Okay, bear with me here. Prior to the collapse of the American financial sector, fear of losing health insurance was the biggest reason why people didn't quit their jobs and form new businesses. As someone who had to buy his own health insurance for some time, I can tell you that there's a good reason for that. Individual health insurance is pricey, and if you have a preexisting condition, its almost impossible to get. So a lot of people stayed in jobs they hated.

The public option, which would apply to people without employer-provided insurance, allows people to become insured by the Federal Government. Not only would said plan be cheaper, but would cover preexisting conditions, and there would be no fear of recission - where the insurance company rescinds its coverage because the insured didn't fully disclose his/her health history (including minor conditions that were completely treated). Thus, by offering the public option, self-insureds would have access to quality health care at a low cost.

As a result of having such a plan, people would be more willing to become self-insured, and thus, more willing to open their own businesses than ever before. And that's a good thing for a couple of reasons. First, small businesses, in aggregate, hire more people than big businesses do, so more small businesses = more job growth. Second, and more important for this discussion, small businesses act as a virtual frontier. It allows the worker to change his life and his circumstances and head out on his/her own.

Its the frontier aspect of the public option that I find most appealing. Granted, that may be the romantic in me, but America has always been about the frontier. For over three hundred years, the frontier has been the great safety valve, preventing us from getting trapped the way that the Europeans were. Now, of course, the West is no longer free of development, but the frontier is about a state of mind, not about a place. Its about forging your own identity, and building something with your own hands. The true American dream isn't owning a house, but owning a business. And one of the biggest obstacles is the cost of health insurance - which can be solved by the public option. Hence, my support.

Now, unfortunately, the health insurance bill won't help American industry all that much (no public option for Ford/GM), but the public option is a good start. Why no one else is talking about this is beyond me.

With regard to the birthers - I just saw a poll where only 45% of Arkansans believe that Obama is a citizen. As much as I mock the birthers, we've now gotten out of hand. If the media won't do its job, then someone has to. I propose that that Democratic Party put out ads with Obama's birth certificate and the birth announcements in the Hawaii papers in them. Run the ads in the South. Prosecute those who threaten to kill Obama. If someone shows up to a rally with a gun, arrest them. If this cancer continues to persist, someone is going to get hurt.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

One Last Word on the Health Care Debate. . .okay not really. . .

While we can debate the protesters (fucking nutbags), or the terms of the debate, or even what should be in the bill, I have one thing I have to say:

If any Democrat in the Senate votes against cloture, they are fucking dead to me. They will not get a fucking dime from my pockets, nor an hour of my time. I won't pass along an amusing anecdote about them online. If they're on fire along the side of the road, I won't stop to piss on them and put out the fire.

That doesn't mean every Democratic Senator has to vote for the health care bill, but when the debate comes, I don't want any Democrat to help the Republicans filibuster. And these Senators can honestly tell their constituents that they voted against the bill - they just supported the ending of debate on the bill. Voting against cloture, though, is nothing short of a ratfuck of the President and of the Democratic Party, and so those that vote against cloture are fucking traitors.

But then again, that's my two cents.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Random Thoughts Blog. . .

As if you people care what I think, but its my blog, and apparently funded by the good people of Kaiser Permanente. Actually, that's a bit ironic as my employer made his money suing. . .but I digress.

Rather that a full blog post on any particular topic, I have been so inspired that I want to do a bunch at a time. Granted, I could avoid this by posting more often, but its my blog. . .err. . .Google's blog, but they let me play here. So bite me. Anywho, without further ado. . .

Birther and Deathers = Identity Politics: Usually, Democrats have been accused of playing identity politics. That is, the Dems allegedly get people to vote for them along racial and/or ethnic lines, instead of along policy lines. In the past that might have been true, but now its pretty clear that the GOP is playing identity politics for reals.* For someone like Sarah Palin, being an American means you have to be white, conservative and from a small town. Predictably, African American, Latino, LGBT, and urban dwellers noticed this in the last election and all voted for Obama. What you're seeing now with the birthers (who deny that Obama is even a citizen) and the Deathers (who think Obama is creating a death panel**, when he's not) are people who oppose Obama because he's a black guy with a Muslim-sounding name. And they go nuts because they think that everyone should know that. Of course, everyone does know that, and most don't care. Hence, they go nuts. Oh, and to the guy who brought a LOADED WEAPON TO A PRESIDENTIAL TOWNHALL - you're an idiot and you're lucky you didn't get shot or arrested for doing it. Now, knock it off. There are about a 1000 police at these things, so trust me, no one is going to mess with you.

But in all seriousness, identity politics is kinda scary because that sort of thing is usually a harbinger of civil conflict. In Iraq, for instance, elections are about identity first, and policy second. So, the ethnic tensions are increased and people end up getting shot. And quite frankly, if no one ends up shot at one of these town halls, I'm going to be very surprised.

* Any and all misspellings, and odd pluralizations are completely intentional.

** What Palin calls a "Death Panel" is actually a process whereby the senior citizen meets with a panel of doctors to discuss end of life care - when to pull the plug, when to go to hospice, etc. So, rather than impose end of life decisions on people, this panel is supposed to empower them. And the creation of this panel was created by the Republican Senator from Georgia, Johnny Isaackson.

Polygamy in Western Culture
- So, I was watching "Clash of the Gods" last night on the History Channel (which, aside from the ridiculous notion that the myths may be true, is a pretty good show), featuring both Hercules and Zeus. In both instances, Hera's vindictive jealousy was pretty well explored. What struck me was that while I remembered that Zeus was a hornball, and had numerous affairs with everyone, I did not remember that Zeus largely took power thanks to his ability to forge relationships with powerful entities. He was, in essence, a politician. And like all politicians, the need to be liked carried over into his personal life, and hence his numerous affairs.

What's also interesting is that unlike many other cultures in that part of the world, the Greeks never really developed polygamy. Generally, a man had one wife, and then several lovers (or he just fucked the slaves). Rome too, never really developed polygamy. I think, in part, this has to do with the fact that Roman and Greek women were more equal to their men than were the women of other cultures. Thus, the Hera figure - the angry, jealous wife - becomes the God that women pray to. And in legend, wronged women like Clytemnestra kill their men (though Clytemnestra had a lot of good reasons to kill her husband). So, there was some fear by the men that if they went too far, their women would try to kill them (which Hera apparently tried).

What's also interesting about this lack of polygamy, is that when Christianity developed, it was heavily influenced by the Romans and the Greeks. So, its not surprising that Christianity, for the most part, does not allow polygamy, while Islam (which is also derived from Judiasm) does. Judiasm, interestingly enough, allowed polygamy but dropped the practice.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Shit is Getting Scary. . .

Whenever I read shit like this (and I suggest you read it), I become very, very worried about this country. If one reads the accounts of the political discourse prior to the Civil War, its filled with Senators fighting each other, and prior to the War itself, people were literally killing each other in Kansas. And to be honest, I see the country going this way again.

For a variety of reasons, political discourse in this country stopped being about which policy is the best to follow, but rather about which reality to live in. For more than a few right-wingers, reality is that Obama was born in Kenya, that he's a Socialist, that he wants to kill old people and children, that global warming does not exist, and Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9-11 and had weapons of mass destruction. None of these things are true, but are taken as gospel by too many people.

Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh are, of course, somewhat responsible. Glenn Beck, in particular, has done a lot to stoke the fires of hatred against Obama. And Limbaugh calling Obama a Nazi is not helping either. But let's face it, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh are opportunists - if they didn't chase the lunatic fringe, someone else would. That's capitalism. As a moral matter, if anyone gets hurt, because of the hatred these douche nozzles spew, I hope they burn in hell.

Before someone says something about Move-On, and the Hitler ad, allow me to point out that the ad was submitted to Move-On, and they ultimately scrubbed the ad from their site. Oh, and Bush did invade a country for the purpose of spreading his ideology across the world (and was torturing people, and spied on Americans. . .but that's another post). There is a big, big difference between Rush Limbaugh and some random guy. Don't get me wrong, the left has its loonies (goddamn hippies), but our nutjobs don't have institutional support.

So, how do we walk back from this precipice? From this Democrat's perspective, walking back can't mean giving up the store. No, Democrats need to fight harder for what they believe in. And Republicans shouldn't stop fighting for what they believe in either. But we have to start reading from the same page.

Friday, August 7, 2009

On Bipartisanship Take 2

W.O.W. That didn't take too long. In less than 24 hrs after I wrote that the Democrats should abandon all bipartisanship, the right wing partisans went off the deep end. Thus far, we've seen nutjobs start riots in Tampa and St. Louis, threaten the SEIU, and everywhere equating health insurance reform with Nazism.

Quick history lesson - the National Socialist Party had basically two factions - the Fascists who were primarily Nationalists (Hitler) and the Facists who had socialist tendencies (Brohm). When the Nazis were on the precipice of power, Hitler had Brohm wacked specifically to prevent any kind of socialism. Oh, and the Nazis were avidly anti-communist. So, calling Obama a fascist makes absolutely no sense.

Now back to reality. . .actually, let's discuss reality for a second. It seems to me that a good portion of these nutjobs are living in an alternate universe. First off, nobody knows what's in the health insurance reform bill because it hasn't been written yet. Second, there's no way the bill forces anyone to do anything. There are few protections for the most egregious behavior by health insurance companies - like rescinding health insurance when someone gets cancer - and hopefully, there will be a public option (a public health care system that you can use when health insurers won't cover you), but that's about it.

Oh, and for those of you who don't know - like Arthur Laffer - MEDICARE IS A GOVERNMENT PROGRAM!!!!!!!!!! And the reforms to Medicare that are proposed in the bill will simply lower costs and were proposed by Republicans. So, please stop with the signs that say "Government Keep its Hands off My Medicare." Its like saying that the Federal Government should stop running the U.S. Marine Corps. Without the Government, there wouldn't be a Medicare. Got it? Oh, and its MY TAXPAYER DOLLARS THAT PAYS FOR YOUR HEALTH CARE YOU DAMN HYPOCRITES!!!!!

The latest is Sarah Palin saying that Obama wants to kill her son Trig because he has Down's syndrome. Really? Really? How ridiculous is that? All this does, quite naturally, is stoke anger to the point where someone is going to get shot.

In this evironment, there's no way the GOP is going to go along with health insurance reform. Not only will the base not vote for the GOP, but at this point, the base might just shoot its leaders. Bipartisanship is nice, but you can't bargain with crazy. And we're looking at a lot of crazy here.

Last point - if there wasn't this level of craziness, and the Republican Party was willing to discuss how to reform health insurance (instead of saying everything is hunky-doory), then we could have an interesting debate as to how to fix health care in this country.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

On Bipartisanship

"Bipartisanship is another name for date rape." - Grover Nordquist

Now, not so long ago, Democrats (like me) howled over that quote. I recall hearing Al Franken discuss that quote time and time again. And its a fairly bad quote from a guy who doesn't appear to have any qualms about being the bad guy. (*note* when I was in college I attended a seminar in D.C. about lobbying, wherein I saw Grover Nordquist act like a jerk to Ralph Neas, who had just gotten over a near fatal illness. From this experience, I will forever think of Mr. Nordquist as a jerk, because Neas struck me as one of the nicest human beings I had ever met).

In some respects, though, Nordquist wasn't too far off - at least when it comes to the most recent political games on Capitol Hill. The more Democrats try to be bipartisan, the more likely they capitulate on the important parts. So, for instance, instead of having all the stimulus money go in the form of spending (which directly infuses capital into the economy), roughly a third of the money went to the slower-acting tax cuts. In so doing the Democrats got a whopping three Republican votes (with one Republican becoming a Democrat shortly thereafter).

This capitulation is nuts because the GOP make up just over 40% of Congress - House and Senate combined. At no time during the past 20 years did the Democrats fall to that level. Bipartisanship makes sense when the split is 52/48 or even, to some degree 55/45. But we're at 59/41 here. The Democrats shouldn't be talking to the GOP, they should be steamrolling them.

To that end, I do wish Obama was more like Bush. When Dubya was President, he could get virtually anything he wanted from Congress, and he lost the popular vote. Obama, meanwhile, comes in with a huge mandate for change, gets a nearly 60 percent majority in both Houses of Congress, and he's struggling to get health insurance reform passed. Ugh.

Why is this happening? Well, I think the problem is that Republican lawmakers spend too much time listening to their base, and Democrats don't. Or put another way, regardless of party affiliation, politicians in D.C. pretend to be more liberal than they actually are. Bush portrayed himself as a moderate ("compassionate conservative"), while both Clinton and Obama are not nearly the liberals that everyone thought they would be.

Anyway, Democrats have decided that they need bipartisan cover for major reform, while Republicans realize that any major reform helps the Democrats win more seats. As a result, the Republicans slow everything down, and nothing gets done. Why this isn't obvious to everyone, I have no idea.

Now if you excuse me, I'm going to hit my head against a wall.

New Blog, and My First Post

For the past several years, I've blogged either on ( or on, which was a lot of fun and provided me with a built in audience. But I think I've outgrown MySpace, and Facebook feels too insular. So, I've decided to create this new blog, wherein I can basically go off on rants. And hopefully, you, my imaginary readers, will as well. That's why the blog is called Bullshitting With Friends.

Those of you who know me, know that I'm not a big religion person, so you might ask, "what's the deal with the word 'Religion' in the title?" Well, politics and religion are the two topics one shouldn't discuss in polite company. Hopefully, this blog won't be polite, but fun, and open. And at minimum, its going to be filled with my rants and raves. Kinda like my blogs on MySpace and Facebook except this time, it'll all be on blogspot's property.