Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Militias and Right-Wingers and Race, Oh My

You know I’ve watched the Southern Poverty Law Center’s rise over the years as the self-proclaimed expert on “extremist hate groups”. But what I’ve also deduced over those years, mostly by observing when and what we hear from them, is it is primarily an organization that sees the “right-wing” as the primary threat to America.

They’d most likely deny that and point to their “Hate Groups Map” and its inclusion of black separatist organizations, but they even put a caveat on their inclusion of them:

Although the Southern Poverty Law Center recognizes that much black racism in America is, at least in part, a response to centuries of white racism, it believes racism must be exposed in all its forms. White groups espousing beliefs similar to Black Separatists would be considered clearly racist. The same criterion should be applied to all groups regardless of their color.

Other than a mention of what the organization is, i.e. Nation of Islam or New Black Panther party, and a short description of their beliefs, you’ll not find much on the SPLC’s website about what would be considered “leftist extremist” hate groups.

And you’ll find nothing in their legal docket where they’ve ever taken one of these groups on in court. One would think the voter intimidation by two New Black Panthers in Philadelphia that occurred in the last presidential election would be right in their sweet spot, but there is no indication whatsoever that such activity even caught their attention.

So it stands to reason that the SPLC loves it when a Democratic administration comes into being because it naturally plays into their primary focus and that elevates their importance (because gullible media outlets will naturally buy into what they’re selling) and we see the “rise of the right-wing militias” nonsense begin again.

Today’s featured gullible media outlet is ABC News, which breathlessly repeats, er, reports that, yup, those right-wing militias, they’re rising again:

Experts who track hate groups across the U.S. are growing increasingly concerned over violent rhetoric targeted at President Obama, especially as the debate over health care intensifies and a pattern of threats emerges.

Any guess as to what “experts” they’re talking about?

And you have to love the examples ABC News uses to transition into tarring the right as a bunch of racists:

The Secret Service is investigating a Maryland man who held a sign reading “Death to Obama” and “Death to Michelle and her two stupid kids” outside a town hall meeting this week. And in New Hampshire, another man stood across the street from a Presidential town hall with his gun on full display.

Los Angeles police officers apprehended a man Thursday after a standoff with him inside a red Volkswagen Bug car in Westwood, CA – the latest disturbing case even though officials said the man had mental problems.

Ya think? Tell me, thinking back, did John Hinckley represented the “extremist left” when he shot Ronald Reagan? I don’t believe that question was ever raised by the SPLC at the time.

We have a guy legally carrying a gun (although admittedly doing so at an inappropriate time and at an inappropriate place) and one sign among thousands which is inappropriate all included with one mentally whacked individual in CA and we’re ready to conclude that right-wing hate-mongers – violent right-wing hate-mongers (or “evil-mongers” if you’re a Harry Reid fan) – are on the rise.

There’s another bit of “mongering” going on here – fearmongering.

“I don’t think these are simply people who are mentally ill or off their rocker,” Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, told ABC News of those behind the threats. “In a very real sense they represent a genuine reaction, a genuine backlash against Obama.”

Notice the substance of the SPLC’s accusation. He’s speaking of townhall protesters in general and essentially saying while the three in question may actually include one real a whack job, they represent the true feelings of the protesters – this is all about Obama.

And the inference of making it “all about Obama”? Say it with me now – he’s a black man. And that, dear reader, makes it all about racism.

If you don’t believe that’s what they’re suggesting, you might want to read their website. From the short description of their “special report” on “The Return of the Militias”:

After virtually disappearing from public view a decade ago, the antigovernment militia movement is surging across the country – fueled by fears of a black president, the changing demographics of the country and fringe conspiracy theories increasingly spread by mainstream figures.

Anyone remember why the militia movement began back then? Well it had nothing to do with a “black president” and everything to do with what appeared to be a expansion of government to include another health care grab.

From the first article in the “special report”, two things to note. One, it’s all anonymous “reports”:

Authorities around the country are reporting a worrying uptick in Patriot activities and propaganda. “This is the most significant growth we’ve seen in 10 to 12 years,” says one. “All it’s lacking is a spark. I think it’s only a matter of time before you see threats and violence.”

Frankly this is akin to National Enquirer reporting and shades of the recent DHS “intelligence” report.

Two, it is all about Obama being a “black man’.

A key difference this time is that the federal government — the entity that almost the entire radical right views as its primary enemy — is headed by a black man. That, coupled with high levels of non-white immigration and a decline in the percentage of whites overall in America, has helped to racialize the Patriot movement, which in the past was not primarily motivated by race hate.

Nothing to support this at all, simply an assertion that fits the agenda of those writing the “special report”. Who is spreading fear now?

The second “report” of the SLPC’s “special report” by Larry Keller:

One big difference from the militia movement of the 1990s is that the face of the federal government — the enemy that almost all parts of the extreme right see as the primary threat to freedom — is now black. And the fact that the president is an African American has injected a strong racial element into even those parts of the radical right, like the militias, that in the past were not primarily motivated by race hate. Contributing to the racial animus have been fears on the far right about the consequences of Latino immigration.

Sound familiar? Yup, it doesn’t take a literary critic to understand that Larry wrote not only his own screed, but the first unattributed screed as well. So essentially, what we have to this point is Larry Keller’s opinion, unsourced and undocumented, as to what is going on.

What’s pitiful is in the 4 paragraphs leading up to the paragraph above, he gives not one scintilla of support for the premise he lays out there – it’s all about Obama because he’s black. The people he’s talking about haven’t been mentioned in any news reports as being attendees at a single townhall protest that I’ve seen. But that doesn’t stop him from inferring that they’re the primary movers in this protest movement

Apparently, about half way through, he had a momentary attack of conscience and takes a swipe at some factual objectivity:

It’s not 1996 all over again, or 1997 or 1998. Although there has been a remarkable rash of domestic terrorist incidents since Obama’s election in November, it has not reached the level of criminal violence, attempted terrorist attacks and white-hot language that marked the militia movement at its peak.

Again, he makes an unsupported assertion (“… there has been a remarkable rash of domestic terrorist incidents since Obama’s election in November” – really? Where?), but admits this is nothing like the supposed golden age of militias in the ’90s (which led to what? Not much of anything.).

And you have to love this:

At the Jacksonville, Fla., July tea party, some protesters carried signs that compared President Obama to Adolf Hitler.

Gasp! I’ll bet Keller was all over the “Bush/Hitler” comparisons for the last 8 years, wasn’t he? Uh, no. But to help him in his research, should he read this, I’ve googled it for him.

The last of the “special reports” is by David Holthouse. It’s all about “Camp Vigilance”, a Minute Man community in San Diego. You’re left with the impression that this boiling, seething, ready-to-explode community has arisen rather recently and is representative of the growing threat. You’re certainly left to assume it has arisen since the recent presidential election. And you’re also left to extrapolate this one place as typical of all those now protesting (why is never clear).

It was, however, established in 2006, well within the Bush administration and, apparently, despite Mr. Holthouse’s attempt to make this new and fresh, it seems it’s the same collection of whack jobs that have been out there pushing conspiracy theories about the Illuminati and global bankers since I’ve been alive. It should also be noted that up to now, they’ve apparently done nothing at Camp Vigilance to bring law enforcement down on them.

The point of all this is the left, with the media’s obvious help, is bound and determined to turn this political disagreement into something about race and hate.

“I think the president has, in effect, triggered fears amongst fairly large numbers of white people in this country that they are somehow losing their country, that the battle is lost,” Potok told ABC News. “The nation that their Christian white forefathers created has somehow been taken from them.”

Yup – without “fairly large numbers of white people” available to blame this twisted message on, Potok and SPLC are out of a job, aren’t they?

Oh, and thanks, ABC – great job of fearmongering there.

~McQ

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Poor Joe …

Michael Moore has a post on his blog from someone named John Gray entitled, “A Day In The Life Of Joe Middle-Class Republican” in which Gray attempts to make the point that all good things we enjoy in life flow from government and liberals. It begins like this:

Joe gets up at 6:00am to prepare his morning coffee. He fills his pot full of good clean drinking water because some liberal fought for minimum water quality standards. He takes his daily medication with his first swallow of coffee. His medications are safe to take because some liberal fought to insure their safety and work as advertised.

All but $10.00 of his medications are paid for by his employers medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance, now Joe gets it too. He prepares his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs this day. Joe’s bacon is safe to eat because some liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.

And so on. Gil Guillory answers Gray’s assertions in a comment at the Mises blog:

Joe gets up at 6:00am to prepare his morning coffee. He makes it with a machine he could not possibly have made himself. He does not know where it was made, or how it works, and may not care. He does not know the people that planted, cultivated, harvested, dried, roasted, packaged, freighted, warehoused, distributed, marketed, or retailed his coffee, and may not care. The company that insures the manufacturer of the coffee machine required that it meet certain safety guidelines, as established by the private insurance-company-funded Underwriters Laboratory. Joe has seen the UL mark, but is not really sure what it’s for or how it protects him. He doesn’t clearly understand why greedy businessmen might be interested in a safe product. All of this was made possible by libertarians who fought for and won the legal right to free trade.

He fills his pot full of good clean drinking water which he bought from Ozarka, because the local government monopoly of water supply bears the comforting designation of “accepted” and also tastes funny.

Sam Bostap also answers the post:

Joe gets up at 6 a.m. and fills his coffeepot with bottled water because he knows that the municipal water system supplies water that occasionally has e coli and other natural organisms that will make him ill–after all his mother died from drinking water that was polluted by sewage after a heavy rain. Joe tried to sue, but was told that the city had sovereign immunity from such suits as a result of state law. If the water he pours from the bottle he bought at Safeway is polluted, he knows he can sue the manufacturer and collect big, so he feels pretty sure that it’s clean.

Joe grinds his coffee beans carefully because they’re very expensive as a result of the U.S. government-enforced international coffee cartel that exists to protect the jobs of coffee importers–heavy campaign contributers to Congress. He’s also careful about how much sugar he puts in his coffee because it costs seven times the world price of sugar as a result of the U.S. government imposed import restrictions on sugar to protect the domestic sugar beet and sugar cane industry.

I don’t think you’d have to guess very hard to know who I think wins this little battle of the Joes. But I don’t think all the bases have been covered in the two parodies of Gray’s original post.

Your additions to the reasons for Joe’s quality of life are solicited.

~McQ

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Tiger Woods – Bourgeois Tool

At least in Venezuela.  Apparently the game of golf is the latest thing under assault in the socialist paradise Hugo Chavez is fashioning:

After a brief tirade against the sport by the president on national television last month, pro-Chávez officials have moved in recent weeks to shut down two of the country’s best-known golf courses, in Maracay, a city of military garrisons near here, and in the coastal city of Caraballeda.

“Let’s leave this clear,” Mr. Chávez said during a live broadcast of his Sunday television program. “Golf is a bourgeois sport,” he said, repeating the word “bourgeois” as if he were swallowing castor oil. Then he went on, mocking the use of golf carts as a practice illustrating the sport’s laziness.

Meanwhile, the rubber-stamp National Assembly passed a bill that will broaden the state’s control of what is taught in schools:

The bill would order schools to base curricula on what it calls “the Bolivarian Doctrine” — a vague reference to ideals espoused by 19th-century independence hero Simon Bolivar, such as national self-determination and Latin American unity.

Or, more simply said – socialism. Unsurprisingly, it has generated protests a colleges and universities – not that Chavez cares.

Meanwhile, as the economy continues to tank, Chavez is using the dictator’s normal first choice to divert attention from economic problems – claiming there is an external threat.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Sunday raised tensions with Colombia over a U.S. troop plan, accusing his neighbor of sending an army patrol over their Orinoco River border and ending a Colombian gasoline subsidy.

Chavez made his remarks on the eve of a regional summit in Ecuador, where the persistent Washington critic will try to fuel opposition to a Colombian plan to allow U.S. troops more access to seven of its military bases.

[…]

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, a staunch U.S. ally, says the troop plan is necessary to fight drug traffickers. But Chavez claims a greater U.S. presence in the region is a direct threat to him and risks sparking war in South America.

Where have we seen all of his before? And how predictable is this as well?

Poor Venezuela – they’ve got a tiger by the tail and they’re in for an awful ride. They’ve allowed this goon Chavez to manipulate the democratic process into autocratic rule and he’s now developed into not just a threat to the freedom and liberty of his own citizens, but a threat to other nations.

Anyone can see this isn’t going to end well. I feel for the people of Venezuela.

~McQ

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“End-Of-Life”, Bureaucrats and Freedom – More Straight Talk

The Senate Finance Committee, which is drafting its version of health care legislation, will not include the “end of life counseling” provision found in the House bill.

Why?

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said in a statement. “We dropped end-of-life provisions from consideration entirely because of the way they could be misinterpreted and implemented incorrectly.”

You see, these provisions being written into law won’t be implemented by our lawmakers, but instead by the bureaucracies the law establishes. Yes, unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats will interpret and implement the law and you, dear drone, are expected to bow to their interpretation and implementation.  That’s reality.

Of course that’s the case not only with that particular provision but with the entire legislation being proposed. It is going to be a government bureaucracy that decides what this all means and how it should be implemented.

Now, Grassley sort of tries to make that point but still exempt what he’s working on from it:

“The bill passed by the House committees is so poorly cobbled together that it will have all kinds of unintended consequences, including making taxpayers fund healthcare subsidies for illegal immigrants,” Grassley said. The veteran Iowa lawmaker said the end-of-life provision in those bills would pay physicians to “advise patients about end-of-life care and rate physician quality of care based on the creation of and adherence to orders for end-of-life care.

“Maybe others can defend a bill like the Pelosi bill that leaves major issues open to interpretation, but I can’t,” Grassley added.

The charge, of course, is that the House bill is loaded with poorly written legislation open to bureaucratic interpretation which will have many unintended and negative consequences. The implication is that Grassley and crew are carefully cobbling their version together to make clear how everything must the interpreted and implemented thereby avoiding all the negative and unintended consequences found in the House bill.

To which I say, “nonsense”. We’re talking about an attempt to take over a very complex system that goes far beyond “insurance” reform. Anyone who believes that Grassley and the Senate Finance Committee’s version will avoid negative unintended consequences needs a reality check badly. Certainly it may be marginally better than the monstrosity the House is touting, but it is still an overt government power grab that will have dire consequences down the line.

What’s even more disturbing, of course, is the fact that you have a senior Republican involved in doing this, meaning of course that he has swallowed the premise that the Democrats have offered, i.e. that the solution involves more government, not less.

And, of course, that’s exactly the opposite of what Republicans, philosophically at least, are supposed to stand for. Dale has outlined the direction Republicans and those who believe in liberty and free markets should be demanding we go.

Is there a workable model out there that Republicans should be offering? You bet there is. Dale talked about it, and so has John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods:

* Remove the legal obstacles that slow the creation of high-deductible health insurance plans and health savings accounts (HSAs).

* Equalize the tax laws so that employer-provided health insurance and individually owned health insurance have the same tax benefits.

* Repeal all state laws which prevent insurance companies from competing across state lines.

* Repeal government mandates regarding what insurance companies must cover.

* Enact tort reform to end the ruinous lawsuits that force doctors to pay insurance costs of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.

* Make costs transparent so that consumers understand what health-care treatments cost.

* Enact Medicare reform.

* Finally, revise tax forms to make it easier for individuals to make a voluntary, tax-deductible donation to help the millions of people who have no insurance and aren’t covered by Medicare, Medicaid or the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.

It may not be the total free market answer most libertarians would like to see, but it is a far better approach than what Democrats and Republicans out there are offering now.

Here’s the bottom line, as stated by Mackey:

Rather than increase government spending and control, we need to address the root causes of poor health. This begins with the realization that every American adult is responsible for his or her own health.

The solution is to make them responsible by giving them that responsibility, not having government further usurp it and make decisions for them. The most fundamental aspect of freedom and liberty is individual responsibility. The system we have now, as well as the one that is being proposed, works against that fundamental requirement and thereby lessens both our freedom and our liberty.

That’s what people protesting these proposed laws are finally realizing. This isn’t just about health care – its about our freedom.

~McQ

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Straight Talk on Health Care

We need to face a few facts about health care reform.  Our current system of health care funding is broken.  It’s not broken because we have a free market in health care. It’s broken because we don’t.

Spending in the US health care system is essentially out of control.  The US spends almost 16% of GDP on health care.  Canada, our nearest neighbor, spends a bit more than 10%.  In western Europe, the figure is generally between 7% and 9% of GDP.  It’s something I addressed in my book a few years ago:

Why is spending so much higher in the US, with its supposedly free-market system?  Why is it, with all that spending, that regular medical coverage doesn’t exist for 40 million Americans, when, in the rest of the industrialized world, there is 100% health coverage?

Something is deeply wrong with the financing of the US health-care system.

Part of the problem is that we really don’t have a free market in health care. Individuals, by and large, don’t buy health care policies. Health insurance is employer-provided. In effect, however, this is underwritten by the US government by making health care premiums deductible for businesses, which results in billions of dollars in lost tax revenues. And then, of course, you have to throw in the $300 billion or so that the state and federal governments spend outright to provide health care.  And, of course, once you hit 65, you’re on the government’s health care gravy train, because you’ve got your Medicare, which also covers prescription drugs, now.

Why do we spend too much for health care in the US? The Heartland Institute, a public policy think-tank, has listed several reasons:

1) Government subsidies to health care increases demand by artificially lowering costs.

2) Favorable tax treatment of employer-provided health care has the same effect.

3) Lower-income people without health care must rely on emergency room health care delivery at substantially higher cost.

4) Health care buyers and sellers meet in a “market” that is heavily regulated by the government.

5) State governments increase health care costs by mandating benefit coverages.

6) State governments artificially reduce the supply of health care by requiring Certificates of Need before health care providers can expand services.

7) States interfere with the creation and operation of PPOs by fixing prices or the range of services they can offer.

So, really, we have what is, in many ways, the worst of both worlds. We have a market-based system, but one in which market incentives are minimized through regulation and subsidies. In effect, government policy bids up health care prices, while at the same time interfering with the market forces that keep a lid on prices.

It’s no wonder that more and more people are looking at single-payer, government-provided health care as an alternative to what we already have. At the very least, a single payer system would end the inefficient and fragmented ways by which health care is currently purchased.

This is not a situation we can afford to ignore for long.

We have ignored it, though–although that appears to have come to a screeching halt.

Because of various government intereferences, more than 1/3 of all health care spending is purely administrative.  By contrast, Canada’s administrative burden on health care funding is about 1%.  If we were to switch over to a single payer system, there is an excellent chance that we would, in fact, spend less money on health care than we currently do.

Are there horror stories about health care in Canada or the UK?  Sure.  There are horror stories about our system, too.  For instance, you can find stories of families that were denied coverage, and were forced in to financial disaster all the time.

Canada, of course, has the rather unique problem of being a country with 1/10 of our population being spread over an equal amount of real estate.  In that situation, if you don’t live near a major metropolitan center–and Canada only has about 10 of them, there’s a shortage of available services.  In Britain, there are terrible NHS hospitals, but there are also excellent ones.  But the same it true in the US.  If you live in, say, Houston, Ben Taub Hospital probably wouldn’t be your first choice for treatment.  M.D. Anderson, however, would.

The bottom line, however, is that a single payer system would, in fact, deliver an equal or better level of health care as we currently receive, and probably do so at a lower cost.

But there is a fundamental problem with our current debate.  We are arguing over whether we should keep the system we have, or move to a system that sets us on the path to a single-payer system.  But those aren’t the only alternatives. There is another option that is being lost in this debate.  The democrats don’t want to mention it for ideological reasons.  The Republicans don’t mention it because of…well…incompetent buffoonery, I guess.

The alternative, of course, is to make the case that our current system costs so much, and is so distorted, because of government interference.  We have a mixed system of health care funding in which the government’s intervention imposes a  wide range of unnecessary costs.  So our choice is not to keep what we have, or eliminate the administrative overhead by turning it all over to the government.  The third choice is to return to a free market in health care.

Eliminate state by state coverage mandates, which result in 50 different–and sometimes wildly so–regulatory regimes.  Eliminate federal and state laws that prevent insurers from creating nationwide plans and risk pools.  Eliminate employer health-care coverage, and personalize it, to make it personal and portable.

Here’s another idea:  allow people to buy health insurance.  That isn’t what we have now.  We have pre-paid health care.  The two things are wildly different.  For example, look at how auto insurance works.  Imagine how much your car insurance would cost if we expected our insurance to cover 80% of the cost of oil changes, tire rotation, wiper blades, new tires, regular service, etc.  But that’s precisely what we expect medical insurance to do.  And then we wonder why it costs so darn much.

We need to allow insurers to offer simple catastrophic care coverage, with varying deductibles.  That way, you can pick up the tab for your own doctor’s visits, but you don’t have to worry about bankrupting yourself if some idiot runs a stop sign and knocks you off of your motorcycle.  We need to allow anyone who wants to set up a medical savings account.  Heck, if we really want “the government” to finance it, we could offer a 100% tax credit for health care expenditures.

We don’t need the government to rescue us from the unsatisfactory state health care is in.  We can accomplish the same goals of universal coverage and lower cost, by getting the government out of health care as completely as possible.  There are so many ways we could use free markets to relieve us of the distress the current system of funding is in, that they’re almost impossible to enumerate.

And best of all, doing so would comport with the country’s traditions of freedom, and individual choice.

And one final thing.  With a real free market in health care, if there’s a problem, you’ll also get accountability.  You’ll get access to courts where you can sue a private insurer who defrauds you, or someone who gives you substandard care.  What you’ll get with a single-payer system is no recourse.  If the government turns down your procedure, or you don’t get the health care you should, or if you keel over before your slot on the waiting list comes up, there’ll be nowhere to go, and no one accountable, any more than there is now if the public schools fail to adequately educate your children.

But free market reform doesn’t even seem to be on the table.

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Have They No Shame?

Are Democrat lawmakers really this disconnected and clueless?

First Rep. James Clyburn, D-SC likens townhall protesters to – yup, you guessed it – racists. Not just your generic, everyday racists, however. Instead, we’re talking Bull Conner, Deep South, red-neck, Klansman-type racists:

“I have seen this kind of hate before. I have seen this discussion before,” he said. “I have seen snarling dogs going after people who were trying to peacefully assemble. I have seen the eyes of people who were being spat upon.”

“This is all about activity trying to deny the establishment of a civil right. And I do believe that health care for all is — a civil right,” the House Majority Whip argued. “And I think that is why you see this kind of activity. This is an attempt on the part of some to deny the establishment of a civil right.”

Look at how hard he had to work to tar people who honestly and passionately disagree with his party’s proposed legislation on health care.

This is like watching a huge temper tantrum thrown by spoiled kids. Democratic lawmakers don’t see, hear or get what they want and they lash out at those who deny them with the most hateful rhetoric they can muster. In Clyburn’s case the most hateful image he can muster is comparing citizens who have nothing more than a political disagreement to Bull Conner.

Not to be outdone we have Sen. Harry Reid (D-BS), the Senate’s male version of Nancy Pelosi, uttering this unique characterization of the old folks and veterans in opposition to his agenda:

Town hall protesters are “evil-mongers,” says Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.)

Reid coined the term in a speech to an energy conference in Las Vegas this week and repeated it in an interview with Politics Daily.

Such “evil-mongers” are using “lies, innuendo and rumor,” to drown out rational debate, Reid said.

“It was an original with me,” Reid said of the term. “I maybe could have been less descriptive,” he said, adding that “I doubt you’ll hear it from me again.”

Nevertheless, Reid worked in the word one more time during the interview.

Reid, of course, is a pathetic example of what we’re stuck with in terms of political leaders and another example of why seniority is a terrible system for picking leadership. I mean, for heaven sake, the man brags about coining a term to describe his constituents who disagree with him – “evil-mongers”.

“Evil-mongers”. It’s not even very good, for heaven sake, but witless Harry is proud of it.

This is what you get, apparently, when you cross our “civil” Democratic leadership (you know, the same one’s whining about the “uncivil” protesters?) – hateful comparisons with no basis and newly coined words designed to denigrate American citizens.

Thanks a bunch, guys. And may you enjoy many more years of the free speech you would deny others. Because you guys obviously know exactly what to do with that right, don’t you?

~McQ

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Style Evolves

So, based on some comments throughout the day, I’ve made a revision to the site again.  What I see on my monitor is now red, dark blue, white, and taupe.  I don’t see the “olive green” any more.  If you still see olive green on your monitor, let me know, so that I can do some re-shading.

As far as the column widths go, the main content area is 1000 pixels wide.  A variable width template doesn’t work out for everyone.  Sorry, but that was one of the complaints with the old template, so If you use a really wide screen at 1900px wide, then this is something you’re gonna just have to deal with.

For everyone else, 1000px seems like a good compromise, although I can go wider.  I just don’t want to make people who are still using 1024×768 to have to scroll horizontally to see the whole page.

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Is This A Proper Use Of A Government Web Site?

What do you think? This is an official U.S. Government Web site managed by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. The purpose of this particular page is obviously purely political:

Dear Mr. President,

We strongly support your commitment to comprehensive health reform.

This is not a luxury. The continuing, sharp escalation of health care costs for families, businesses, and government is unsustainable. Reform is imperative.

We believe that health reform must be enacted this year.

Reform is needed to help America’s families struggling with rising costs and those who are losing their insurance. At the same time, real health reform is crucial to keeping American businesses competitive in the world economy and for the country’s long-term economic viability. As our country faces economic challenges, the time for reform is now.

We support health reform that follows these principles:

* Protect families’ financial health
* Assure affordable, quality health coverage for all Americans
* Provide portability of coverage
* Guarantee choice of doctors
* Invest in prevention and wellness
* Improve patient safety and quality of care
* End barriers to coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions
* Reduce long-term growth of health costs for businesses and government

During these extraordinarily challenging times, we need to put aside past differences and address the health and economic crisis. Our shared interest must come before narrow interests so we can achieve a health system that is affordable and provides high quality for all Americans. We will support your budget with its reserve fund dedicated to achieving health care reform in a fiscally responsible manner. Each of us must be prepared to contribute to achieving this fundamental goal.

By signing this statement we affirm our commitment to work with you and our Congressional leaders to enact legislation this year which provides affordable, high quality coverage for all American

Is that what official government websites are for – ginning up petitions to support pending legislation that support a president’s political agenda?

I don’ t think so.

~McQ

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Racism: It’s All The Rage

We warned people back during the election that anyone who disagreed with Pres. Obama would be labeled a racist. To say that prediction that has come to fruition is like calling Katrina a summer shower.

Since the August recess began, and vociferous protesters crowded local townhall meetings, the chorus of “racism!” has steadily grown amongst the left. Those opposed to ObamaCare and “health insurance reform” are derisively dismissed as having no other issue than “a black man in the White House.” These accusations are somehow borne out by the fact that swastikas and comparisons of Obama to Hitler have allegedly been spotted at the townhall protests. Nevermind that similar healthcare insurance reform was vigorously opposed when presented by a popular white president in the 90’s, or that comparisons of our last president to Hitler were (and still are) quite common, yet no racism was ever alleged there. Further ignore that accusing someone of being a Nazi would seem to indicate that one is opposed to racism, and that the people actually carrying such signs were Democrat-supporting, LaRouche adherents who oppose ObamaCare because it doesn’t go far enough. Indeed you must ignore these facts because otherwise the charges of racism make absolutely no sense.

Now, we can prattle on all day about how the left’s eagerness to drive the racist route simply exposes the vapidity of their arguments, but while that is true it does not even begin to address the real problem — i.e. just how vacuously stupid the left has become.

When I say “stupid” I don’t mean “incapable of intellectual rigor” but instead “uneducated, ill-informed and either unwilling or unable to change that state of being.”

Just by way of example, Rep. David Scott, whose arrogance and indifference towards his constituents was highlighted by Bruce, declared that racism is at the source of the anti-ObamaCare demonstrations and questioning:

“There is bubbling up under this debate, unfortunately, the overtones that this presents of hate, of racism, of all of these things,” Scott added.

Scott laid blame for the harsh tone of the August debate at the feet of talk radio show Rush Limbaugh and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who he accused of mobilizing the angry base now manifesting itself at town hall meetings.

Scott was responding to questions after a swastika was painted on his office door, which in the confused leftist mind means that the vandal was a racist. Again, cognitive dissonance must be ignored since the protesters were also accused of being racist for comparing Obama to Hitler. To the lefty supporters of ObamaCare, any and all dissent is racist. Period.

One can go to almost any comment section of any article discussing the townhalls and find assured accusations of racism emanating from lefty posters as if we were all maddeningly blind not to be aware of this fact. For example:

Either Sen. McCaskill is naive or pandering to the CRAZIES in her state. She might as well join the crazies or be an independent. 1st she defends people who are bringing Nazi paraphernalia to town halls and now she’s blatantly dismissing what the whole country knows and believes to be the reason behind this whole movement: BLACK MAN IN THE WHITEHOUSE. These people will oppose everything Obama brings up or stands for even if he was saving their children from a burning house; this didn’t start because of the healthcare debate, it started during the campaign and now it has really picked up pace because the president is doing what he promised he would do. Sen. McCaskill can keep her mouth shut if she doesn’t have the guts to tell it like it is.

That comment was in response to article about Sen. McCaskill (D-MO) taking Scott to task for crying racism. Notice how incredibly assured the commenter is that people “bringing Nazi paraphernalia to town halls” is undeniable evidence of “what the whole country knows and believes to be the reason behind this whole movement: BLACK MAN IN THE WHITEHOUSE.” This, in a word, is stupid.

However, explaining why this is so stupid to ObamaCare’s supporters is rather like trying to explain the physics of a hairball to a cat. You will just get annoyed and the cat will still ignore you while emitting guttural hacking and wheezing noises that may or may not sound vaguely like words — “hhhcccccKKKK! ackkk! hehhhhehhk … RACIST!”. And this is the problem.

How do you have a civilized debate with someone who is entirely incapable of hearing and/or understanding anything you have to say? For whatever reason (I’ve honestly ceased to care), the leftist side of any debate consists of equal parts righteous moralizing, demonization of their opponents, progressive conventional wisdom dressed up as facts, and cries of racism. Of course, this is all held together by a healthy dose “magical thinking” (R: “Centrally planned economies have never worked anywhere, anytime.” L:”But it will this time!”), which makes for quite a noxious brew good for little more than poisoning rational thought.

It is in this context that legitimate anger at legislators trying to rush through a massive health care bill, that few if any have read, while spending money faster than it can be printed, can be laid at the feet of racism without suffering a massive aneurysm. Not that the opponents of Obamacare should back down or stop strongly and pointedly questioning their representatives. Despite these exhibitions of sheer stupidity from the left, politicians do understand threats to their retention of power.

Instead, I suggest that the next time someone accuses you of being a racist for not supporting whatever agenda Obama and his acolytes want to achieve, you stop what you’re doing, look them square in the eyes, and say “Your mind-numbing stupidity is the source of all the racism here” and then move on.

Perhaps the fog of inane and muddled thinking will be lifted from your denigrator’s progressive mind by your mental slap (Lord knows reasonable arguments have not done so), and she will see that racism is not a charge to be thrown around lightly or haphazardly. If so, then a real discussion might be had about why spending gobs and gobs of money we don’t have to save money makes no sense. Or that piling more government control onto a system that’s already broken because of government control is an exercise in insanity. Just maybe, in some small way, you will have steered an otherwise viable intellect back towards the land of reason.

In all likelihood, however, she will just ignore you and walk away in a huff while emitting guttural hacking and wheezing noises that may or may not sound vaguely like words — “hhhcccccKKKK! ackkk! hehhhhehhk … RACIST!”.

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Who Is Spreading “Fear”?

You may recall from Obama’s health care pep rally townhall where he claimed that those in opposition to his healthcare plan were spreading disinformation and fear. But he also talked about doctors being more inclined to cut off a diabetic’s foot than treat him because they would make more doing the amputation than with preventive care. The claim, of course, is Obama’s plan would discourage that.

All I’m saying is let’s take the example of something like diabetes, one of — a disease that’s skyrocketing, partly because of obesity, partly because it’s not treated as effectively as it could be. Right now if we paid a family — if a family care physician works with his or her patient to help them lose weight, modify diet, monitors whether they’re taking their medications in a timely fashion, they might get reimbursed a pittance. But if that same diabetic ends up getting their foot amputated, that’s $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 — immediately the surgeon is reimbursed. Well, why not make sure that we’re also reimbursing the care that prevents the amputation, right? That will save us money.

The American College of Surgeons responds (something Marc Ambinder finds to be “amusing”):

The American College of Surgeons is deeply disturbed over the uninformed public comments President Obama continues to make about the high-quality care provided by surgeons in the United States. When the President makes statements that are incorrect or not based in fact, we think he does a disservice to the American people at a time when they want clear, understandable facts about health care reform. We want to set the record straight.

— Yesterday during a town hall meeting, President Obama got his facts
completely wrong. He stated that a surgeon gets paid $50,000 for a leg
amputation when, in fact, Medicare pays a surgeon between $740 and
$1,140 for a leg amputation. This payment also includes the
evaluation of the patient on the day of the operation plus patient
follow-up care that is provided for 90 days after the operation.
Private insurers pay some variation of the Medicare reimbursement for
this service.

— Three weeks ago, the President suggested that a surgeon’s decision to
remove a child’s tonsils is based on the desire to make a lot of
money. That remark was ill-informed and dangerous, and we were
dismayed by this characterization of the work surgeons do. Surgeons
make decisions about recommending operations based on what’s right for
the patient.

We agree with the President that the best thing for patients with diabetes is to manage the disease proactively to avoid the bad consequences that can occur, including blindness, stroke, and amputation. But as is the case for a person who has been treated for cancer and still needs to have a tumor removed, or a person who is in a terrible car crash and needs access to a trauma surgeon, there are times when even a perfectly managed diabetic patient needs a surgeon. The President’s remarks are truly alarming and run the risk of damaging the all-important trust between surgeons and their patients.

Who again is out there “spreading fear?”

Hope and change.

~McQ

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