The Republicans' Descent into Delusion

I don’t usually post on purely political issues, but this one has become impossible to ignore. In the last few weeks, the American right has worked itself into a fever pitch of insanity over the prospect of healthcare reform.

If you’ve been watching the news, you’ve seen the shouting, raging protestors disrupting town-hall meetings, screaming at their representatives about how the healthcare bill is tyranny and fascism. These people are almost loud enough to drown out all other debate over health care. And their concerns, almost without exception, are pure, undiluted insanity. Take this right-wing protestor (who was subsequently invited on Fox News, naturally) to spout blithering hysteria about how President Obama is “sentencing our families to death” by trying to get a bill passed that would cover the uninsured.

Until a few weeks ago, I would have thought claims like this were too absurd to need refutation. But it’s not just random nutjobs who are saying these things: the very leaders of the Republican party, its spokespeople and elected officials, have thrown their weight behind them. Whether it’s Sarah Palin making ludicrous claims about “death panels”, or former House Speaker Newt Gingrich suggesting that health care reform would lead to mandatory euthanasia, or U.S. Representative Virginia Foxx saying on the floor of Congress itself that the healthcare bill would result in “seniors… being put to death”, or Senator Chuck Grassley saying that the government would “pull the plug on Grandma”, the Republican Party as an entity has fully committed itself, with every outward indicator of sincerity, to defending these delusional lies. And the media, which can be relied upon to reduce every political debate to a he-said-she-said collision of talking heads, has dutifully given airtime to these claims as though they were serious and thoughtful arguments, rather than the ravings of maniacs.

The flood of brazen lies and hysterical fearmongering is the latest symptom of the sickness that’s taken the Republican Party. It first manifested itself in the “birther” movement, the right-wing conspiracy theorists who insist in the face of all evidence that Barack Obama was not born in America. Now it’s reappeared in the form of the “deathers”, who took a single provision in the healthcare bill making provisions for voluntary end-of-life care directives (a provision that was introduced by a Republican senator), and somehow decided it meant that President Obama was planning to institute mandatory euthanasia on a massive scale.

As I said, this would sound too crazy to need refuting, if it hadn’t become the sole focus of the frothing mob that the conservative movement has become. I’m aware that this kind of craziness has always been an undercurrent in American politics. But never, to my knowledge, has the tinfoil-hat-and-black-helicopter brigade gotten control of one of America’s major political parties. (Along the same lines, Steve Benen has an insightful post on the motivations of the various groups that oppose reform.)

The raving fury and willful denial of reality that has the GOP in its thrall should be familiar to every reader of this blog. These are the same traits that are always seen in doomsday religious cults, the kind that are convinced the whole world is out to get them and everyone who’s not part of the cult is an agent of the evil conspiracy. One could well argue that the virulent strain of Christianism that’s taken root in the Republican Party, a religious sect already especially prone to such delusions, has accelerated the party’s slide.

The most important lesson that liberals and progressives need to learn here is that there’s no point trying to appease people who engage in this sort of behavior. They don’t come to the table in good faith; they don’t want to negotiate; their only goal is to obstruct and destroy.

President Obama was elected on a promise of bipartisanship and consensus-building, and I don’t expect him to change that philosophy. Nor do I want a mirror image of the totalitarian behavior of the last administration, which sought to suppress any opinion contrary to its own. But I do hope that elected Democrats will see the futility of trying to bargain with Republicans who promote fear and hysteria, and consciously make an effort to shut them out in favor of the increasingly few reasonable conservatives remaining. If we’re going to extend health care to the millions of uninsured Americans, pass a carbon cap-and-trade bill, reform our nation’s energy policy, or achieve any other major progressive goal, the doomsday-cult conservative shriekers need to be marginalized and pushed to the lunatic fringes where they belong.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Sarah Braasch

    This title could not be more apropos. It is baffling. They are so disconnected from reality. It makes it difficult to discuss healthcare reform with them. The religious right is completely oblivious to the irony of their railing against healthcare reform, because they don’t want the government deciding which medical procedures they can and can’t have. They insist that reform will result in rationing, but they are blind to the rationing that is currently taking place across this nation, resulting in untold suffering of the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.

    I’m in France right now, and the French coverage of the fight is mortifying. The rest of the world is watching every second of this. The religious right is showing the world the ugliest side of America right now — the “I’ve got mine and screw everyone else crowd.” They’ve gone off the deep end. The Republican side of Congress is turning into a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses — prophesying the imminent Armageddon.

    What I wish the Democrats would focus on more is the fact that this is about protecting our democracy. Democracies don’t function very well with an unhealthy citizenry, much as they don’t function very well with an uneducated citizenry. People seem to get the need for access to education. I wish they could make the leap and apply this same reasoning to healthcare.

  • http://superhappyjen.blogspot.com SuperHappyJen

    O Canada. We have a conservative in office right now, but our conservatives are nowhere near as backward as yours.

  • http://foreverinhell.blogspot.com Personal Failure

    Actual conversation I saw in a comment thread:

    wingnut: Canadians DIE waiting in line for health care!!!

    canadian: no, we don’t.

    wingnut: you don’t know what you’re talking about- canadians are dropping dead in the ER, waiting for care!!!!!1!!!

    canadian: that’s completely untrue.

    wingnut: we’ll all die, just like the canadians!!!eleventy!!!!

    canadian: we’re fine. stop that!

    wingnut: DIEDIEDIEDIE

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Now we know why education never was a Republican priority.

  • Mad House

    The answer is prayer. If all of the heathens would simply accept Jesus and trust in his protection then this wouldn’t be an issue.

  • Peter N.

    The answer is prayer. If all of the heathens would simply accept Jesus and trust in his protection then this wouldn’t be an issue.

    I’d be perfectly happy if just the religious right would pray and trust in His protection, and leave the rest of us alone!

  • Erika

    I find it especially annoying because I do think there are serious issues for debate with health care reform, but none of those are getting any air time because (a) the Republicans have jumped off the deep end and (b) the media finds it boring.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Another thing that’s driving me batty about this: all these right-wingers crying “Big Brother!”. Where were they when Dubya was warrantless wiretapping?!

  • Jormungund

    The media always focuses on the craziest fringe groups. Birthers and people who think that Obama will make death panels don’t represent the average republican. I don’t personally know any birthers or any really far out wingnuts. I think you should all turn off the 24 hour news channels and internet discussions for a while and look at what actual conservatives in your area think. So far, I have only heard (heard in real life, not heard on the interweb or a scare-mongering news channel) people claiming that the government is too incompetent and wasteful to efficiently run health care. I have heard claims that government health care in the US would be run as slowly and inefficiently as the IRS. There are real debates about health care, and then there is the news channels’ fear mongering. Try and tune out the fear mongering.

  • http://uncyclopedia.org/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    It first manifested itself in the “birther” movement…”
    I’d say it manifested before that, say with Reagan’s naked appeals to the Christian Right, or the Moral Majority, or the Southern Strategy, or the opposition to the Voting Rights Act (which was when the loons picked a nest). It gets messier earlier than that, since the parties were far more heterogeneous before the Civil Rights movement (and it’s generally the Democratic Party that comes off looking worse).

  • http://uncyclopedia.org/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Thumpalumpacus “Another thing that’s driving me batty about this: all these right-wingers crying “Big Brother!”. Where were they when Dubya was warrantless wiretapping?!”
    It’s because The Iron Heel is fine when it’s your Iron Heel.
    It’s only okay to piss on the Constitution when your man is in charge (“they” only seem to care about the 2nd Amendment, anyway. Plus, “their” interpretation of ones like the 1st are so terribly distorted as to be useless…where “freedom of religion” doesn’t include the freedom to pick “not Jesus” or “none of the above” and freedom of speech only protected speech “they” agree with).
    I do wish that Obama was better with the Constitution than he has been (and that his own damn party would back him up once in a while), but that’s another matter..

  • Thumpalumpacus

    It was at least good to see Obama giving these people what they deserve: ridicule.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    I have heard claims that government health care in the US would be run as slowly and inefficiently as the IRS.

    And yet the HMOs would have us believe they’re afraid for their corporate lives.

    There are real debates about health care, and then there is the news channels’ fear mongering. Try and tune out the fear mongering.

    This immediately following your line, quoted above.

  • http://uncyclopedia.org/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Long story short, the Republicans have been riding on the absolutist crazy horse for a while. We should be less surprised that the absolutists pushed out the Mods (or “RINOs”) than we are. Up until recently, I don’t think the Mods really cared. By mobilizing the sizeable voting base of the Christian Right under their umbrella they got their tax cuts and deregulation, and whenever something went wrong (as with the S&L collapse) they still got to suck at the public teat (and they continue to reap the benefits of Reaganism). It was win-win.
    Unfortunately, like cocaine, it takes a bigger and bigger hits of “fear” to keep the nuts nuttified. That’s the thing about riding the tiger of absolutist philosophy and giving it the rabies of fear and the also-rabies of hate*. Eventually the foaming mouth isn’t so pretty any more.
    Shorter Modusoperandi: It’s going to get worse before it gets better.

    *Note: I had something better written on the page in my head, but when I typed it it came out as that. Since I found it amusing, I kept it.

  • http://spaninquis.wordpress.com Spanish Inquisitor
  • terrence

    Anybody know what Pres. Obama has decided to do with the “warrantless wiretapping” program?

  • Nurse Ingrid

    “the government is too incompetent and wasteful to efficiently run health care”

    Oh really? What about MediCare? The VA? I know they’re not perfect but they’re certainly not any more “incompetent and wasteful” than, say, an insurance company or an HMO.

    There may indeed be “real debate” about healthcare, but that’s not it.

  • Andrew

    While much of what is being said about this subject is ridiculous hyperbolie, it is a best-kept secret that countries with universal health care have been known to deny or dely the elderly or terminaly ill healthcare, in order to cut costs. I dont think its as common as the right makes it out to be(not to mention that it happens here too).

    But then again, Obama isnt pushing for universal health care(yet anyway). Personally I’m more bothered by things like the fact that, under the Bill currently on the table, people who choose to not take health insurance(an estimated 15 million Americans), will be forced to pay for it anyway…

  • Alex Weaver

    While much of what is being said about this subject is ridiculous hyperbolie, it is a best-kept secret that countries with universal health care have been known to deny or dely the elderly or terminaly ill healthcare, in order to cut costs.

    [Citation needed]

    And Jesus Mythical Christ, you think HMOs don’t?!

  • Jennifer A. Burdoo

    Joe Conason just wrote that the most ridiculous thing is that people are already dying by the thousands because they can’t afford care. It may not be direct, but when you don’t have insurance you will wait longer before getting necessary care — perhaps too late. The “deathers” claim to be saving lives, and yet they’re condemning so many to death because the seriously ill so often have no insurance.

  • Leum

    Oh really? What about MediCare? The VA? I know they’re not perfect but they’re certainly not any more “incompetent and wasteful” than, say, an insurance company or an HMO.

    Hmph. Where I come from, people are so rabidly anti-government that VA and Medicare are routinely held up as examples of just how awful, expensive, and inefficient gov-run healthcare is. The proposition “Medicare is a good system” isn’t a subject for debate anymore than “there are times and places where not drilling for oil is acceptable” is. Both are self-evidently false propositions.

  • http://prinzler@calpoly.edu Paul

    Leum, perhaps the people who hold up VA and Medicare as being poor are so rabid that they can’t be objective:

    http://www.nationaljournal.com/njonline/mp_20090629_2600.php

    This survey shows that patients evaluate Medicare better than private insurance companies.

    Perhaps there still is some debate in this issue, eh?

  • Leum

    There are actually significant problems with Medicare in AK, mainly related to doctors refusing to take Medicare/Caid patients. Something to do with reimbursement (I have trouble following financial arguments).

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    I’m in France right now, and the French coverage of the fight is mortifying. The rest of the world is watching every second of this.

    Hey there, Sarah! Good to see you around here again. I hope you’ve gotten settled in France and all is going well.

    Between your comment and SuperHappyJen’s, I’m disappointed but not surprised to hear what this is doing to America’s image abroad. The rest of the world has ample reason to be horrified, now that they see how many crazies live in this country and how much influence they still have, to the extent of being able to drown out the truth over such a basic and important issue as healthcare.

    The one bright spot I can see in all this is that, if we do manage to pass something good that’s not just a corporate giveaway, it’s really going to ruin the right. They’ve made this their hill to die on, metaphorically speaking. They’ve invested essentially all their remaining credibility in asserting that President Obama’s death panels are coming for us all. If health care reform passes, if it actually does good for people and the public likes it, it’s really going to be the end for conservatism as a movement.

    Come to think of it, that probably explains a lot of why Republicans are so vociferous in their opposition. Their entire party is essentially built on the philosophy that government can’t accomplish anything good for people. Successful health reform would be a lethal refutation to that argument. No wonder they’ve staked so much on stopping this – we have to hope they don’t have the clout left to block it altogether.

    The answer is prayer. If all of the heathens would simply accept Jesus and trust in his protection then this wouldn’t be an issue.

    Yes indeed, Mad House! No one could argue with that. I’ve even got an idea for our bumper stickers and T-shirts: “Jesus is my single payer”. (Hey, this is easy! I ought to become a professional right-wing propagandist.)

  • terrence

    Sigh…. anybody know what health care law Congress passed in 1968?

    Hint: What happens to you in this country if you show up at a hospital in urgent need of care with no insurance and no money?

  • Leum

    The one bright spot I can see in all this is that, if we do manage to pass something good that’s not just a corporate giveaway, it’s really going to ruin the right. They’ve made this their hill to die on, metaphorically speaking. They’ve invested essentially all their remaining credibility in asserting that President Obama’s death panels are coming for us all. If health care reform passes, if it actually does good for people and the public likes it, it’s really going to be the end for conservatism as a movement.

    Steve M. at No More Mister Nice Blog that anything short of near-perfection means no healthcare reform for years:

    That’s the larger fear among people like us, maybe — people who get it. But if the plan is ineffective in making health care affordable because Obama caved to business interests, Republicans will blame the failure on liberalism, not on lack of liberalism — and a great deal of the public will actually accept that argument.

    Look at the stimulus. The right howls that it’s a big-government, socialist failure. In fact, it’s a disappointment for precisely the reasons we said it would be a disappointment, back when it was going through the sausage-making process (with Republicans and Blue Dogs as the principal sausage-makers). …

    This is what’s going to happen if we get a bad health care bill. The dominant meme won’t be “It’s a corporate sellout.” The dominant meme will be “It’s too socialist.” It won’t matter that the former is the real problem with the bill.

    So it would be far better if nothing passes than if we get something that fails because it’s too right-wing and can be portrayed as failing because it’s too left-wing.

  • Leum

    Sigh…. anybody know what health care law Congress passed in 1968?

    Hint: What happens to you in this country if you show up at a hospital in urgent need of care with no insurance and no money?

    Yes, of course. That’s why ER costs so frickin’ much.

  • Sarah Braasch

    Hey, Ebonmuse, you make me feel so welcome. I just also want to point out, since there are so many references to medicare and the VA, that there is a huge difference between government providing insurance (essentially paying for healthcare) and government providing the actual healthcare.

    I saw a great blog post on this somewhere. I’ll have to find it. Canada — government pays for healthcare. UK — government provides healthcare. But, actually, most Canadians and Brits with whom I have ever had any contact seem pretty happy with their respective systems.

    I know the point of this post was not to actually debate healthcare reform, but I thought I’d point that out.

    Yes, Ebonmuse, I completely agree with you — I hope the exposure of the lunacy makes this what the religious right seems to want it to be: them throwing themselves on their swords.

    I really think this will turn out to be a huge embarrassment for the opponents. In a few years’ time, when we make like a bunch of contented Canucks.

  • jonathan

    The one silver lining here is that all reasonable people are looking at the behavior of the current republican base and noticing that they are acting like spoiled children. I highly doubt they are winning many converts with this behavior. If anything, even more moderates will leave the party. If they keep this up, I fully expect them to lose even more when the 2010 election becomes another landslide.

    On one hand, I’d hate for them to realize this and grow up a little, thus becoming more appealing, but on the other hand, I’m more than a little bit afraid that this will escalate to violence.

  • http://www.WorldOfPrime.com Yahzi

    I have an argument the nutters can’t argue with:

    Australia.

    First off, they don’t know anything about it, so they can’t argue. Second off, every American loves Australia, so they can’t say anything bad about it.

    I have experienced the the Aussie health care system first hand, and color me impressed.

  • Boudica

    The Brit/Canadian comparo was on fivethirtyeight.com. http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2009/08/not-all-socialist-countries-are-alike.html

  • Sarah Braasch

    Yes, that’s it. Thanks, Boudica. I thought it was very cute and very succinct. It’s amazing how sometimes the simplest concepts can make such a huge difference. And, people are so overwhelmed by the false propaganda, that they don’t know which way is up anymore.

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    The Republican madness is the train-wreck of public outpouring of the first two of the five stages of grief. They are grieving the loss of an imaginary America that hasn’t existed for a long, long time, if it ever did. For a while (Reagan-Bush era) they were able to pretend it wasn’t happening. But now they are waking up to the fact that the country they ‘love’ is gone forever. What we are seeing is a combination of their denial and a towering anger.

    I wonder how long it will take them to get to bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. Some of them may never get there, and so it will have to be a generational transformation. For the sake of sanity and global peace, it can’t happen soon enough.

  • Alex, FCD

    I wonder how long it will take them to get to bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance.

    Could you guys maybe push through gay marriage and abolishing the death penalty and cutting back CO2 emissions while they’re still in the depression phase? Kthxbye.

  • KShep

    Black sun:

    …But now they are waking up to the fact that the country they ‘love’ is gone forever.

    Notice this is a central theme to those shouters at the townhalls? I think this is illustrative of what they’re really afraid of—black folks and “others” taking over. The “country I know and love” to them is one where women knew their place, blacks lived in the ghetto where they belonged, “the gays” stayed in the closet and didn’t flaunt their sexuality “in the public where we all have to see it.”

    I for one, am glad to see that country disappear.

    On to the health care “debate:”

    I have a personal point of view on this. Aren’t Republicans always the ones preaching about how fiscally responsible they are? Yet they think it’s somehow cheaper to deny care than to provide it. Case in point: my mother.

    Retired early, this past January, at age 62, due to difficulty walking from a condition called neuropathy. A stubborn, prideful woman, she refused to let her condition affect her work, so when the possibility of early retirement came up, she went that route instead of going on disability, which she surely was eligible for.

    Well, you know, you can’t get Medicare until you’re 65, and for Medicaid, you have to have less than $2000 in total assets. Mom’s little house, which she dutifully paid off early, is worth no more than $80k. So she’s too “wealthy” to qualify for Medicaid.

    This past May, she developed some problems in her abdomen. She didn’t go to any doctor because she “couldn’t afford it,” and surely thought that whatever she had, it would pass. Weeks later, she was brought by ambulance to the emergency room—barely breathing, hallucinating, incoherent.

    29 days later, she was dead. Her original diagnosis was “some kind of infection” in her abdomen. They never knew for sure where, but she responded to antibiotics. The rest of those last days of her life were spent trying to build enough strength to get off the ventilator. Twice, she was taken off it, only to immediately worsen and go back on. Third time was the last time.

    Now, how much would it have cost to treat her in the doctor’s office with antibiotics when she first felt sick? A few hundred? And she’d still be here, too.

    Want to know how much her last 29 days in the hospital cost?

    Hope you’re sitting down: $468,000.

    That’s not including the ambulance ride. Or her funeral and cremation. Her entire estate is valued under $100k. Assuming they go after her house, the hospital is going to eat the rest, and pass on the added cost to the rest of us. So much for Republican “fiscal responsibility.”

    I’m so disgusted with the opponents of reform right now. If I were to encounter any of those screaming assholes face to face, I’d have to restrain myself. They have no damn idea what they’re opposed to, and are too stupid to care.

    And I’m willing to bet the farm on this: the only people who are truly satisfied with their privately run health care plan right now are the ones who haven’t had to use it. Let the system continue as it is now for a few more years (as the Republicans propose) and then let’s see how many of those people like their plan.

  • bh

    Jormungund, the actual conservatives in my area that I’ve talked to are birthers and omgz-death-camp sorts. I know they don’t represent everyone, but they do exist and are worth discussing. They’re outcomes of the same social process that forged the rest of us.

    What I’m finding interesting these days is that people on the right I know seem to putting all the fault on Obama and continuously maligning his character. Meanwhile, nearly everyone on the left i know find him a tremendous disappointment for being more hands-off and moderate than we ever expected.

  • other scott

    @Yahzi

    I’m an Australian and I gotta say what we have going on over here isn’t too bad. We have public hospitals and private hospitals. If you have enough extra money laying around you can pay for private health insurance and then the private health system takes care of you. If you don’t have enough money, the public system is more than happy to take care of you.

    They are even talking about putting dental onto what is covered by public health care which would be nice for people so poor that their teeth are rotting out of their head.

  • Alex Weaver

    Hint: What happens to you in this country if you show up at a hospital in urgent need of care with no insurance and no money?

    You spend the rest of your life in debt?

  • keddaw

    Anyone else see the irony in a bunch of people so looking forward to the Rapture and heaven being so scared of euthanasia?

    On the healthcare issue why aren’t the ‘sensible’ media promoting the fact that every other civilised country (and some not so civilised) see the protection of the health of the least fortunate citizens as a duty without resorting to socialism, communism and the eating of babies. Whereas the most ‘Christian’ nation is more than happy to spend MORE than anyone else on healthcare yet let the poor die on the streets.

  • Lorais

    Other Scott: Did you mean to say putting dental BACK IN, which a conservative government stripped us of during their 12 years of fucking everything up, drumming up hate/fear and putting chaplains in schools?

    I’m surprised Cuba hasn’t been mentioned in this debate. A country the United States of America has had under economic sanctions for nigh on 50 years and yet has a much better health care system than them. I’ve said it a million times, I’d much prefer to live in Cuba than the USA.

  • NoAstronomer

    If you ask me Republican senators are right to be concerned about a system that might ration healthcare based on an individuals contribution to society.

    /snark

  • Reginald Selkirk

    The flood of brazen lies and hysterical fearmongering is the latest symptom of the sickness that’s taken the Republican Party. It first manifested itself in the “birther” movement…

    I would argue that this is continuation of a trend that started much earlier. Consider the Creationism issue. In the last four years is there any major Republican candidate who has not at least used language congenial to the ID evolution denial movement? Some major GOP politicians are known to be Creationists, but even those who personally accept evolution as science (e.g. McCain) have been using the “teach both sides” language. Newt Gingrich, who is desperate to regain power, was featured in an interview in Discover magazine a couple years ago, and and made an appeal on behalf of ID on grounds of local control.

    Another prominent example is climate change.

    Bush/Cheney/Rove reached out to the Fundagelicals in order to make the numbers they needed to get elected. Other Republican politicians noticed that, and have been vying to take over that base after Bush’s tenure expired.

  • AC

    The debate in the States has actually caused something of a furore over here in the UK.

    There’s a whole trending topic on Twitter that’s formed as a grass roots campaign to defend the NHS, even.

    The Guardian has taken a few specific lies to task and has also put a handy spreadsheet of data up on Google docs.

    I remember someone on Fox News bashing the Netherlands recently, because of their drug laws – piling up a stack of lies about the country to make it look as if the laws had made the country into a nightmare.

    I guess it’s our (and any other countries’ with any healthcare system that isn’t completely private) turn to be offended?

  • Paul

    No wonder they’ve staked so much on stopping this – we have to hope they don’t have the clout left to block it altogether.

    Ebonmuse,

    I really don’t think that is the worst outcome. If they manage to block it completely, that could be used to motivate the left in the future to get rid of the Blue Dogs and other Democrats who might as well be Republican based on how they vote. It would give motivation to change things.

    Much more insidious would be a weakening of the bill to the point where it really does provide for worse health outcomes, or higher cost, or any number of things that could be used to spin a negative “the government can’t be trusted” rap. And I think this is the more likely scenario, as well, unless the Democrats and voters at large put pressure on the process to actually do an honest job at healthcare reform. This has been the Republican strategy for years: neuter government programs so they cannot perform their task, point out when they fail (don’t mention it is because you cut necessary funding, of course), assert government programs are expensive and useless.

  • CSN

    Currently abroad in the UK I’ve been aghast at the insane “town hall” meeting ravings. Today however I discovered that “there’s always a bigger fish” applies to ignorance too:

    http://www.break.com/index/one-indian-one-normal.html

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    I find it especially annoying because I do think there are serious issues for debate with health care reform, but none of those are getting any air time because (a) the Republicans have jumped off the deep end and (b) the media finds it boring.

    Howard Dean made a similar point today at Netroots Nation. He said that while he disagreed with a lot of their points, he was glad that the Blue Dog Democrats were doing what they were doing. He said we need to be having a real debate on this issue, the debate needs to include more conservative voices if the plan is going to reflect what the country really wants — and the Republicans aren’t giving it. All they’re doing is screaming like a crazy person in the street. A crazy person who needs a functioning mental health care system…

  • Johan

    If you guys don’t mind, I’d like to ask why you want healthcare on the federal level?

    I live in a European country, and from what I’ve learned, Americans tend to view the federal government in DC the same as ordinary people here view the beurocracy in Brussels. And healthcare in the EU managed from Brussels would be a disastrous, inefficient mess. I would certainly not want the EU to have anything to do with our national healthcare. In my opinion, the Eurocrats are already messing too much, they have ridiculously high salaries, not to even mention the silly parliamentary moves between Brussels and Strasbourg, for purely metaphysical reasons.

    So please tell me how you guys view it at your side of the pond? Maybe your federal government deserves less despisal than the Eurocrats do? Are maybe you are much more used at being managed from a federal government than we are?

    Given that this seems to be a sensitive topic to many (pretty stupid that it is, but apparently things are that way),I hope I’m not inviting a flood of insults for even questioning the wisdom of federally managed healthcare.

  • http://uncyclopedia.org/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Johan “If you guys don’t mind, I’d like to ask why you want healthcare on the federal level?”
    Experience with other nations shows that the same service is provided cheaper, to everybody (ideally), not just those who can afford it.

    “I live in a European country, and from what I’ve learned, Americans tend to view the federal government in DC the same as ordinary people here view the beurocracy in Brussels. And healthcare in the EU managed from Brussels would be a disastrous, inefficient mess.”
    I’m sure there’s a logical fallacy there, as you’re comparing the federal government of one country (USA) with the inter-State government of a coalition of nations (EU). A more apt comparison would be USA and another nation.
    And everybody bitches about healthcare. The difference is that the universal healthcare group bitches about the healthcare that they have, while the other about the healthcare that they don’t have access to (waiting 18 months for a hip replacement sucks; never getting one at all is far, far worse).

  • Leum

    Americans tend to view the federal government in DC the same as ordinary people here view the beurocracy in Brussels

    That’s because we’re encouraged to view government as an evil pariah and a blight on all that is good. People, when asked, express similar views about state and local government. There’s just more bile towards the Federal because it’s bigger and less personal (i.e. I have a chance to meet, and maybe know personally, my representative on a city council or assembly. I’m lucky to ever have a one-on-one conversation with my Senator).

  • Scotlyn

    Just a comment on health care systems – for comparison purposes. The Irish healthcare system has become appalling over the past ten years or so. Our Health Minister was once part of a minority right wing political party totally committed to the privatisation of everything. This party originally entered government as part of a coalition, but has since been wound up and de-commissioned as a result of poor election results. Nevertheless, this minister has kept her portfolio in health by default – no one else in the majority government party wants it. And no one seems to be able to stop her implementing policies which have the effect of dismantling the public system in order to sell it off piece-meal to the highest bidder. Her party used to trumpet the American health system as the ideal in efficiency. Every move that has been made under her ministership has made the system more expensive, more unwieldy, and less able to deliver results. Wait lists for diagnoses, treatments, etc get longer and longer (fatally so, sometimes) – this is supposed to make us turn to private health insurance – and it did, for a few years. The Irish population has the highest number of privately insured people in Europe – over 60%. But, these are now abandoning their health insurance policies in droves due to redundancy and the economic downturn. We’re now left hanging with the shreds and tatters of a public health system in which morale has never been so low, and a private system which is becoming increasingly beyond reach of the majority.

    @Johan, I agree re Brussels. As one of the few Europeans entitled to vote in a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty (which is trying to turn Europe into an American-style federation of states), I intend to vote no – again!

  • TeresaC

    Like Scotlyn I’m based in Ireland and while nobody would argue that the health care system here was working well, it’s still better than nothing. Nobody here is risking bankruptcy for an illness.

    I’m lucky that I haven’t had much to do with the health system but recently we ended up in the Emergency system – had to get an ambulance to the nearest hospital and be seen there. And I was totally impressed with the service – both the speed of it and the quality of it.

    I really, really don’t understand the furore and panic over Obama’s plan. My understanding – correct me if I’m wrong – is that Americans either spend a fortune on medical insurance, or do without and live in dread of an illness. And even if they have insurance – it doesn’t cover everything – if there’s a chronic problem the insurance stops paying after a while. (As I say, correct me if I’m wrong.)

    If these two options are the Hobson’s Choice facing Americans then what, oh what, is the opposition to changing that?

  • http://uncyclopedia.org/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    TeresaC “If these two options are the Hobson’s Choice facing Americans then what, oh what, is the opposition to changing that?”
    *The Status Quo makes a tonne of money off the current system.
    Some people:
    *are paranoid
    *are suckers
    *are racist
    *don’t want those worse off than them (or the odd version of them that only exists in their heads) to get better.
    *will willingly vote against their own interests if it means that the Democrats (the nefarious “other”) don’t “win”
    *will willingly vote against the interests of the People they’re supposed to be representing if it means that the Democrats don’t “win”
    *Etc.

    People are far messier, a tangled morass of conflicting instincts, than we give them credit for. Plus, under their clothes, they’re completely naked.

  • Leum

    Teresa, you know how your country had a big argument a few decades/centuries ago about whether government could ever possibly do something good that didn’t involve killing or imprisoning people? Yeah, well, over here the argument’s just starting and the people arguing it can’t are winning.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    On topic, there’s a really excellent piece of journalism by Rick Pearlstein in the Washington Post: In America, Crazy Is a Preexisting Condition. It traces the long-running undercurrent of reactionary right-wing lunacy in American politics. Lots of the statements he quotes sound strikingly similar to what we’re seeing today at tea parties and town-hall screamfests, although I maintain that what’s changed is the extent to which this movement has gained control of the Republican Party as a whole:

    In the early 1950s, Republicans referred to the presidencies of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman as “20 years of treason” and accused the men who led the fight against fascism of deliberately surrendering the free world to communism…

    …Before the “black helicopters” of the 1990s, there were right-wingers claiming access to secret documents from the 1920s proving that the entire concept of a “civil rights movement” had been hatched in the Soviet Union; when the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act was introduced, one frequently read in the South that it would “enslave” whites.

  • http://uncyclopedia.org/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    It’s just one example, but…“Do not demean the accomplishments of the insured by giving the same care to the uninsured.”, although if he was trying to be accurate it would be more like “…by giving any care whatsoever (except for limited emergency care) to the uninsured.”
    This works, incidentally, for any social program, as well as public schools, roads, access to public defenders…the list goes on.
    In short, “I got mine. Screw them.”

  • Christian

    Republicans are definitely frothing at the mouths in the face of possible healthcare reforms. Do you remember the outrage during the Sotomayor induction? It seems the Republican Party is keen on yelling foul play on anything the current administration seeks to achieve…A pretty interesting article articling the problems that plague the Republican party

    http://thedashingfellows.com/why-conservatives-suck-now-more-than-ever/4843

  • Staceyjw

    Modusoperandi-
    What an awful example of such a typically American attitude- We just can’t stand letting ANYONE have ANYTHING “free”. (And when I say “anyone”, I only mean average people- when the rich get tax breaks, there is no equivalent outcry)
    I mean, heaven forbid we give everyone medical care, even worse if we cover someone who isn’t working at the time! OH NO! THE WORLDS GONNA END! I am so tired of this ignorant attitude. I blame the puritan work ethic for this nonsense.

    Staceyjw

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Modus–

    Regarding yourpost #52, you forgot one other factor: most people ain’t got the brains to come in from the rain.

  • Scotlyn

    This to me is very ironic. The conservatives say they love Family. They also, according to Staceyjw, hate anyone getting anything for free. They think capitalism (which only values people inasmuch as they are either producers or consumers) is the only possible economic system. Now this socialist adage: “from each according to her ability, to each according to his need,” sounds exactly like the way a family works. Families work because some members are able to be productive enough to support the other members (young, old, ill, disabled) who can’t. Families simply couldn’t operate on a capitalist basis – the ill, the children and the old would starve if they could only eat what they themselves had earned. Does that mean that families are really a socialist institution?

    @ TeresaC – I agree the Irish health system is brilliant when you are actually receiving the service – I had faultless maternity care twice, delivered professionally and with a smile, and it didn’t cost me a penny – it’s hard to put a birth on a waitlist. Nevertheless, its problems have increased in direct proportion to the efforts our health minister makes to bring it in line with the American system – and for those on waitlists – that problem can be fatal. That was the point I was trying to make – possibly not very eloquently. Thanks.

  • Paul

    My understanding – correct me if I’m wrong – is that Americans either spend a fortune on medical insurance, or do without and live in dread of an illness. And even if they have insurance – it doesn’t cover everything – if there’s a chronic problem the insurance stops paying after a while. (As I say, correct me if I’m wrong.)

    It’s not even that they stop paying “after a while”. When someone comes down with a serious condition, the pore over past health records looking for a pre-existing condition (no matter if it’s related to the current health problem) for a reason to drop coverage and not actually have to pay anything. The stereotypical example is a woman who came down with breast cancer, who was dropped by her insurance because they found she once went to a dermatologist for acne treatment (pre-existing condition). They also have policies in place to make it as difficult as possible to actually be reimbursed for health care costs, in order to cause their less timid customers to just pay the bills instead of insist on getting the service they pay exorbitant amounts for through their premiums. They are on the Congressional record saying they will not stop these types of practices.

  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Staceyjw “What an awful example of such a typically American attitude- We just can’t stand letting ANYONE have ANYTHING “free”.”
    It should be noted that they (the American Christian) on average donates about double to charity what the secular do (and this is after excluding the tithe). They are for caring for people, as long as it’s voluntary (and the State is never voluntary…and you go to jail for not paying your taxes). How “Of the People, by the People and for the People” isn’t voluntary, I don’t know.

  • Johan

    @Modusoperandi: “I’m sure there’s a logical fallacy there, as you’re comparing the federal government of one country (USA) with the inter-State government of a coalition of nations (EU). A more apt comparison would be USA and another nation.”

    My point was that from what I’ve read, it’s fallacious to compare federal politics of the USA to a small nation-state, such as where I live, and that it will give a better picture to compare it to the EU.

    @Scotlyn: “Johan, I agree re Brussels. As one of the few Europeans entitled to vote in a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty (which is trying to turn Europe into an American-style federation of states), I intend to vote no – again!”

    Yes, please do so. Not only to stop the disgusting affairs of the Eurocrats, but also for the sake of the millions of us who will never get to vote.

    Oh well, the Dutch and the French got to vote, but when they both rejected it, the political nobility found another way.

    I don’t want the EU to become a federation. I think that free trade, free movement and free flow of capital within the union is fine. I’m undecided about the single currency. But in any case, this is the level which I want the union to be at. We don’t need any European Parliament, or any EU Commission, or any other sort of supra-nationalism.

  • Sarah Braasch

    I am not an EU citizen. But, I am living in France for a year, and I lived in Italy for 5 months last year while studying EU law and European Human Rights Law at the European University Institute, as I had also done at my law school in NYC. The thing I like best about the EU, as well as a system of federalism in general, is the ability to protect human and civil rights. This requires a strong judiciary at the federal level (in the EU — the ECJ and the Court of First Instance with some help from the European Court of Human Rights) as well as a system of sticks and carrots (the economic incentives of membership in the EU). Analogous systems are in place in the US. As an admitted outsider, I am rather enamored of what the EU has achieved in such a relatively short period of time, especially in terms of promoting human rights in newbie and neighboring states. I would hate to see it dismantled. But, that’s just my opinion.

    To Modusoperandi: You could extend your reasoning to anything done on behalf of the public welfare — social security, education, even the police (why do I have to pay to protect someone else?), etc., etc.. The problem with that is that if we like living in a democracy, we have to concede that democracies tend not to function very well with an uneducated, unhealthy, unemployed, starving, and dying citizenry. They tend to start to look a lot like oligarchies and then autocracies. I know it’s only 20% of the population that is uninsured, but that’s way too big a number for a democracy, especially when you figure in the insured who are afraid to death of being dropped by their insurance companies or whose insurance companies will refuse payment for this or that reason. Now, an oligarchy or an autocracy or a monarchy can function just fine with that sizable a section of its citizenry afraid for its life and livelihood, and our military is big enough to quell a rebellion, but we’ll have to change our Constitution. I really see healthcare reform as being about protecting our democracy, not installing godless socialism. What we have now is dog eat dog Social Darwinism at its finest.

    No one would suggest dismantling public education, because Christians give so much to charity. People seem to get the education part. They seem to understand that a democratic government must ensure an educated citizenry in order to survive. I just wish people could make the intellectual leap with respect to healthcare. A public healthcare insurance option will not destroy private insurance, in the same way that private schools are alive and well in the US.

    Additionally, my experience with Christian “charities” and whatever other faith based orgs is that conversion is part and parcel with the charitable effort. While donors to these orgs might be giving on a voluntary basis, recipients are certainly being coerced.

  • Andrew

    I just wish people could make the intellectual leap with respect to healthcare. A public healthcare insurance option will not destroy private insurance, in the same way that private schools are alive and well in the US.

    Yea because public schools do so well in the US…[note the dripping sarcasm]

  • Sarah Braasch

    Actually, I am a product of what I consider to have been a pretty great public education in the US. And, my response (and I am not at all surprised by the dripping sarcasm) is the same as the British response to all of the attacks on the NHS — yes, of course, we need to make it better, maybe even by leaps and bounds, but we certainly shouldn’t dismantle it.

  • Paul

    Andrew,

    Reading you in context, you think there should be no public school system?

    Just wanted to clear that up.

    If public healthcare is that horrible, it should act as positive encouragement for people to purchase private insurance. Free market at it’s finest — offer a better product and you’ll get the buyers.

  • Andrew

    Reading you in context, you think there should be no public school system?

    I would actually be in favor of eleminating public schools altogether, provided that doing so was coupled with voucher programs to help poor parents pay for their childrens education.

    However I dont think that is strictly necessary. The problem isnt with the idea of public schools per se, but that the government has caved into special interests(teacher’s unions), and effectively taken away all choice for poor parents. The latter is basicly guranteed to happen with Obama’s healthcare plan, and I wouldnt be surprised if eventually the plan turns out to cover only certain brands of drugs or certain doctors(with the right political connections).

    however for school I propose the following changes to our public school policy:

    -Allow parents to send their children to any school in their city,

    -make school funding dependant primarly(if not entirely) on the number of students who go there.

    -eleminate tenure for teachers, and give them pay based on merit, those who do well get paid more, those who dont teach well get fired.

    -Eleminate nationwide standarzied testing. In fact eleminate federal conrol of schools altogether. Let the states set the stanards for their schools.

    -Stop promoting children for being a certain age. Theres no excuse why later grades need to be dumbed down because a portion of students from the previous grades didnt learn what they should have but were passed on anyway.

    -have year round schooling(with a summer break to be determined by the State and local school boards).

    -Have the option of weekend classes for students or parents who want them. In fact I’d like to see High schools run High Schools like a college: classes are offered on certain times/days, including night and weekend classes, and you construct a schedule as you see fit. This would especially helpful for parents who work weird hours(such as night shift or weekends).

    -Voucher programs to allow poor parents the option of sending their kids to a private or religious school, if they want to.

    I’m sure I can come up with more, thats just a few suggestions about how I would imporve our public schools. However I’m sure school adminstrators and teachers union representives would complain about most(if not all) of these proposals. And politicions are listening to them instead of considering what is best for parents and students. And I’ll bet anything the same thing will happen with the government health option.

  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    “…and a state-of-the-art detention hall where the children are held in place with magnets.” ~ Principal Skinner

  • Alex Weaver

    -Allow parents to send their children to any school in their city,

    How would this be adapted to accommodate the finite capacity of schools?

    -make school funding dependant primarly(if not entirely) on the number of students who go there.

    Eliminate the funding of schools with local property taxes and ease performance-based funding results which help to perpetuate a cycle of poverty by ensuring that the kids who most need a decent education will have a grossly underfunded one if any.

    -eleminate tenure for teachers, and give them pay based on merit, those who do well get paid more, those who dont teach well get fired.

    How exactly merit is to be determined without standardized testing and without inviting bullying and manipulation of teachers by creationists and other ideologues in areas friendly to that sort of insanity isn’t clear, but this isn’t a bad idea in principle. While we’re at it, pay them a living wage to start with. Additionally, willful blindness towards or toleration of bullying, by school personnel, should be made a felony; this would improve many students’ academic performance and overall welfare, and probably help reduce prison overcrowding down the line.

    -Eleminate nationwide standarzied testing. In fact eleminate federal conrol of schools altogether. Let the states set the stanards for their schools.

    Standardized testing is not useless in principle, but the tests should be comprehensive and the focus on test preparation reduced. Eliminating federal control of schools and giving states free reign is a horrible idea, however.

    -Stop promoting children for being a certain age. Theres no excuse why later grades need to be dumbed down because a portion of students from the previous grades didnt learn what they should have but were passed on anyway.

    YES. I would also suggest a rigorous reversal of the current policy of priveleging athletics, in terms of funding and moral support, over pretty much every other program at the school including classroom instruction.

    -have year round schooling(with a summer break to be determined by the State and local school boards).

    As opposed to what, exactly?

    -Have the option of weekend classes for students or parents who want them. In fact I’d like to see High schools run High Schools like a college: classes are offered on certain times/days, including night and weekend classes, and you construct a schedule as you see fit. This would especially helpful for parents who work weird hours(such as night shift or weekends).

    Definitely a good idea, especially since teenagers’ natural body rhythms are shifted several hours laters later than most other age groups.

    -Voucher programs to allow poor parents the option of sending their kids to a private or religious school, if they want to.

    Aside from the potential church-state issues, why would this be helpful?

    So, what would you suggest for comparable improvements in the proposed health care plan?

  • Andrew

    How would this be adapted to accommodate the finite capacity of schools?

    I’m not certain this will be an issue. Not every parent will choose to send their kids to the same school, and even if they did the school would be able to expand to accomidate the extra students(just like any other business). If worse comes to worse schools could refuse students after they’ve been filled to capicty, but I doubt that point would be reached.

    Also, at the HS level schools could ‘specalize’ and focus their funds on equpiment and staff in a particular area to attract students interested in studying that. For example, in my hometown one school has an excellent school paper, both because of a great teacher and great equipment, and theres another school with awesome auto shop, if there was true competition, these schools would draw different students to them.

    Standardized testing is not useless in principle, but the tests should be comprehensive and the focus on test preparation reduced.

    I’m not actually opposed to standardized testing per se. But it should not be public policy and school funding. I’m also leery about it being done on a national level.

    Also something else, I just thought of: No more multipule choice or ‘fill in the blank’ tests. Testing should demonstrate how well our students think, how well they grasp ideas and how well they can articulate them. Not just how well they can memorize facts by route and regurgate the answers. The only area I can see multipule choice testing being acceptable is mathamatics.

    Eliminating federal control of schools and giving states free reign is a horrible idea, however.

    I’m not sure why. States are in a better position to hear the needs of local school boards needs and understand how to deal wtih issues. Not to mention the fact that federal mandates on schools clearly violates the spirt, and I would argue the letter of, the 10th Ammendment(but then again so does almost everything the Federal goverment does today).

    As opposed to what, exactly?

    The three month summer vacation we have now. That relic from the early industral age when everybody farmed and kids were needed at home to work the farm in the summer time.

    Aside from the potential church-state issues, why would this be helpful?

    First off there are no ‘church-state issues’ with vouchers. The Supreme court has already ruled that using vouchers for religious schooling does not violate church-state seperation, provided that parents choose the schools.

    As for how it would help, well for starters, at least right now private and religious schools perform better than public schools, thats a fact. Liberals often complain about how the children of the rich get the advantage of being able to go to fancy private schools, vouchers take away that advantage by giving poor parents the same opportunities.

    But more importantly, they provide parents choice and competition for public schools. Since you obviously took economics at a public school I’ll spell it out for you:

    Competition is how we get quality products at a fair price. When there is competition businesses(schools) will need to attract customers(students) from competators(other schools), and they do this by offering better services(nicer facilities, better teachers and staff) or by reducing the price they charge. A large part of the problem with our public schools is that there IS no competition. Parents who cant afford to move or send their kids to private schools are forced to send their kids to whatever school they happen to be in the ‘district’ of(in some places schools will even send inspectors to peoples houses to make sure the kids live where parents say they do). With no competition, theres no incentive for public schools to improve(private schools otoh, which compete with both public schools and other private schools, have that incentive and so provide better quality education). Its sad really, everybody except the most far left communists agree competition is a good thing, but when it comes to what is arguably the most important thing we do(education of our young) our government doesnt allow it.

    So, what would you suggest for comparable improvements in the proposed health care plan?

    I’m glad you asked. First off let me say I’m opposed to the idea of a government run health insurance company, provided that the government actually does it to benefit people and doesnt cave into special interests(particularly big drug companies), but given the governments track record in other areas all I can say is: Fat Chance. However I think the following proposals will help people more than a ‘public option’ will:

    -more avalilability of Health Savings Accounts(one of the few good ideas to come out of the Bush Adminstration).

    -Make healthcare expenses(including money spent on insurance) tax deductable

    -Stop allowing illigal aliens to not only be treated at American hospitals, but to actually have the government pay for it through Medicaid(this would also help with the problem of illigal aliens).

    -place caps on the damages that can be awarded in malpractice/insurance suits and/or a ‘loser pays rule’(by which the loser in a civil lawsuit pays the winners legal fees).

    -encourage everybody who can self-insure to self-insure(HSAs are an excellent tool for this).

    -Eleminate the link between employment and health insurance, and allow indviduals and famalies to buy their own insruance(and get tax deductions for it).

    The last one wont help with the costs of healthcare, but it would make things a lot easier for many people. People wont have to put up with lousy management and/or a job they hate just because they need the health insurance, employers wont be able to wave health insurance in their workers faces when they threaten to quit or strike. Also people will be able to pay for a plan and coverage that they’ll actually need and want, rather than the ‘one size fits all’ plans most jobs offer where people are forced to pay for coverage of things they’ll never actually use.

  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    andrew “As for how it would help, well for starters, at least right now private and religious schools perform better than public schools, thats a fact.”
    They pick their students. It’s easy to have a high average GPA when you pick your class. Public schools don’t have that luxury, thank God.

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    How would this be adapted to accommodate the finite capacity of schools?

    I’m not certain this will be an issue. Not every parent will choose to send their kids to the same school, and even if they did the school would be able to expand to accomidate the extra students(just like any other business). If worse comes to worse schools could refuse students after they’ve been filled to capicty, but I doubt that point would be reached.

    In the U.K (state education admittedly) parents do ostensibly have a choice of where to send their children, I am in the process of moving my daughter into secondary (high) school at the moment. What happens in practice is that schools perceived as better than others in the area are massively over-subscribed. This gives them the opportunity to select for aptitude, further enhancing their reputation and leaving other schools with a harder job to do.

  • Scotlyn

    Sarah B

    As an admitted outsider, I am rather enamored of what the EU has achieved in such a relatively short period of time, especially in terms of promoting human rights in newbie and neighboring states. I would hate to see it dismantled.

    Fortunately, a dismantling of EU human rights law is not what is on the table. If the Lisbon Treaty fails it does not dismantle any of the previous European treaties, which are currently in force, or their achievements.

    It simply stops us going one step further, into a scenario which, I agree with Johan, is a step downwards for people who feel strongly about their nations’ sovereignty. As it stands, the European project is a community of separate nations. Each nation retains a veto, which allows it to modulate its involvement with the European project at its own pace, never sacrificing core national values. The Lisbon Treaty (which under a former guise as a European Constitution, was rejected by the Dutch and the French) proposes to remove national vetoes and replace them with a majority voting system instead. This would mean that we are no longer a community of independent nations, but a single citizenry with different ethnic and cultural backgrounds – a very different proposition, and for most of the citizens of the EU’s countries, one step too far.

    The Irish citizens are the only ones, in this round, who could not be deprived of their right to vote in this Treaty (after which no EU treaty will ever have to consult the citizens again). The fact that every one of our politicians, no matter what their party, is in favour of the Treaty indicates to me that this is a treaty that favours the interests of the political classes over that of the ordinary citizens. The fact that the political will expressed by the Dutch and the French has been so utterly ignored (and that the Irish is likely to be) is a harbinger of exactly how democratically unaccountable these new European structures are likely to be.

    Re schools – I have no choice in what school to send my kids to. There is only one secondary school within 20 miles, and I can’t afford (nor would it appeal to me) to send them to private boarding school. Nevertheless, the school they go to exactly represents the population of our area – rich, poor, athletic, academic and mechanic and uninspired. On the whole, they are getting a great education.

  • Sarah Braasch

    While I do know that this discussion on the EU may have gone off topic, I find it fascinating, so please forgive me for continuing it:

    Yes, most of the objections to the EU becoming a federalist supranational state seem to fall along the lines of national and cultural allegiances. But, without a true system of federalism, the EU is severely hindered in its ability to protect the civil and human rights of EU citizens intra union. This places too much pressure upon the accession process (i.e. Turkey), as the moment when a state wishing to join the EU must meet myriad demands with respect to human rights. At this point, minus a system of federalism, the EU has more power to impose human rights conditions upon neighboring states with which it has a variety of agreements, rather than new member states.

    I do understand the objections centered around the fact that there might not be enough democracy in the EU’s brand of democracy. The structure and functions of the EU institutions seem a bit counterintuitive at first, but I am impressed with the results. And, the EU seems much less easily swayed by the whims of a cruel moral majority than in the US. Of course, a balance is needed between the majoritarian and counter-majoritarian elements, and, I know, that many argue that the EU is much too counter and not enough about the majority will. But, I also think the EU was designed as it is to protect national interests, thus rendering it counter-majoritarian, and a move towards federalism will give the EU the freedom to further democratize and empower its institutions protecting the interests of the people of the EU. The EU Parliament has gained substantial and meaningful new powers in recent years.

    I would love to see the EU nations and citizens embrace federalism. I think the US shows that it is fully possible to revel in and retain one’s myriad cultural identities within a federal state.

    I think the nation state is on its way out — although I recognize that this process will take many lifetimes. Nationalism is just another divisive and ultimately meaningless group ideology.

    And, I think the EU adds a nice counterweight to the US in world affairs.

  • Scotlyn

    Ebon, forgive if this is too much off-topic. Sarah, your point of view is interesting, and there may be many good arguments for federalism, when people are really ready for it. Right now I’m not convinced that most Europeans are. I definitely don’t think that it can be effectively forced through – which it seems the federalists are prepared to do. (I’ve never bought into the “means justified by the ends” morality). I can accept a federalism that is democratically brought about. This is not currently on offer to us. My no vote will be cast in the hope of more breathing space and time for ordinary citizens like myself to really think about what it all means – and also time for those who are gung-ho on the project to make some convincing arguments. Your own argument, “the consolidation of human rights legislation is so worthy that it is right to impose it undemocratically on the unwilling” for example, presumes that human rights are only a matter of legislation, whereas I argue that without bringing “hearts and minds” along with you, the legislation will be ultimately unenforceable without violence.

    Should the “ramming through” of the federalist project succeed, I would wonder if a re-run of the US’s “civil war” will also figure at some point in our European future. Whatever else the Civil War was about, it was definitely about asserting the supremacy of federal powers over those of individual states – and one aftermath that still remains is that deep distrust of federal government that goes to the very core of conservative Americans (which neatly brings us back to the point of the OP).

    I could see, for example, an issue like abortion here in Ireland becoming such a touchpoint in a federalised Europe. Suppose Ireland (possibly following a European Court injunction to provide abortions, for example) sought to “secede” and Europe decided to say (with soldiers) “no, you can’t.” (Pour encourager les autres). History might judge it as a righteous blow for women’s rights, but the reality would be more complicated and nuanced – as was the Civil War.

    Such a war would be infinitely worse than the current “Irish solution” – which is to avail of abortions in the UK. Hypocritical, maybe – but could it really be put right without a genuine change of Irish hearts and minds? War devastates everything, and still manages to leave the conquered unconvinced by the victor’s righteous version of its cause.

  • Alex Weaver

    I’m not sure why. States are in a better position to hear the needs of local school boards needs and understand how to deal wtih issues. Not to mention the fact that federal mandates on schools clearly violates the spirt, and I would argue the letter of, the 10th Ammendment(but then again so does almost everything the Federal goverment does today).

    Did you read the link to the search results with numerous incidences of local and even state educational administrations attempting to gut science standards and insert creationism and other biblicist nonsense into public school curricula?

  • Andrew

    They pick their students. It’s easy to have a high average GPA when you pick your class. Public schools don’t have that luxury, thank God.

    They do, but most pick students based on one factor: Whether or not the parents can pay for it. In theory they can expel students for failing, in practice, however, they tend to only expel students who cause real problems(although the threat of expulsion acts as an excellent motivator for kids to imporve their grades).

  • Sarah Braasch

    Scotlyn, I am impressed by your passion. I think it’s best to leave this thread to the intended topic at this point. But, I sincerely thank you and Ebon for indulging me. Take care.

  • Johan

    I hope it’s ok if I express my view on EU federalism.

    First, the major problem with the EU is its democratic deficit. Also that it is rather corrupt, something that is hardly covered at all by the media. It is covered by bloggers though – might hint at why the EU once tried to regulate blogging (they’ll surely try to go at it again when they find it suitable).

    It should be added that the EU is one of the few entities in the world that passes laws in secret.

    As for federalism, I can only speak for myself. For some people it may be because of nationalism. But not for me. I simply want power to be as close as to those affected by it as possible.

    But does nationalism has to be bad? Can you mention a single struggle for independence that did not involve nationalism?

    Even though nationalists oppose the EU, opposition to the EU is not always nationalist, and not illegitimate.

    If we should have a federation, it should be like Switzerland, with much autonomy for the cantons, and respect for regional differences. Given the current track of the EU, it’s going to be worse centralized than the USA.

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    President Obama was elected on a promise of bipartisanship and consensus-building, and I don’t expect him to change that philosophy.

    looks like he might though

  • http://www.croonersunlimited.com Jim Speiser

    Adam, I fear for this country. I do not believe this is an ad hoc uprising. I see signs that this is the Republican party’s secret evil plot to take back power, probably hatched soon after the November election. The men behind the curtain have decided to make use of their addled wingnut cousins to foil Obama’s agenda. They see that if he is successful in forging a bipartisan alliance that actualy works, the Democrats will be the ones to get the credit – and the next 2 or 3 elections. Can’t have that, now can we? The reason I think this is part of an orchestrated LONG-TERM effort, is that the next item on the agenda, Climate Change, is already showing signs of the lunatic fringe being called out en masse – they are ready with their placards and platitudes, without even having heard the opening round of the debate! Make no mistake, this is not just planned, it is not just orchestrated, it is the central long-term strategy of the Republican Party! And it’s working!

  • http://uncyclopedia.org/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Jim Speiser “I see signs that this is the Republican party’s secret evil plot to take back power, probably hatched soon after the November election.”
    Try “before”. The spontaneous tea parties, for instance, were spontaneous only in the sense that the word “spontaneous” mean the opposite of what it means.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    This just in: Some advertisers are abandoning Glenn Beck’s show because of his insulting rhetoric towards Obama.http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090824/ap_on_en_tv/us_tv_beck_s_advertisers

  • Thumpalumpacus
  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Thumpalumpacus: Ooo. Volvo, Ikea, Le Conseil de France de Tourisme and the Arugula Farmers Association. Beck must’ve lost about a dollar.

  • http://www.croonersunlimited.com Jim Speiser

    Modus: Some 36 out of 60 companies that advertised on Beck have withdrawn. That has to have an effect somewhere. Yes, his ratings remain strong, but ratings are only useful when they translate to advertising revenue. If they have to drop his rates to attract advertisers back, that’s gonna cost him more than “a dollar.”

    Still, it may be a pyrrhic victory. Is this really how we want to fight the battles? By stifling someone’s viewpoint that we find offensive? Aren’t we supposed to be the ones who advocate fighting an idea with a better idea?

    Sorry, we’re a little off-topic here.

  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Jim Speiser “Still, it may be a pyrrhic victory.”
    Obviously. It just proves that the companies that pulled out are in on The Great Liberal Conspiracy©

    “Yes, his ratings remain strong, but ratings are only useful when they translate to advertising revenue.”
    And his show costs, what, ten bucks an hour to produce? Outburst, outburst, faux rage, outburst, cry, faux rage. It practically writes itself.

    “Is this really how we want to fight the battles?”
    By supporting companies that support what we support? By using our First Amendment right to push back? What could be more American than that? It’s just the Invisible Hand of the Market slapping him around a bit, where before it delicately caressed his “man area” for being such a good draw for eyes.

    “By stifling someone’s viewpoint that we find offensive?”
    He isn’t stifled. He’s just profiting less from promulgating and promoting loonery (note: not a word, though it should be). Lies should have consequences. If [insert sports star] loses his Nike sponsorship for repeatedly yelling “fire” in a crowded theatre, is that really a bad thing?
    That it’s taken this long for it to catch up to him makes me weep for the health of rationality and reality-based reality.
    Do I feel bad when companies/people who are trying to do the right thing get slapped, as with companies giving health benefits to same-sex couples? Yes. Do I feel bad when someone whose entire career has been based on making shit up finds it becoming less profitable? Not on your damn life. Karma is a bitch. Sadly, it’s too rare that the universe partitions out adequate payback for such nonsense. I’m not much for revenge, but justice is just fine with me.

  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    And we are fighting an idea with a better idea.
    The problem is that for eight years asking “Why?” was equated with treason, and they still won’t listen because we banned prayer in public schools and are, at this very moment, planning the next stage on the War on Christmas™ while our Kenyan Muslim “president” distributes condoms and mandatory abortions*.
    No idea can compete with a worldview that isn’t based on reality. “We”, for instance, say that abstinence-only sex-ed doesn’t work because the statistics consistently say so. “They” say that it isn’t working because we aren’t trying not to teach kids about their bodies hard enough. And also Hollywood is at fault somehow. And the reason why deregulation failed is because there are still too many regulations. And the reason why the deficit is so big is because we need to cuts taxes (and they’ll mention the Laffer Curve if they only mostly ignorant, rather than completely so). And the reason that the housing market collapsed is because those sneaky poor brown people and illegal immigrants cheated the banks. And the reason Iraq is going poorly is because we aren’t shooting enough of them and also Tim Robbins said something which demoralized our military that one time. And it’s not torture when we do it.
    You can’t argue with someone who counters facts and studies with ideology and scripted Republican/rightwing think tank talking points. Or, rather, you can, but you’d be better of arguing with a wall. The same kind of people talking about Death Panels whacking Grandma and executing retarded babies are the same kind of people who’ve been itching to fight since Dover. Try convincing a Birther that Obama has passed the test is much like convincing a YEC that biology/geology/genomics/astronomy/neurology, well let’s face it, science in general, is not a Satanic plot to lead people away from the Lord.

    Twain, as usual, summed it up best;

    “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”

    We’re dealing with people to whom reality is an impediment. It’s been building up to this since for a while. As such, it’s going to take a while to sooth the savage authoritarian Rightwinger.

    *Note: Not true, but you get the idea. Note also that the Left has alt-medicine kooks and 9/11 Truthers but, and this is critical, they never ran the Party.

  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    And a further comment of some kind, because I’m coming down with a mild case of OCD and things now have to come in threes for some reason.

  • Sarah Braasch

    I couldn’t agree more with MO. This is exactly what we would wish — that Beck’s baseless bile would lose the war of ideas in the marketplace of ideas. This is exactly the desired result. The fact that the public’s rejection of his vitriol has economic consequences in a capitalist system is what drives the marketplace.

    I just don’t feel like the general public is angry enough about all of the utter nonsense being spewed by the Republicans. Instead of working towards a viable solution, just think of all of the energy and effort and time and money and resources wasted, absolutely wasted on trying to counteract the effects of all of this lunacy that has been deliberately perpetrated upon the American public. That is a waste of taxpayer dollars.

  • Scotlyn

    I just received a link to this petition, urging Europeans to tell Americans they are being lied to about European health systems. It might interest y’all…

  • Thumpalumpacus

    MO:

    All money’s good money — unless it’s monopoly money. We can change the world, one knucklehead at a time.

    Jim:

    I see no need to underwrite false depictions of reality.

  • http://www.croonersunlimited.com Jim Speiser

    All good points, which is why I stated the issue as a question – to wit, I wasn’t sure of the answer.

    Note also that the Left has alt-medicine kooks and 9/11 Truthers but, and this is critical, they never ran the Party.

    Very similar to a post I made to HuffPo the other day:

    Never forget that there are loonies on the left as well – Communists, Anarchists, those who really do “blame America first.” The difference is that I have never once heard them referred to as “the Democratic base.”