Archive for the ‘Healthcare’ Category


Hey, someone gave a speech last night

September 10, 2009

So I sort of lied about no posts for a while, but I didn’t lie about no substantive posts, as this is merely a miniature link dump. The lefty blogosphere responded pretty positively to Obama’s healthcare speech to Congress last night, and Rep. Joe Wilson gave them a convenient punching bag to rile up the believers. There are any number of insightful posts I could link to, but I’ll limit myself to three.

First, Ezra Klein gives a positive, if sober, assessment of the speech. Second, two posts at Open Left offer opposing, if not directly contradictory, views: Daniel de Groot applauds Obama’s sweeping defense of liberalism, while unsurprisingly, David Sirota provides the loudest dissenting voice from the left, with the rather biting post title “Reviewing President Rahm Emanuel’s Health Care Speech.”

The difference? Sirota is refusing to resign himself to Obama’s centrism. The rest of the liberal blogosphere appears to have done just that, at least for now. Ultimately, I’m not sure which attitude is more productive.

Flying Whale


When words become meaningless

August 28, 2009

This is old, but worth watching if somehow you haven’t seen it already.

The far right has been extremely effective since late 2008 in making various previously meaningful terms completely meaningless. “Socialism” no longer has any meaning in our national discourse. It was a loaded word before, of course, but now it’s completely unusable. “Nazism” has now suffered a similar fate. (Hint to these folks who seem to think Obama is both socialist and a Nazi: “national socialism” ≠ “socialism”.)

This reminds me of a tactic that an instructor I worked with years ago used, when teaching development and globalization theory to high schoolers who had thus far been completely unexposed to these heady topics. Among the ideas covered were certain neo-Marxist ones like dependency theory. But he was very careful never to use the words “Marxism” or “Communism,” knowing they would result in a knee-jerk reaction and an automatic closing of the mind.

We should strive to respond not to words but to the ideas underpinning them; this whole trend of right-wingers calling anyone supporting health care reform “socialist” or “Nazi” has the effect of obscuring real ideas under an onslaught of increasingly meaningless and inflammatory empty words. Barney Frank isn’t playing their game. Unfortunately, as we’ve discussed here before, journalists are.

Flying Whale


Political realities; wrong answers

August 21, 2009

Though I caught part of President Obama’s radio interview during a coffee refill yesterday, Ezra Klein prompted me to read the entire transcript.

While there is a lot here to appreciate, I find this incredibly discouraging:

OBAMA: I’d be happy to. First of all, you mentioned illegal immigrants. This has been an example of just pure misinformation out there. None of the bills that have been voted on in Congress, and none of the proposals coming out of the White House propose giving coverage to illegal immigrants — none of them. That has never been on the table; nobody has discussed it. So everybody who is listening out there, when you start hearing that somehow this is all designed to provide health insurance to illegal immigrants, that is simply not true and has never been the case.

SMERCONISH: What is their fate, if I might ask? Because there’s a 1986 law on the book that says if you show up at an ER, you’ve got to be treated.

OBAMA: Well, that will continue because we don’t want a situation in which some child, even if they’re an illegal immigrant, shows up in an emergency room with tuberculosis and nobody is giving them treatment, and then they’re going back to the playground and playing next to our kids.

So I think there is a basic standard of decency where if somebody is in a death situation or a severe illness, that we’re going to provide them emergency care. But nobody has talked about providing health insurance to illegal immigrants. I want to make that absolutely clear.

I understand that undocumented folks aren’t going to gain access to health insurance through any of this fall’s legislation.  I get the political reality.  And I get why Obama answered the question that way.

But it’s still the wrong answer.

EMTALA isn’t about containing contagious diseases.  And differentiating between “our kids” and those other kids is wrong and counterproductive.

It doesn’t take someone particularly malicious to see that there are two solutions to the hypothetical Obama offered.  EMTALA.  Or segregated playgrounds.




August 18, 2009

I am constantly fascinated by which people and perspectives are given air time and which aren’t.  There are a lot of variables in the equation—the density of the news cycle, the sensationalism of the story, the size of the constituency, the bias of the news outlet, etc.  But every now and then, I’m reminded of how broken our criteria is for determining whose voice should or shouldn’t be amplified.

The first example to catch my eye this week was this post about a Dana Gould report on the health care protests and Remote Area Medical, a non-profit working to meet the medical needs of the uninsured.

The people at the tea parties are screaming and angry and furious about bad things that aren’t happening to other people in some future universe. The people lined up at 4 a.m. outside the free care clinic are resigned and polite and measured about horrible things that actually are happening. To them. Right now.

But more important than their relative politeness is this: the media extensively covered one, and not the other.

And then I was alerted to Chris Matthews inviting the man who brought a gun to a presidential town hall on to Hardball to talk about it.  (I’m not willing to link to it; go search for it yourself if you must)

Doesn’t giving these people and perspectives air time—at some point—start to legitimize them?  And if so, are there situations in which the media has the responsibility NOT to report?




August 17, 2009

Missing a Wheel?Within a passionate and expletive-laced conversation about the current healthcare reform discussion:

“If I were offerred a partisan car with four wheels or a bipartisan car with two wheels, I wouldn’t have any trouble deciding which car to choose.”

Perhaps not that simple.  But it does make me realize that I don’t understand the high value being placed on getting a bipartisan bill out of committee.  Anyone?



List of Enemies?

August 13, 2009

Vodpod videos no longer available.

This clip drives me more than slightly crazy (watch it all the way through; the punch is at the end). But rather than waste time on an analysis it doesn’t deserve, I’ll just ask this: why didn’t SOMEBODY suggest that folks delete email addresses from the body of the email BEFORE they forward it on the White House?

The White House can’t legally delete emails; people with their facts wrong don’t want to be identified. Seems like there is a relatively elegant solution to this conundrum…



Reality Check

August 11, 2009

Health Insurance Reform Reality CheckIn response to Sarah Palin’s Facebook rant about death panels and euthanasia and the numerous viral emails she and others sparked, the Obama Administration launched a new “Reality Check” website yesterday.

It’s decently helpful and the main page has short videos of six different experts, each addressing one of the major categories of “misinformation.” (Tangentially: why is it that we can’t just call them lies?)

There are some interesting reactions to the website floating around in the blogosphere.

Matthew Yglesias thinks we should consider the development of a better-informed citizenry to be a personal responsibility:

Once someone becomes convinced that Barack Obama has a secret plan to euthanize their mother, Obama saying “no I don’t” isn’t going to un-convince them. After all,that’s exactly what Obama would say if he did have a secret “death committee” plan. A personal message from a friend, relative, or coworker is likely to have more impact.. You can’t just despair about the state of things, you need to actually try to do something about it.

Ezra Klein writes that the state of the health care reform “debate” is a symptom of a sick democracy. His whole post is worth reading, but the last paragraph is striking:

What we’re seeing here is not merely distrust in the House health-care reform bill. It’s distrust in the political system. A healthy relationship does not require an explicit detailing of the “institutional checks” that will prevent one partner from beating or killing the other. In a healthy relationship, such madness is simply unthinkable. If it was not unthinkable, then no number of institutional checks could repair that relationship. Similarly, the relationship between the protesters and the government is not healthy. The protesters believe the government capable of madness. There is no evidence for that claim, which means that there is no answer for it, either. That claim is not about what is in this bill, or what government has done in Medicare and Medicaid and the VA. It is about what a certain slice of Americans think their government — and by extension, their fellow citizens — capable of.

One thing to add: I found myself a little surprised that the White House was dignifying ridiculous rumors with a response. But after a split second of reflection, I realized that, while that might be fantastic advice for surviving middle school, it’s terrible advice for handling the American public. The reality is that these rumors exist and that they have traction. And amidst very real and very constant information overload and a society-wide difficulty distinguishing between various qualities and reliabilities of information, insisting that “facts are stubborn things,” and refusing to let the accusations go unanswered just might be the right thing to do.