Posts Tagged ‘Healthcare’

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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

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Two things to read

September 3, 2009

One short, one long.

Short: Ezra Klein on how the media covered only the health-care town hall meetings that turned into shouting matches. This goes hand-in-hand with the things we’ve posted here critiquing journalism strategies in general. Here’s one of the money quotes:

Ohio Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy said, “I think the media coverage has done a disservice by falling for a trick that you’d think experienced media hands wouldn’t fall for: allowing loud voices to distort the debate.”

On the contrary, Rep. Kilroy… doesn’t the media do that all the time?

Long: A Chicago Magazine article in which the author, a white victim of a violent crime committed by black juveniles, discusses with heartfelt nuance how race colored his thoughts and actions after the assault. Really think we live in a “post-racial” society? Read this.

I’ve wondered what argument I’d be making if the situation were reversed, if a group of white kids had done the same to a black man without uttering a word. I doubt I’d be stepping into the public melee to say, “Wait a minute—maybe these kids were race neutral and they just happened to choose a black guy today.” And that’s clearly racism on my part, an unwillingness to see everyone as equal.

And what if I’d been attacked by whites? I think I’d have been more outraged, more quick to judge, less likely to look for some meaning in the act. I’d have desired stiffer punishment than Larry got, assuming, perhaps wrongly, that my assailants had had more advantages to start with and so had traveled a greater distance across the moral scale. Is that fair? No.

Flying Whale

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Obama mobilizes the troops

September 3, 2009

I’m sure some of you received the same email I just did, the one with the From: field occupied by “President Barack Obama.” It’s a DNC email, of course, asking for monetary support to help pass health care reform. It includes these two sentences:

The pundits told us it was impossible — that the donations working people could afford and the hours volunteers could give would never loosen the vise grip of big money and powerful special interests. We proved them wrong.

Did we really? I’m not seeing it.

But that’s not why I’m moved to write about this. I’m moved to write about this because it is fairly unprecedented – a president using the massive email list that he built during his campaign and attempting to mobilize them to help him pass a key policy initiative. This has never happened before, and my concerns come in two closely related flavors.

First, Obama’s list is very likely an enormous list of people who are not activists. Moreover, it’s an enormous list of people without a defined politics. It’s people who were fed up with George W. Bush, people who were taken in by Obama’s personality, or his (deserved) unique appeal as the first African-American president, or his elegant rhetoric. It’s not a homogeneous group of people dedicated to any particular policy agenda or ideology. This is not necessarily a huge concern, but it does create an interesting dynamic – how will these people respond to a specific policy request? Will they tune out, will they do whatever Obama asks them to do, or will it be something in between?

Secondly, and more significantly, if the result of this is closer to “they’ll do whatever Obama asks them to do,” does this represent a significant expansion of executive power? No president has ever before had a direct line to his supporters like this. If Obama can use his supporters to change the course of legislation in Congress, what does that do to checks and balances?

I’m not sure what the answers are, or if this is actually anything to be worried about. But it’s certainly worth thinking about.

Flying Whale

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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.

Jonas

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Amplification

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?

Jonas

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Overheard

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?

Jonas

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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…

Jonas