Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Blog Assignment

Since I am so busy teaching, I've not had time to blog, I'll give you all (all 5 of you who read this blog) a Yom Kippur themed essay assignment: discuss the prelude to the Kol Nidre where we just declare it lawful to pray with our fellow sinners in light of Blu Greenberg's statement "where there is a Rabbinic will, there is a Halachic way" and relate Jewish conceptions of Halacha with Schopenhauer's concept of "will". Relate your discussion to the health care debate, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict or some other current issue in either Jewish or secular spheres.

Friday, September 25, 2009


A Pre-Mortem on Health Care Reform

I hope that events prove me wrong and that we'll finally have health care reform in this country, but currently I am not sanguine. It seems that health care reform is the Lucy's football of American politics: every so often Democrats or even liberal Republicans (remember them?) will try to kick that football only to have it yanked from under them, so they fall flat on their faces.

This time around, it may be even worse, in fact. The Dems may be so dedicated to actually "doing something" as well as being bipartisan and compromising that they will pass a bill that will actually make things worse: forcing people who can ill afford to buy health care to purchase health care while doing little to prevent health care costs from rising due to increased demand (and decreased demand elasticity) following a health insurance purchase mandate. Of course, in spite of efforts at bipartisanship, no GOoPer will vote for the health care bill and a few Dems. will vote against it -- so the bill will be labeled as "a partisan Dem. bill that was foisted upon us by the left against bipartisan opposition" -- and it will be so used as a cudgel against future progressive reform even if the left doesn't actually like the final bill!

Some Dems. think any health care reform will be good politically? Well not if you are forcing your base to purchase something they can't afford, are proving every GOP fear mongering talking point about progressive "deform" correct and also screwing small business over (with an employer mandate) besides. BTW, while real health care reform will help small businesses because they won't have to struggle to hire people when they can't afford to provide health insurance for employees, an employer mandate will screw over the same people for whom "socialized medicine" is the one bit of "socialism" that has already turned glibertarian small businessfolk into screaming dirty hippies. So quenching a move left amongst main street businessfolk, screwing over young, healthy, underemployed people who are the base of the Dem. party, etc., is good politics?

Of course all of this just points to the underlying problem with true health care reform: it is indeed a giant leap. And Americans, by and large, are a phlegmatic people (our heritage is rooted in the phlegm of England's Hobbits) who don't trust large leaps, unless the leaps involve Empire (e.g. colonizing and killing people of a more dusky hue for fun and profit). Normally our Anglo-American phlegm serves us well -- it keeps us from disastrous changes that could upset our healthy and liberty-full democratic-republican system. But sometimes it hurts us.

In the case of health care reform, dirty hippies like me want us to leap into socialized medicine or at least single payer or (probably better) some German-style hybrid system. But that is too big of a leap for leap-fearing Americans. The problem is that health care reform is a leap across a chasm. So the tendency to simply cut the leap in half will cause us to fall into the chasm of making health care more expensive with mandates, etc.

Indeed, the whole argument for half-way measures is silly: health insurance is expensive because of adverse selection. Ok. But the solution to this is to force young, healthy to buy health insurance they can't afford (otherwise they would likely have bought it by now?)? And if they can't afford it, maybe, just maybe (if the fiscal hawks don't get too penny wise and pound foolish) we'll subsidize them to buy insurance and thus subsidize the health care of sicker folk?

Doesn't that sound a little foolish? Why subsidize people to subsidize insurers to pay for health care? Why not just expand existing social medicine programs to cover more and more people?

Americans are afraid of big leaps. When we do adopt progressive agenda items, it is often because they are targeted to solve specific problems, and Americans love getting things done and solving problems. For example, even if FDR signed onto the Share our Wealth concept, no way he could get it done. Instead he was able to pass an alphabet soup of agencies that addressed specific needs (both to employ people and to deal with deferred infrastructure building). LBJ was not able to get us nationalized health insurance, but he was able to have social medicine that addressed specific needs: e.g. Medicare and Medicaid.

Similarly, if we want socialized medicine, there is no way that leaping into it will work, as the political winds in a country so afraid of leaping (even if a majority of people like the idea of a leap in theory) to anything except Empire building will cause any leap to either be thwarted entirely or turned into a leap half-way across a chasm that will only land us into a pit. What we should do instead is expand the socialized medicine programs we have to address specific shortcomings in our medical system, thus leading on a path toward the nationally socialized system beloved by us dirty hippies.

Evolution man! Not revolution! That's the way to go. Although if you do go for revolution, don't go half-way. If you want to catch or kick a football, you gotta put yourself into the procedure. Otherwise the football will just hit your fingers and toes and break them.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009



Check out my comments to this post in which I question this whole ACORN pseudo-scandal, hypothesize about the identity of the vines I saw growing in semi-abandoned buildings near the Poe House in Baltimore, etc.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


NPR Translated

I heard the most ridiculous interview on NPR yesterday of Carl Levin. It was a picture of exactly what is wrong with the media. So, in this vein, I'll give my "transcript"

Madeliene Brand: As a news reporter, it is my job to tell both sides of any story. You, who as chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee speaks for every Democrat about any matter related to the military, disagree with the report of the Great and Manly General McChrystal that says we must surge in Afghanistan now lest we loose the war there. But you and Obama do not want to send more troops to their death. Why are you disagree with this report? I'm a liberal, I'm willing to listen to and even agree with your sentiments about keeping America weak.

Carl Levin: Um, who told you either Pres. Obama or I disagree with the report? Did you actually read the report? It specifically calls people who interpret the report as meaning "just send more troops and ... um ... ponies" complete idiots who are potentially too stupid to breath

M. Brand: Journalistic imperatives tell me that there are two sides of every story. We've heard about what the report says. Now I am trying to be a good journalist and get your side of the story. Could you please explain why you disagree with Gen. McChrystal's report?

C. Levin: Didn't I tell you that I do not disagree with the report?

M. Brand: Why do we liberals like to be soft in waging war? Why does Obama hesitate before sending troops into battle to die? Why doesn't he support Gen. McChrystal's findings?

C. Levin: Didn't I just tell you that everyone agrees with the report? Did you read the report? It specifically calls people who misinterpret its recommendations in the exact way you insist on misinterpreting the report's recommendations complete blundering, blabbering idiots.

M Brand: In order to have a story, I must continue to act as if there is disagreement. Why do you disagree with the report?

C. Levin: Are you a complete nitwit and numbskull? For the umpteenth time, I do not disagree with Gen. McChrystal's recommendations

... and this is NPR which is (supposed to be) a cut above most other media outlets ... and journalists wonder why no-one listens to or reads the news anymore?

Anyway, it was certainly NPR. No-one was shouting and everyone was super-duper polite (that M. Brand was so polite to Sen. Levin will be yet another piece of "evidence" that NPR is teh liberal socialist propaganda ... and thus what M. Brand claimed the liberal position to be will be deemed by the GOP to be the liberal position -- thanks NPR for giving the GOP talking points!) ... which was amazing ... if I were Levin, I don't think I could have remained so polite ...

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?