Speech impediment

By Phil Plait | September 10, 2009 7:00 am

Before reading any further, PLEASE read my post on religion and politics. I’ve had lots of people wondering why an astronomy blog is not only about astronomy. That post will clear things up.]

Yesterday I wrote an empassioned article about the mainstreaming of ridiculous and frankly crazy rhetoric from extremely fringe groups, people who think Obama is literally like Hitler, yet are being treated as if their opinions are well-reasoned and worthy of debate.

I made myself pretty clear, I thought. My rant was not against Republicans in general, for example. The main thrust of my post was not taking on any political party — yes, I did take a swipe at Bush, but that was not because he was a Republican, it was because he was clearly and provably antiscience, and again that was secondary at best to my main point. I do not say anywhere in that post that if you disagree with Obama, or if you’re opposed to what’s in his speech, then you’re a whackjob (though I do think you’d be wrong).

What I was saying is that nutsoid fringe craziness is getting way too much airtime and consideration, and is being presented as a reasonable stance. The people making claims that Obama is Hitler and the like are not very different from people who say they have alien babies, or that the Apollo landings were faked. They are way off the path of reality, and most people in this country and this planet know that. Putting people like that on TV and engaging them (except the way Barney Frank did) makes rational discourse nearly impossible, as it lowers the signal to noise ratio to essentially zero. We have real trouble in this country, and we need real debate. Pandering to the fringe makes that impossible, and many media outlets are simply trying to foment discord and perhaps push their own agenda.

Yet many of the comments left on my blog, on Twitter, on other blogs, and on Digg are just adding to the noise. They accuse me of being an Obama sycophant, or of denying people’s freedom of speech. These claims are patently false, and obviously wrong to anyone who actually read what I wrote, instead of reading their own blind prejudices into my words.

Examples abound. This guy got what I said completely wrong, and says I’m claiming we should have more Obama. He seems to think I am rah-rahing Obama (I did in fact support the speech, but — repeat after me — that’s not what the post I wrote was about). This guy calls me an idiot, though he never really says why. I assume he thinks it’s obvious, but the irony in his words is not hard to find. This guy accuses me of attacking straw men, then creates a cornfield full of ‘em.

Noise, noise, noise.

I could debunk these point-by-point, but it doesn’t matter. I certainly can’t reason with people who don’t want to be reasonable, and for people who are reasonable the flaws are easy to see.

To be clear and succinct: my point was not about political parties. It wasn’t about liberals, or conservatives (I have issues with liberal commentators such as Randi Rhodes, for example, as well as with neocons like Rush Limbaugh; opposite ends of the political spectrum and both just as often as far from reality as the other). It wasn’t about other speeches in the past. It wasn’t even really about the content of Obama’s speech, though I agree with it, and the speech’s content was what the craziness was about.

My post was about clearly lunatic rhetoric being taken as reasonable discourse, and how that demeans real discussions of real problems. I can’t make it any simpler than that.

The very fact that so many people chose to ignore this basic premise of what I wrote and to spin, fold, and mutilate it to increase the noise in the conversation ironically proves my point. And to them I say: Those of us who are reality-based see through you, and you are the very people we won’t let drag us down.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Piece of mind, Politics

Comments (160)

Links to this Post

  1. My Rant Was More Reasonable Than They Are « POWIP | September 10, 2009
  1. What are you saying Phil? Are you saying that all Republicans are a******s?

    :-P

  2. Regis

    There’s no arguing with people who are blinded by their ideology Phil.

  3. Brian Schlosser

    Being called an “idiot” by Dan Riehl is a badge of honor.

    But seriously, it makes sense that you are getting flack from the conservatives, mostly. Reality has a well known liberal bias, and those of us that live there are inherently suspect…

  4. Is it just me or does it seem to be getting worse? Maybe they’re just louder…

    And thanks so much for all your great work here in Atlanta for Dragon*Con–I learned much and had a great time.

  5. Maybe not as*****s, but look like the infidelity bug keeps spreading among them

    http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/09/10/california.assemblyman.resigns/index.html?eref=igoogle_cnn

    Family values… LOL

  6. IVAN3MAN AT LARGE

    As a British citizen, I find that all American domestic politics to be peculiar and perplexing. However, Dr. Phil Plait is an American, it’s his bloody blog, and he can write whatever the bloody hell he likes about what makes him mad!

  7. Zucchi

    I’m glad to hear that skeptic panels have a growing place at events like Dragon*Con. Next year I’ll be there for sure.

    You’re doing great, Phil. Stay on point; don’t get dragged into ridiculous discussions. (There’s the whole rest of the Internet for that!)

  8. McCorvic

    Even my brother, who is very Convservative, went to a Christian college, and is in the military, called me up the other day and asked me why people were getting all crazy and angry that Obama wanted to make one speech at a school. I told him that in today’s “news” world you don’t need to be right you just need to yell it loud enough for long enough you’ll be given air time.

    When he starts to notice that things are getting out of control we’re in trouble.

  9. Stellar Sasquatch

    As a card carrying member of the Communist-Fascist-Marxist-Progressive movement I have to say it’s disappointing to learn that Dr. Plait is not part of our super secret underground commune. It’s nothing a few weeks at a re-education camp won’t fix. Maybe he can bunk with Rep. Joe “I stumped Steven Chu” Barton.

    Not sure the wing-nut brigade will appreciate the rational discourse of this post though (or the fact that their poorly disguised and deeply abhorrent motivation for opposition is showing).

  10. Ray

    Yes, those of us who are reality-based have real issues with some of Obama’s policies.

  11. Brook

    The far left were just as shrill re: Bush and the Patriot Act, let’s not forget. There are always going to be irrational nuts on both sides.

    Obama is not Hitler, but he is a classic tax and spend liberal, and he is the product of one of the most corrupt political machines in the nation. Take a look at IL books, folks, they are insolvent as a state due to 50 years of Democrats in charge. What we heard last night was the sound of a massive middle class tax hike on the way — on top of the $ 850 billion cap and trade tax the House has already passed. Americans simply don’t trust our politicians right now, no matter how eloquent, and i don’t have the time of day for all these unsustainable promises coming out of his mouth.

  12. Robert E

    @ Ray — Issues with his policies are fine as long as they are presented in a rational and polite manner; something that has been lacking lately, as evidenced by Rep. Joe Wilson’s outburst during the speech last night.

  13. JefFlyingV

    Every rebuttal is a platform for ideology, ideas are no longer relevant. Obama has been the president for over half a year and I still have no idea who or what he is.

  14. Kash

    I have little regard for the anti Obama loud mouths. I’ve engaged more than one, only to find that they were the same morons who condemned anyone for questioning the president’s actions “during a national crisis”. Funny how a few years and president on the other side of the aisle.

    Now look who’s being “un-American” during a time of war. What’s with these ninnies? Don’t they know they have to buck up and back the president. It’s the patriotic thing to do. [/time machine]

  15. stogoe

    Freedom of speech means you can say whatever you want. It also means other people who also have freedom of speech can tear your gibbering, screeching fear-mumblings limb from limb.

    This is one of the bedrock misconceptions behind the teabagger noise machine. They for some reason act as if ‘freedom of speech’ means ‘nobody gets to criticize my schizophrenic Unabomber death threats and mass-produced lies’.

  16. One of the things that I find incredibly funny is how far apart each of the “camps” in US politics make themselves sound, when in reality, compared to the rest of the world, the entire US political spectrum is quite narrow. Amarican politics seems to think it’s the end all of world views, and as is typical of most Americans, we have only a small part of the picture…

    IVAN3MAN also expressed it quite well. :)

  17. TW

    I found your criticism of people that disagreed with the speech to be disingenuous, because the majority of the complaints about the speech was before the text of the speech was released, and even more when there was an entire lesson plan released by the Department of Education to be used along with the speech.

    And what was the original title of the post? Evil was involved wasnt it?

    You really seemed to be trying to say that anyone that disagrees with the ‘sainted one’ was an evil crazy thing…

    You almost sounded like Jerry Falwell…

  18. Michael Vick spoke to two different schools the same day as the president.

    Didn’t hear much about that. Granted it was two schools, but a little perspective is always nice.

  19. Charles Boyer

    Larian,

    Americans are increasingly undereducated and incredibly undercultured. What they know of the world is largely spoonfed to them by television, and they accept what they are told by the media outlet that matches their political beliefs unquestioningly. They are jingoistic to a fault and refuse to believe that things can be improved upon before a crisis from that particular problem erupts. Most of all, many Americans want the benefits of government services (roads, police, etc.) without having to pay for it. Anyone who dares point out that something that America does is wrong is instantly labeled as “un-American” at best or a traitor at worst. They are convinced that material wealth is the source of happiness. Worst of all, their level of self-absorption would make a typical Narcissist call them conceited.

    Not all Americans are like that, but it seems that more and more are.

  20. RBH

    To adapt (or slightly mangle) Barry Goldwater (who was a genuine conservative, in contrast to the lunatics now running the asylum), passion in defense of reason is no vice.

  21. Our politics often differ, and based on the title of this post, for some reason, I was on my defense, ready to be agitated. Never happened. I completely agree with you.

    It had gotten to the point this week that I thought EVERY Republican was pulling his / her child out of school Tuesday to be spared the “school is important” address. Upon further investigation, I couldn’t find a reasonable Republican / conservative (not an oxymoron, which is sort of my point) who’d say that in front of a camera. Why? Only loonies, in search of some attention, were making a fuss. And they were the ones getting the attention.

    I guess if it increases ratings, it can pass for news. Or blog traffic.

  22. Lisa

    I agree, no one hears from “the middle” anymore. Extreme views get attention, so both ends of the spectrum are trying to one-up their neighbor by being the loudest and most radical. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

  23. Thank you, Phil, for making your points in a reasoned way that make them a pleasure to read. If only others would emulate you in that regard!

    You are so right; the country has a lot of problems and we need good solid ideas that will help. Calling others poopie-heads (or Nazis, or whatever) is neither constructive nor useful. It solves no problems and right now what we need are constructive ideas to solve problems.

    Personally I *like* a lot of what Obama is doing, but I really wish others would put their ideas on the table instead of merely criticizing every single thing he does.

  24. Ness

    Is it just me or is Phil hot? I know most of the comments on the blog are intelligent and well-thought – but Phil is hot. The end.

  25. Daffy

    Phil, you have to understand, to these people, if you do not support the Republican Party, you are EVIL. My own brother refuses to speak to me because I pointed out that an Obama hit piece he mass emailed was fabricated.

    There is no reasoning with them, facts don’t matter. Supporting Republicans is the ONLY thing that matters to them. Frankly, it is more than a little scary.

    I am not much of an Obama fan (he is too wishy washy as a leader, however much integrity he has), but this continual effort to demonize him—using lies, for the most part—is frightening.

  26. /agree 100% with Charles Boyer. Sometimes, as I travel around the world, I feel that I need to apologize for the rest of my countrymen’s (and women’s) behaviour. Is it bad to consider the statement, “You don’t seem like a typical American!” to be a compliment? Not that I am embarassed to be American, I am just embarassed by many of the people that the rest of the world sees as “Americans”.

    As a country, we are incredibly provincial.

    And I’ll say it again; If Obama came out with a speech supporting oxygen, 10% of the nation would stop breathing in protest!

  27. Ian Patrick

    Right on, brother.

  28. MKR

    I feel like the act of reading, re-reading, and re-reading text before reacting is not encouraged enough in school, at home, or by society in general.

    When someone goes off on some tangent from 2 or 3 words in something I write, I state simply and politely: “Please re-read what I said, and then we can talk about it.”

    About half the time it results in an apology, and it requires very little effort on my part. I ignore the other half, because they were looking for an argument and don’t care about the composition or context of the words.

  29. Strahlungsamt

    Did you guys know that these anti-Obama / Obamanation / Obamateur / Obama = Antichrist / Communist / Socialist / Fascist / Nazi / Freemason / gay murderer etc. etc. who are flooding blogs and town hall meetings are in fact paid agitators and interns?

    What pisses me off is that these are not even legitimate opinions. I voted Obama too but that doesn’t mean I lick his boots. There are real issues with his healthcare plan that are not being talked about precisely because of the loud stupid voices on the Right.

    Don’t forget, the arms manufacturers, big pharma and the oil/coal industry (among others) are pulling the strings. Suits them perfectly when kids stop thinking and watch Fox.

  30. james wheaton

    It was stated last night on MSNBC on the Obama health-care speech coverage that “crazy works”. Shockingly, it is not enough for rational people in this country (most people in this country are rational I believe) to recognise the poison coming from the far right for what it is. Somehow, against all reason, the crazy movement is having its effect.

    I believe the reason is because most people these days get their news from TV. Call it intellectual laziness. Also, there are some serious issues that make people idealogically uncomfortable (global warming for instance). It may be comforting to listen to Fox News or Rush Limbaugh – who basically fight for the status quo of our previous (disasterous) administration. As a result – the crazy-speak gets a pretty good foothold with people who should know better.

    What to do…. progressive efforts are at a disadvantage in that they tend to be more truthful, less “crazy”. Whereas the far right can pull out all the stops and lie throught their teeth and get away with some of it. Enough to do the desired damage.

    I just hope sanity somehow prevails. Our current administration is reality based. I see it every day. But it is getting overwhelmed by this crazy movement.

  31. HJB

    I think that the americandigest.org article has made its connection to reality clear with the phrase “like all card-carrying scientists” (i.e. “tenuous at best”.)

  32. Nigel Depledge

    TW (13) said:

    I found your criticism of people that disagreed with the speech to be disingenuous, because the majority of the complaints about the speech was before the text of the speech was released, and even more when there was an entire lesson plan released by the Department of Education to be used along with the speech.

    Way to utterly, utterly miss the point.

    Or are you parodying in order to prove Phil right?

    Phil’s post wasn’t about people disagreeing with the speech. If you go back and read his OP, you may spot that he agreed with the changes that were made to it (although he did not mention the lesson plan).

    Phil’s main point, which you seemingly have not noticed, was that various media outlets were uncritically giving substantial airtime to patently ludicrous points of view.

    And what was the original title of the post? Evil was involved wasnt it?

    Yes, because likening Obama to Hitler is not only hideously offensive to Obama and his family, but it cheapens the entirety of World War II and the Holocaust.

    You really seemed to be trying to say that anyone that disagrees with the ’sainted one’ was an evil crazy thing…

    Not if you read what Phil actually wrote.

  33. cory

    Let me add to the chorus of support here for you. My 8th grader came home from school just flabbergasted that any parents would object to a speech by the country’s president. We’ll have to re-read your column together, since you said it much better than i could.

  34. Just to try and add a consoling voice of reason to your day, Phil:
    I vote generally Republic, yet I read and enjoy much of your blog. I understand that your post yesterday was not attacking the entire political party, just idiots who somehow think that a speech which doesn’t mention health care, was indoctrinating our children to Obama’s health care policy. And you are right, in that those idiots, or “whack-jobs”, get way too much airtime.
    In fact, as a Republican, I am personally more upset than even you, Phil, at the fact that these idiots get so much airtime. Why? Because they make my political party look bad! There are plenty of things wrong with the health care bill (from the small government, fiscal conservatism side of the fence) that the Republicans could rail against, but instead a few idiots start screaming “granny’s gonna die!” and suddenly *that* is what my political party’s objections is?
    And as for the most recent Obama speech on education, I read the speech on Drudge the night before. There was nothing offensive to Republicans about it. He told our kids to work hard, because life won’t be handed to them. That actually sounds like a somewhat Republican philosophy, a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mantra. Nothing offensive to Republicans there.

    tl;dr: Phil, you’re doing a great job with this blog, and any rational person, Republican or Democrat, religious or not, should be able to see that.
    Too bad you’re dealing with the internet.

  35. 13. TW Says:
    September 10th, 2009 at 7:52 am

    And what was the original title of the post? Evil was involved wasnt it?

    You really seemed to be trying to say that anyone that disagrees with the ’sainted one’ was an evil crazy thing…

    You almost sounded like Jerry Falwell…
    ____________

    You know, I’ve never heard anyone but a conservative refer to our President as “the sainted one” or “the messiah.” I’ve never heard anyone but a conservative make the straw man argument that it’s “evil to disagree with the President.” I think I can speak for the majority of progressives when I say that we don’t do that sort of thing. Historically, the cults of personality have come from your side of the aisle.

    Let me spell it out for you in very plain language. It’s not evil to disagree with the President. I do it all the time, and I voted for the guy. Freedom of speech is a fundamental right, and dissent is patriotism.

    However, it must be informed dissent. Dissent must be based on at least a marginal understanding of the issues involved. Screaming and shouting about death panels and birth certificates and socialism is not dissent. Carrying loaded assault weapons to public events is not dissent.

    What’s evil is the constant dumbing-down of complex policy issues into moronic catchphrases and using them to stir the pot of racism and bigotry. What’s evil is the use of lies and distortions to rally uneducated peons to protest and scream and shout and create an illusion of dissent, which is exactly what a few conservative PR firms have been doing all summer.

    It’s evil to spread the rumor that Obama is going to take people’s guns away when it has no basis in fact. It’s evil to spin a Republican congressman’s proposal for end-of-life counseling reimbursement into Obamacare Death Panels. It’s evil to convince more than half of the voters in some states that the President is a Muslim born in Kenya when the facts clearly disagree. It’s evil to exploit the underlying ignorance and racism of a large segment of white Americans to promote the interests of the coal industry and the insurance industry.

    The conservatives have created a monster, and they know it. The Secret Service is overwhelmed with death threats, thanks in no small part to the constant lies and distortions from the right. And instead of trying to control this monster they keep feeding it with more lies and more distortions. I fear it will end in violence, and that is the epitome of evil.

  36. RobQ

    The news site are SELLING news. They’ll give attention to any item that agitates people and gets them stirred up. Irrespective of the long term cost (even to themselves), no matter how minor those crazy people are.

    You can do your part by not consuming what they are selling. Now that the news sites have demonstrated that they are helplessly following the dollar, use yours to steer them.

    The “middle” far outweighs the sum of both extremes together. Yet we keep letting ourselves get run over by them and used by them. There’s no real organization that represents us. We feel divided by republican vs democrat or something, but really we agree with each other 90% or more. But the extreme people are organized, or at least individually driven.

  37. Well said, Phil. As always.

  38. I thought your post yesterday was remarkably clear, and if anyone who isn’t one of the crazies was offended by it, maybe they ought to reconsider whether or not they’re one of the crazies. LOL. I liked your Eternal Vigilance picture so much, in fact, that I used it to make a similar point in my blog post on the health care reform speech (link below). Keep up the great work, Phil. By the way, thanks for sharing the new Hubble images, too. They’re jaw-dropping.

    Here’s the post I just made (it references your post on the education speech controversy):
    http://www.survivalmachine.org/2009/09/10/on-obamas-health-care-reform-speech/

  39. Petrolonfire

    Yesterday I wrote an empassioned article about the mainstreaming of ridiculous and frankly crazy rhetoric from extremely fringe groups, people who think Obama is literally like Hitler,

    Wow, is that a Godwin’s law record or what? ;-)

    One sentence in & “godwinned” …

    If, that is, you believe in that humbug. (In the Penn & Teller sense of the word.) Frankly, Godwin’s law is as boring as the nazi analogy if not more so.

    Personally, I think Godwins law is utter nonsense but whatever…

  40. Mark Sletten

    You are being a bit disingenuous Phil. In the very first paragraph of the article in question, you grouped everyone who voiced a concern about Obama’s speech to school children with wackos who believe he is like Hitler: ‘A group of folks is very concerned about a speech of his today, because he’s talking to schoolkids. And hey, didn’t Hitler talk to kids…? That’s about as good as their logic gets.’

    Although I too had concerns about Obama’s speech, it wasn’t because I believe he is like Hitler — and I believe my logic has merit. I wasn’t concerned with the language of the speech, but rather the proposed language of the suggested lesson plans (subsequently changed as a result of concerns voiced by people like me) supplied by the Department of Education to schools across the nation. Among the proposed questions to ask the kids following Obama’s speech was ‘What can you do to help the President.’ I’m sorry, but the position of the president is to serve the American people, not the other way around. I found it more than a bit creepy to suggest otherwise with such a question. No more, no less.

    That a few wackos take a position based on ridiculous concerns doesn’t negate the valid concerns of others who take the same position.

    Sorry Phil, you lost me on this one.

  41. Daffy

    “The conservatives have created a monster, and they know it. The Secret Service is overwhelmed with death threats, thanks in no small part to the constant lies and distortions from the right. And instead of trying to control this monster they keep feeding it with more lies and more distortions. I fear it will end in violence, and that is the epitome of evil.”

    Toasterhead, you are exactly right. The problem is THEY DON’T CARE! Theirs is a higher cause, above truth, fair play, logic, facts, patriotism. If they have to kill Obama to get him out, someone will do it…and Fox News will no doubt be there to praise the assassin.

    It’s about time the Americans of good conscience start to wake up to what is happening to our country.

  42. Petrolonfire

    @ 35 toasterhead:

    I fear it will end in violence, and that is the epitome of evil.

    I think the “epitome of evil” is deliberate malicious cruelty.

    Violence is sometimes necessary in order to oppose that.

    @ 38 daffy: Fox news = Faux news & everyone sane knows that.

    Unfortunately, the sane are far outnumbered by the insane. :-(

  43. Metre

    The trouble with the BA’s original post was not the content but the tone – you could picture him in your mind’s eye foaming at the mouth. It came across as an immature emotional outburst rather than a reasoned response. The tone overwhelmed the content by literally yelling at the reader. Personally, as a science-oriented person, I don’t like being yelled at even if I agree with the speaker. But it’s his blog so he can do as he pleases -but I think a more reasoned and less emotional tone would have gotten his meassage across more effectively.

  44. Petrolonfire

    Anyone taking bets on when (not ‘if”) President Obama will be assassinated by one of these nuts? :-(

    Why does the “War on terror” NOT apply to fundamentalist lunatic wrong-wing Christians; you know the moonbat crazy Dsick Cheney-luvin’ right-wing anti-choice, anti-tolerance nutters who think Obama is a secret Muslim and that its okay to invade anywhere that isn’t y’know us or Christian fundamnetalist? Nuke the Bible belt I say! ;-)

    ——

    PS. Yeah that’s tongue-in-cheek in case anyone actually seriously wonders. Durnnit I was in a good mood before reading this …

  45. dbear

    @toasterhead
    Here Here…You just said it all. Thanks.

  46. TW

    >>Nigel Depledge

    >>Phil’s post wasn’t about people disagreeing with the speech.

    Sure it was, it was in the first paragraph or so…”A group of folks is very concerned about a speech of his today, because he’s talking to schoolkids. And hey, didn’t Hitler talk to kids…? That’s about as good as their logic gets.”

    >>Phil’s main point, which you seemingly have not noticed, was that various media outlets were uncritically giving substantial airtime to patently ludicrous points of view.

    Not really, it really seemed that his MAIN point was people didnt like Obama giving a speech to kids. And that those people were ‘evil’, or ‘crazy’ depending on the edit, for feeling that way. Sure he did throw in an obligatory ‘fox news is evil’ thing that the left has to include in order to feel better about themselves.

    He then goes on to point to an innocuous speech, released after the brouhaha erupted and snowballed, as ‘proof’ of that evil or craziness.

    >>Yes, because likening Obama to Hitler is not only hideously offensive to Obama and his family, but it cheapens the entirety of World War II and the Holocaust.

    I agree, same as when the morons on the left likened Shrub to Hitler.

    >>Not if you read what Phil actually wrote.

    I did, maybe you should.

    >>toasterhead

    I am not a ‘conservative’ or a ‘republican’, I am something much much worse…a Libertarian. I probably have more disdain for the republicans than either you or Phil do…BTW I despise the democrats as much as I do republicans…

    And If you read my comment in the thread from yesterday (number 163), you will see that I did not have a problem with the President giving a speech to kids. My main concern was the extra stuff that originally went along with the speech I found it to be too political for school kids for my tastes, and contrary to most posters I bet my opinion would not have been any different if Bush had been the one doing it.

  47. Nomen Publicus

    From a perspective outside North American the fuss over the health care proposals sounds exactly like this…

    “Poor people can get sick and die, I don’t care, I’ve got insurance. You are not going to make me pay for the treatment of poor people.”

    It’s disturbing.

  48. Petrolonfire

    @ 40. Metre:

    Ah heck, emotion does sometimes overpower reason.

    In all of us. Part of being human.

    Sometimes its makes more sense to be furious about something, it is more human(e) to be enraged and emotional than dispassionate and cold. There are some things that bring out a “gut reaction” – an emotional one – &, yes, this is one of those.

    I’m with the BA here.

  49. Michael

    The hysteria from the right over Obama’s policies is no worse than the hysteria from the left over the late Bush Jr. administration’s policies.

    The really sad thing is that everyone has to raise the hystrionic decibel level in order to shout over the other side–which is already screaming.

    The talkng heads on the cable ‘news’ shows have discovered that ratings result from this strident approach — big ratings. So we have less and less news and more and more yelling…it’s sad. What ever happened to the likes of Huntley/Brinkley and Walter Cronkite?

    There is firm reason to be scared of the growing decifit and more inherently inefficient government programs, but some calm, civil discourse is sorely needed here. The current situation is like Vicksburg or WWI — a form of political trench warefare where each side digs in and slams the other with artillery barrages resulting in no ground gained, but a great slaughter.

    As a libertarian/conservative, I sorely miss William F. Buckley Jr.

  50. Petrolonfire

    @ 43 TW

    My main concern was the extra stuff that originally went along with the speech I found it to be too political for school kids for my tastes ..

    Please provide us with, say, three specific examples quoted directly & precisely from Obama’s speech of what you mean there.

    Can you do that?

  51. Sir Eccles

    I think it is true that both sides do get equally shrill over the opposing president. The difference though is the subject matter. Perhaps I am cherry picking through rose tinted spectacles but I see the list as:

    Democrats complaining about Bush because of:
    – the or each war he waged
    – loss of freedom through the Patriot act

    Republicans complaining about Obama because of:
    – his birth certificate
    – is he a muslim/communist/Hitler

    If I included Clinton in this list it would add “did he get a blow job”. Things Bush did v. things Obama is/isn’t. what this says to me is that the Reps generally have nothing of real substance to complain of so have to stoop and scrape the bottom of the barrel.

  52. I like yesterday’s editorial cartoon in our local paper yesterday:

    Image:
    http://davies.lohudblogs.com/files/2009/09/0909davies.jpg
    Blog (which may scroll by the time you read this):
    http://davies.lohudblogs.com/

  53. Petrolonfire

    @ 26. Larian LeQuella Says:

    And I’ll say it again; If Obama came out with a speech supporting oxygen, 10% of the nation would stop breathing in protest!

    … In which hypothetical case, we just might all be a lot better off! ;-)

    (I wasn’t feeling this cynical before – but I am now.)

    @ 48 Sir Eccles:

    If I included Clinton in this list it would add “did he get a blow job”. Things Bush did v. things Obama is/isn’t. what this says to me is that the Reps generally have nothing of real substance to complain of so have to stoop and scrape the bottom of the barrel.

    Clinton lied about a consensual sexual affair and got impeached over it with the wrong-wing fundy Xn retardicans frothing over the mouth about something that caused emotional (not physical) harm to a handful of people in his immediate family.

    Shrubya Bush lied about WMDs and dragged the USA – & the Western world – into an ill-concieved, still ongoing, needless war that has resulted in thousands of innocent people and American soldiers losing their lives. Yet the wrong-wing retardicans just shrug their shoulders over that far worse lie and Shrubya and his neo-con string-pullers slink away without any consequences or accountability. (so far ..)

    That hypocrisy and disgusting double standard there bugs the hell out of me. :-(

  54. timmy

    When forming an opinion, the first casualty of passion is objectivity.

  55. “Usenet is like a herd of performing elephants with diarrhea — massive, difficult to redirect, awe-inspiring, entertaining, and a source of mind- boggling amounts of excrement when you least expect it.” Gene Spafford, 1992
    I think this quote could be expanded to politics as well.

  56. EmaNymton

    Wow, Brook. You really like to lie, don’t you?

  57. Lukester

    I for one can’t wait for this blog to be about astronomy again!

  58. Jar JarBinks Killer

    The people making claims that Obama is Hitler and the like are not very different from people who say they have alien babies, or that the Apollo landings were faked.

    Well sometimes I think my baby is an alien! ;-)

    Other times (when single) I’ve wished *for* an alien babe! ;-)

    (green skin, tentacles, who cares if she’s female with a pulse ..Yes, I’ve been desperate on occassion.)

    Does that make me “nutsoid” or what? ;-)

    (Never thought Obama was ‘Hitler’ mind you, black man not Ayran, no dumb lil’ mustache, hel-lo!)

  59. I did a Phil-Plait-inspired anti-woo post on my blog awhile ago (Conspiracy Theories and Other Muddled Thinking) and I share the sense of dismay… and frustration… and sometimes anger. If someone gives me a well-reasoned argument (or even some legitimate facts) to support their opposing view, I’m all for it. Heck, I encourage it. But when crackpots make absurd claims like the moon landing was faked and the Earth is flat… or Obama isn’t a natural-born citizen… or global warming isn’t real… I *want* to give them a “talk to the hand” gesture, but feel compelled to call them out and criticize the nonsense.

    Keep it up, Phil! :-)

  60. Doc

    If we start collecting these nutsoid fringe crazys right now, eventually we will have enough mass to deflect any Armageddon type asteroids heading our way…who knows, maybe we’ll even have enough left over for a practice shot! Lets keep at least one set of Space Shuttle fuel tanks out of mothballs just for this purpose. Yays? Nays?

  61. chris

    I didn’t read your post and think it was political, then again I don’t have a glass of wine and believe i’m drinking someone’s blood either. I do have a question: Who is worse, the station spreading ignorance or the people watching it?

  62. Jar JarBinks Killer

    @ 51. Davidlpf Says:

    “Usenet is like a herd of performing elephants with diarrhea — massive, difficult to redirect, awe-inspiring, entertaining, and a source of mind- boggling amounts of excrement when you least expect it.” Gene Spafford, 1992

    I think this quote could be expanded to politics as well.

    But … but .. wouldn’t you expect huge quantities of excrement from a herd of performing elephants with diarrhea? ;-)

  63. vanderleun

    “Examples abound. This guy got what I said completely wrong, and says I’m claiming we should have more Obama.”

    No, Phil, it is you who are getting what I said completely wrong. Try to find your sense of humor / satire / over the top comment to get to the bottom of thing / attachment and reattach it. Do you really think that I think you, Phil, are calling, yourself, for MORE OBAMA? I find that hard to believe unless you mean to be quantum levels more otiose than I think you do.

    “To be clear and succinct: my point was not about political parties. It wasn’t about liberals, or conservatives.”

    That’s simply not true. It was and almost everybody in the discussion knew and saw that, regardless of their political affiliation. That’s why you had a Flame War on your hands in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0 seconds. Your political position on these matters here and elsewhere is quite clear, please don’t insult us with this kind of backhoe obfuscation. Thank you.

    “Those of us who are reality-based see through you, and you are the very people we won’t let drag us down.”

    Ah, ye olde “reality-based” code word. Good one. I always love it when one group shows up claiming to have a lock on “reality.” Especially those who are so in touch with “reality” they can sniff out like the witch sniffers of old, the “Evil ones.” (As in the post’s original title, “The Mainstreaming of Evil.” Yes, I know you recanted that one.)

    But perhaps, after all, you really think you are utterly without blame, just “a soul who’s intentions are good. / Oh Lord please don’t let me be misunderstood!”

    I’ll grant this is the case. After all, are fish aware that water the water they swim in isn’t all there is to the universe? Probably not.

    As for the “Critical Thinking” that you keep bringing up, I think I’ll repeat from that other thread, “Camile Paglia had something interesting to say about that today: “The top schools, from the Ivy League on down, promote “critical thinking,” which sounds good but is in fact just a style of rote regurgitation of hackneyed approved terms (”racism, sexism, homophobia”) when confronted with any social issue. The Democratic brain has been marinating so long in those clichés that it’s positively pickled. ”

    Short form: The Illusion of Central Position.

    You’ve just gotta accept the fact that, your “critical thinking” skills not withstanding, you are always going to have your Forbin Project moment when you discover, streaming across the monitor of your life, “There is another system.”

  64. cadyas

    Comment on Talking Points Memorandum ( http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/2009/09/a_victim_of_his_own_paranoia.php#more?ref=fpblg ) hits the GOP-spot:

    ” Wilson’s outburst reflects something deeper. One recurrent theme of extremist assaults on the president has been the deep, visceral conviction that he’s hiding an extremist agenda. The more moderate his rhetoric, the more reasonable his tone, the more detailed and specific his claims, the deeper this conviction grows. If you start with the presumption that the president is trying to foist his socialist agenda on an unsuspecting nation, then his apparent moderation and civility is actually further evidence of his duplicity. When nonpartisan groups substantiate his claims, it’s because they’re swallowing his transparent lies instead of revealing his real, hidden agenda. Every bit of apparent evidence that the president is reasonable only makes the situation more desperate – how to break through the illusion and reveal him for what he is? “

  65. vanderleun

    In passing I especially love the conjunction of comments 2 and 3:

    # 2. Regis Says:
    September 10th, 2009 at 7:10 am
    There’s no arguing with people who are blinded by their ideology Phil.

    # 3. Brian Schlosser Says:
    September 10th, 2009 at 7:12 am
    Being called an “idiot” by Dan Riehl is a badge of honor.

    But seriously, it makes sense that you are getting flack from the conservatives, mostly. Reality has a well known liberal bias, and those of us that live there are inherently suspect…
    ====

    “Blinded by their ideology” and “Reality has a well-known liberal bias”

    If it wasn’t for the Dan Riehl lead-in I might think that Schlosser was making the leetle yoke.

  66. Viewer 3

    Let’s face it. Many people pick and choose their outrage when it’s most convenient for them. The same people who are now yelling about Obama “taxing and spending his way into bankruptcy” and “piling debt onto our children” were conveniently silent when other similar and/or far more terrible things were happening on their side. These are the people whose opinions are automatically discredited based on their own foolishness and hypocrisy that even they themselves don’t have the common sense to see.

    Sure it doesn’t account for everyone; but if you silenced every oblivious hypocrite in this country, there would only be a select few still able to engage in rational, factual conversation on both sides. If you were one of those who never spoke up before, I beg you to spare us your stupidity and stop pretending that suddenly “standing up and speaking out” makes you patriotic.

  67. Michael

    I came across a post by a Brit the other day that I enjoyed, to paraphrase, only in America could an argument between conservatives and people even more conservative cause such discord.

  68. I’ve decided to ignore anyone who uses “tax and spend” as a derogatory term unless they believe that the Pentagon’s budget should be slashed drastically.

  69. Someone on the original speech thread said, and it bares repeating, this:
    That was exactly my point, his words were chosen poorly. He could have said, music or professional athletes, but he said rapping and basketball. He didn’t say country music and bull riding, punk rock and skateboarding, or mariachi and soccer, he (or his speech writer) chose those deliberately for the transcript.

    Fair dinkum. Words fail. That would have to be the lamest reaction to the speech so far.

    I’ll paraphrase myself here from that post too… Then there are those who condescend to accept that the “final” speech was “okay” but the original….
    I’m sure these same people would have said the same thing about the first draft of the Gettysburg Address being full of Marxist rhetoric (apparently Lincoln borrowed heavily from the Communist Manifesto – Karl was his ghost writer you know). Thankfully the speech as delivered is the version we remember. :roll:

    Then there the multitude of concern trolls… Oh noes, does Discover know what is being done on their dime? And where is the science/astronomy? Sheesh, half these people don’t know Phil’s name… “the author blah blah blah”. And they wade through 300+ comments to have their whinge too.

    Some of us have been here for a while. Some of us go back to the original BA Blog before Discover came on the scene. We keep coming back for the thought provoking commentary (sometimes we agree sometimes not), we like words like cromulent and embiggen, the anti-antiscience rants and, yes, the astronomy.

    We love your work Phil. Keep it up.

  70. timmy

    Background
    I rarely participate in blogs. I do read them a lot and sometimes ask questions about technical events (especially this one). I do not belong or follow any political party (even the Independents).

    My opinion
    What I see is perhaps 20% of our population tearing the heart out of this country over complete and total BS. Consider this for just a moment…..Where do all of us ULTIMATELY get our information on national or world matters? This is the information that we use to form opinions. It is some form of media in the form of print, video, radio, talk show, etc. These sources have taken sides on issues as well as individuals have. They then apply two principals to that information, editorial license and marketing concepts. The media SELLS news they quit reporting facts half a generation ago. They do not do this intentionally (not a conspiracy) this is how they have evolved. A lot of us just haven’t realized it yet.

    Do this
    Create links to every national/world news source you can. Go check them and select at random 4 events. Go back through the sites again. See who says what or even did they report on the same events.

    Moral………be a skeptic in politics as well.

  71. bubba

    This is America in the 21st century. We are far too stupid a country to concern ourselves with rational thought and reason. Get real, Phil. I don’t imagine that healthy debate is possible in the current culture. It will take nothing less than an armageddon to return America to being a land where science tops faith, where news culture doesn’t favor infotainment over actually important news, where rhetoric isn’t taken for truth, just because the speaker is loud and scary…
    God Bless America. God help America.

  72. Brett G

    Well said Phil. My wife was saying last night that the reason that this is so out of control right now, with the ‘birthers’, and ‘death panels’, etc. is that the media is giving these clowns an equal spotlight, rather then letting them just go away.

    I am not a 100% supporter of Obama, he has done a few things since being elected that have really ticked me off, but all of this crap about the speech to school children being an indoctrination is just nuts.

    I haven’t heard much about last nights speech as of yet, other than the joker from the house yelling at Obama that he is a liar, so I will not comment on that one.

  73. Tony

    I’m behind you Phil. (Boo!) You articulate yourself well and you have a true passion for what you do. Your blog is a valuable sanctuary of levelheadedness. There’s a guy named Dale McGowan/”The Meming of Life” who writes about secular parenting. He often says that the majority of the religious have more in common (same values, not beliefs) with atheists than we like to admit. And that it’s more important to combat the fringes of either side together. Let’s face it, no one cares if someone else believes in God (or Whomever) or not. We only care if that persons “beliefs” are being forced into our own lives.

    Let’s blur the line between believers and atheists. We’ll have a better chance at shouting over the ridiculous vocal minority if we do.

  74. 54. vanderleun Says:
    September 10th, 2009 at 9:43 am

    Ah, ye olde “reality-based” code word. Good one. I always love it when one group shows up claiming to have a lock on “reality.” Especially those who are so in touch with “reality” they can sniff out like the witch sniffers of old, the “Evil ones.” (As in the post’s original title, “The Mainstreaming of Evil.” Yes, I know you recanted that one.)
    ___________

    Oh, it’s not a claim. Just a fact. The left fixes policy around the facts. The right fixes the facts around the policy. This is why in debates over, say, climate change, you see people on the left referring to the International Panel on Climate Change and ther right referring to the Heartland Institute.

    You’ve convinced yourselves that there’s an alternate reality in which your assertions are true, and then insist that your alternate reality is just as valid as the real one. It’s a great strategy, if your objective is short-term political gain. However, it’s rather disruptive to the cause of preventing global catastrophe.

    I rather wish you all would stick to your own alternate reality for a while and let us fix the things you broke.

  75. Doc

    My first reaction to the Obama speech hubbub was:

    They are worried about Obama speaking to Florida schoolchildren, but they were letting an illiterate president read to them the morning of 911?

  76. Timmy, your opinion is a very sound one, and you offer good advice!

  77. Mena

    Brook @11:
    Which 50 years have the Democrats been in charge of Illinois? Chicago yes, Illinois no. Facts, schmacts. Besides, we don’t have to worry about taxing and spending when we can just keep borrowing the money. I’d also hate to see what kind of credit card debt you and people who keep repeating the “tax and spend” mantra have. It’s not normal or healthy to run up huge debts, public or private. As for your comment about the Patriot Act, Tom Tomorrow said it best:
    http://www.salon.com/comics/tomo/2009/09/08/tomo/index.html

  78. Digital Ruse

    I agree that people should be better about expressing their opinions in a more reasonable manner. I, personally, find myself at odds with both of the “major” political parties frequently, and I don’t carry a gun or my hip, wave a latte in their face, or start screaming at them… but they do at me… and then I am the one who is called crazy. I for one have sat back and had a chuckle at both sides commit mass hypocrisies. Republicans shunned the behavior of code pinkers, and now they use the same “disruptive” tactics against the Democrats and suddenly the Dems don’t like it.

    My personal credo is, “I may not like what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” It is disheartening and frustrating when others can’t afford people the same simple luxury.

    And for those who claim that they are “right”, and the debate should be over? The debate should never end. Debate is healthy. Debate is cathartic. Debate helps us avoid the countless lessons that history has provided of what happens when you don’t debate. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.

    I will say that the British government thought many in the colonies were lunatics and terrorists (by today’s definitions), but I can’t help but be grateful for their behavior.

    Best
    -DR

  79. TS

    Danish Proverb: Empty barrels make the most noise.

  80. Lukester (#61) You mean like yesterday when I wrote a very lengthy post about the new Hubble images?

  81. Chris

    Phil – just a thought – when you say “Randi Rhodes…Rush Limbaugh…opposite ends of the political spectrum and both just as often as far from reality as the other” have you considered the spectrum may be more ‘U’ shaped rather than linear (I have a feeling that is the scientist in you coming out ;) ) with Rhodes/Limbaugh and their ilk at the points of the U, and the rest of us falling somewhere in the trough?

  82. Bob L

    Michael Says:
    “The hysteria from the right over Obama’s policies is no worse than the hysteria from the left over the late Bush Jr. administration’s policies.”

    Only a libertarian would be so willyfully blind as to equate protesting the Iraq war to a speech to children about staying in school. Thank you for proving Phil’s point.

    No Micheal; protesting something that everyone knows from the get go is a dubious idea is not the same as making stuff up to have an excuse for a tempertantrum.

  83. It took me a while to see the truth: the talking heads are paid to keep the fight so fierce. Its as much about ratings as anything. I guess thought out, rational stances on issues don’t sell well, because I can’t find that on TV anywhere.

  84. 26. Larian LeQuella Says:
    September 10th, 2009 at 8:11 am

    And I’ll say it again; If Obama came out with a speech supporting oxygen, 10% of the nation would stop breathing in protest!

    ————————————————–

    If that would actually happen, I would email Obama several times a day demanding that he come out in support of oxygen.

    The twenty-eight percenters would become the eighteen percenters (give or take a point to account for rounding).

  85. ERinSTL

    BA: “it lowers the signal to noise ratio to essentially zero”

    Sorry to be pedantic, but that’s … um … impossible.

    Isn’t it?

    Unless you’re making a deeply philosophical statement about the nature of the noise these nutballs produce.

  86. Pat

    I thought that what you wrote was brilliant, Phil, and shared it with everyone I know, and many of them passed it onward as well. It may be that people who loved your post, like me, are not commenting on it in the rush to get it in front of their friends and relations. Thank you, and don’t stop doing what you do.

  87. @g6loq

    Are you saying that Obama is going to set up death panels to kill of senior citizens? Care to provide evidence for that?

  88. If memory serves, hasn’t Phil criticized the Huffington Post in the past on some anti-vax nonsense? And let’s not forget the liberal icon Oprah who I have also seen knocked down a peg here.

    I think certain people just troll the net to find things to be offended by. Anyone who has read this blog for a while knows that taking out stupidity is more important to Phil than ideology.

  89. Keep up the good fight. Health care is only one battlefield in this.

  90. Tom Woolf

    Phil – keep doing what you are doing. I like the combination of science, vitriol against anti-science (not against faith, but against anti-science), personal stuff, and just your “Hey you guys! Look at this! Isn’t it cool?!?”…

    I read two sports columns (well, one now – the author of one sadly had a series of strokes and will probably never make it back to work), and both columnists injected pieces of their everyday lives into their columns. One we got to read about his two daughters’ trek through high school (including their epic travails in Field Hockey) as well as college. The other instructed us in wine. Neither had a bit to do with the main purpose of the columns, but it helped the columns immensely.

    So, keep at it, and please don’t let the idiots (of whatever flavor) keep you down!

  91. Benjamin

    I would be nice if everyone here, or even better all Americans, had a better historical grasp of the politics and history surrounding American political discourse. Ever since the presidential election of 1800 there has been extremist rhetoric. Federalists saw the election of Anti-Federalist Thomas Jefferson as the death knell of the Republic. Just a few years later Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton in a duel over claimed political bad mouthing. Political cartoons called Abe Lincoln everything from a tyrant to a barbaric ape. America is no worse off now than it was at the beginning. This “lunatic fringe” is just doing its job. As distasteful as it may seem to many of you, they are the “cheer leaders and pep squads” for their party’s base. The rhetoric becomes especially bad when a party becomes a minority party as they need to build awareness of political differences while demonizing the opposition (making the opposition out to be evil incarnate is especially important in a country with historically low voter turn out). As a student of International Politics, History and Research and Intelligence Analysis I recommend that many of you do some Google searches and read some of the enlightening political mudslinging that has occurred in the past.

    That being said I must offer up the disclaimer that I am a registered Republican, though I voted Libertarian in 2004 and 2008 and hold no true party loyalty. I was thoroughly disgusted with George W. Bush and disliked his foreign, social and economic policies. But I truly hope that Republicans recapture control of at least one portion of Congress. During Clinton’s eight years his democratic presidency was well balanced by a Republican Congress and America saw one of its longest economic booms ever. Unfortunately, with the Democrats in control of both Congress and the Presidency there is far less in terms of Checks and balances and a growing unwillingness to compromise (from both parties). I am truly not a fan of the Republicans (in fact I was a Democrat in college and met Bill Clinton while working on his campaign in 1992), but Indiana’s open primary system makes it too easy to stay whatever party I wish without worrying during local elections. In fact I’m only now a Republican to pay homage to Lincoln, my favorite President.

    As for the issues Obama has been an abject failure. From a personal liberty point of view he has made no effort to curtail the failed war on drugs. Even in California legal pot sellers are still being arrested by the DEA. He has made no effort to expand gay rights or at least end federal discrimination. He has made only minor moves to end the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, and Gitmo remains a prison for many wrongly accused “suspected terrorists.” He has expanded, not curtailed, the secrecy surrounding many government programs that he derided while Bush was president. Illegal wiretapping and eves-dropping continues unabated. Economically he has greatly increased the national debt by using tax payer’s to bail out failing corporations. And while started under Bush, Obama greatly expanded the effort. His recovery efforts have done nothing to turn the economy around except push the dollar down in value, yet despite this the trade deficit is once again rising. Cap-and-trade is a poor idea as is direct government assistance to create “green” jobs (just read about Spain’s experience with this).

    And lastly, health care “reform” is a disaster waiting to happen. And while he may not be lying about covering illegal immigrants (something I don’t have too big of problem about as immigrants put more into the economy than they take out) he is lying when he says prices won’t go up, rationing won’t occur and people will be able to keep their current insurance. It’s a simple matter of supply and demand. If more people are covered, either by a government plan or by forced mandate, demand increases. When demand increases price go up. Of course the government can place price caps, which are essentially a form of rationing, but that will lead to a decrease in the number of available doctors (as they bail for a more lucrative field of work) and a decrease in medical innovation (yes the best scientific innovation is profit driven, just ask the winners of the X-prize). All this while adding another level of government bureaucracy and its associated cost. I have a congenital heart defect and have been among the uninsured before but I still oppose this type of health care reform. Real reform would end the Prescription Drug Benefit, allow people to shop for drugs out of country, scale back Medicare and Medicade to only apply to those who are truly poor, mandate transparency for pricing in hospitals and drug companies so people could comparative shop and move away from insurance being tied to having a job.

    People who oppose Obama do see him as a socialist because many of his programs mirror the socialist programs of Europe. Its fine to borrow good ideas from other countries but lets look around and not get hung up on the foolish fascination with “Europe knows best.” Until recently America was the most competitive economy in the world with one of the lowest unemployment rates. Throwing that away should be seen as a bad thing.

    Benjamin

    P.S. Phil you seemed like a nice guy at TAM 6, but Shermer and Penn and Teller have it right…Skepticism should extend to politics. That’s not cynicism that’s extending rational problem solving to all facets of human behavior.

  92. Mixon

    Phil

    I used to love reading your blog. But now that you have a political/religious commentary to your blog I will remove my rss and bookmark for your site. I know you probably won’t care, but I do not want to read about politics on a science blog. I will also stop my annual donation to the JREF until you are no longer in any administrative position.

  93. @Mixon

    So, only read the astronomy or science posts and ignore the others. Sheesh! Why is it people don’t get the idea that they are not required to read every single post?

    Oh, and perhaps you missed the disclaimer over on the right that the opinions Phil expresses here are not representative of the JREF.

  94. Mixon (#98): Glad to see you didn’t bother to read the link I put up at the very beginning of this post to my religion and politics post. And I’ve been posting about religion and politics for three years, so I’m not sure how you missed it. And you may note that the JREF has posted about religion on Swift for years, and will sometimes comment on politics (though not in a partisan way).

    Don’t let any electrons hit you in the butt on the way out.

  95. Abbey

    Phil – you are my hero of the day!

  96. Madame Rogue

    I’m probably much more conservative than Phil, but I understood perfectly what he was talking about. I think the fringe elements are taking over both parties, and rational debate is suffering. Which is the last thing we need in this country. The people who paint Obama as Hitler are just as reprehensible, in my opinion, as the people who claim 9/11 was an inside job. Or the moon landing was a hoax. Or Elvis is still alive. The only difference I see between the Keith Olbermans and Rush Limbaughs of the world are the direction from which they throw their hand grenades.

  97. Digital Ruse

    Benjamin (#97): Well said. Have you read the stuff CATO put out about all this? You might find it interesting: http://healthcare.cato.org/

    Best
    -DR

  98. coolstar

    Though I obviously disagree with Phil quite a bit, most often because he’s wrong, lazy, or under-educated on some subjects, I couldn’t agree with him MORE here. I’ve noticed that science blogs seem to be especially effective about attracting troglodytes. Is there some conservation law that I missed in grad school? Something to the effect that reasonableness in the universe has to be balanced by utter stupidity? Disclosure: though my politics more than likely line up with Phil’s more than I’d care to admit, I too despise lefty crazies just as much (no, perhaps more) as I do the Rush Limbaugh’s of the world.

  99. 56. g6loq Says:

    Petrolonfire Says:

    Please provide us with, say, three specific examples quoted directly & precisely from Obama’s speech of what you mean there.
    Can you do that?

    g6loq Says:

    Yes:
    1Students in grades pre-K-6, for example, are encouraged to “write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president. These would be collected and redistributed at an appropriate later date by the teacher to make students accountable to their goals.”

    2Teachers are also given guidance to tell students to “build background knowledge about the president of the United States by reading books about presidents and Barack Obama.”

    3During the speech, “teachers can ask students to write down key ideas or phrases that are important or personally meaningful.”

    4For grades 7-12, the Department of Education suggests teachers prepare by excerpting quotes from Obama’s speeches on education for their students to contemplate — and ask as questions such as “Why does President Obama want to speak with us today? How will he inspire us? How will he challenge us?”

    5Activities suggested for after the speech include asking students “what resonated with you from President Obama’s speech? What lines/phrase do you remember?”…

    Considering the requirements (bolded in Petrolonfire’s quoted segment), you just hit 0 for 5. He was asking for quotes from the speech, not the ‘educational materials’ the DOE made up… odds are The President had nothing to do with what the supplimental suggestions were (in fact, it’s extremely unlikely he had any idea what the DOE did.. in spite of the ‘Obama’s micromanaging’ claims.. or is it ‘he’s totally out of the loop’ this week/day/hour?

    J/P=?

  100. enigma3535

    Unfortunately, with 24 hours of time to fill on multiple all noise … er news … networks, crazy sells. For the folks at Fox, the more they pander to the fringe, the more the fringe tunes in. If only 5% of the populace is bat-crap-crazy that’s 15 million people … you get most of them to exclusively watch your network for their news and you lead the pack in viewership … it is elegant capitalism … and [IMHO] it is slowly killing this country [Friedman had a great column the other day explaining how and why].

    Some politicians have figured out how this works … say something wacky and you not only get coverage, everywhere, you get invited onto all the 24 hour news networks for your opinion … re: Bachmann.

  101. servumtuum

    Phil, I love your blog. Now, having said that, I am a bit surprised by your apparent level of dismay at the nature and tone of the responses you received. This, for those who in my estimation overestimate the wonders of the blogging world as a means of information dissemination, is what I call the “dark side” of blogs. They are forums without limits, unless closely moderated, open to anyone regardless of the validity or rationality of whatever they may have to say and as such are subject to posts that can be inflammatory, insulting, paranoid, irrational and so forth. This is normal. This is reality as it exists.

    Your anger expressed in the post itself is understandable. It may help to keep in mind that we live in a society and culture that does not prize reason or empiricism and seems to crave instant gratification, including the receipt of information about the world and people in it and how things “work.” Careful thought and consideration are time-consuming which flies in the face of the desired immediacy of impact which is, I believe, reflected in the way mass media approaches reporting news, including deciding what is newsworthy. Stories that elicit strong, emotional, “gut-level” responses sell very well.

    Bottom line, if you want advertising dollars you have to demonstrate an ability to draw readership. The more controversial and polarizing an issue-the more emotionally inflammatory-the more interest will be generated, readership will be increased and also the likelihood of highly-charged emotional responses from opposing views, which itself increases the level of interest.

    Is this situation doing a grave disservice to the advancement of public knowledge? In my opinion, yes it is. Unfortunately, I cannot think of a viable solution to the problem.

  102. Pete

    67. vanderleun Says:
    September 10th, 2009 at 9:43 am

    Ah, ye olde “reality-based” code word. Good one. I always love it when one group shows up claiming to have a lock on “reality.”

    Obviously you aren’t aware of the source of the term “reality-based community”. Here’s a hint, it was used by an aide to George W. Bush as a pejorative against his political opponents. Naturally liberals took it as a complement and adopted the term, but we weren’t the ones who originally applied it to ourselves.

    For the original quote look here: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/17/magazine/17BUSH.html

  103. g6loq

    Todd W. Says: @g6loq
    Are you saying that Obama is going to set up death panels to kill of senior citizens? Care to provide evidence for that?

    Also this: http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2009/08/024228.php
    Democratic politicians and the MSM consider it a given that concerns about the “end-of-life counseling” provision in Secion 1233 of a House-drafted version of health care legislation are nothing but the unfounded product of right-wing fear-mongering. But Charles Lane of the Washington Post, certainly no right-winger, has taken a careful look at Section 1233 and finds that he too is concerned.

    Lane argues that the “consultations” provided for in Section 1233, while not mandatory, are not “purely voluntary” either as the Democrats have claimed. Thus, he writes, “Section 1233 lets doctors initiate the chat and gives them an incentive — money — to do so. Indeed, that’s an incentive to insist.” As Lane notes, common sense tells us that Section 1233 would place senior citizens in a situation where they will feel pressured to sign end-of-life directives that they would not otherwise sign.

    The federal govenment should not be in the business of skewing end-of-life counsel, and thus end-of-life decisions. Lane concludes:

    Ideally, the delicate decisions about how to manage life’s end would be made in a setting that is neutral in both appearance and fact. Yes, it’s good to have a doctor’s perspective. But Section 1233 goes beyond facilitating doctor input to preferring it. Indeed, the measure would have an interested party — the government — recruit doctors to sell the elderly on living wills, hospice care and their associated providers, professions and organizations. You don’t have to be a right-wing wacko to question that approach.
    As it happens, I have a living will and a durable power of attorney for health care. I’m glad I do. I drew them up based on publicly available medical information, in consultation with my family and a lawyer. No authority figure got paid by federal bean-counters to influence me. I have a hunch I’m not the only one who would rather do it that way.

  104. @g6loq

    And…where are the death panels that will be killing granny?

    Let’s see…encouraging seniors to draw up a living will. That’s not a death panel. Spell out their preferences for hospice care and end-of-life issues, medical directives, etc. Nope. No death panels there either.

    So again, where is the evidence that there will be “panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens”. (I’m assuming that’s the part that you think Pres. Obama is lying about.)

    Edited to add: Primary sources like relevant sections of the health bill would be appreciated.

    Also added: Just saw your other post ending with this:

    Wish me well on my forthcoming career as a death advisor … Sieg!

    So, you’re one of those folks who prefer to liken the president to Hitler and the Nazis, eh? I guess this conversation is done, then, since your ears are closed to anything that would contradict your preconceived views.

  105. Monkey Deathcar

    I have accepted a job in the administration as the Death Panel Czar… now bow before me or I will take away your mothers medical treatments… Just one quick bow?… Nod of the head? Fine, whatever.

    Anyway, good post Dr. Plait. Reading comprehension isn’t a skill many people have. Including myself sometimes.

  106. Bugs

    The whole health care debate is pretty much the same conversation the Brits were having in the late 40s-early 50s. No Hitler, no commie takeover – just democratic socialism. Yes, the progressives in the Democrat party absolutely do want a Euro-style democratic socialist system in this country. They want the US to look more like Britain. Simple. Maybe you like that idea, maybe you don’t, but pretending it’s fascism is just plain asinine.

    I would point out, however, that liberal howling about Bush being a fascist was just as stupid. The most irritating thing about the tone of this debate, other than the mere hyperbole, is the fact that neither side seems to realize that they’re behaving exactly the same as their opponents. Right and left, they point the finger at the other guy with not even the slightest recognition that, yes, a year ago they were doing exactly the same thing. It’s always the other guy, never me. Very bizarre behavior.

  107. Ian

    Phil, why do you bother with these folks? It’s pointless.

    The scary black man has a bunch of white folks freaked out. They’re gonna flail about like it’s the end of the world no matter what you say becuase there’s an uppity negro in the WHITEhouse. Reason is no use with people like that.

    It is ironic that these people compare Obama to Hitler, as they have more in common with Hitler and his policies and views than Obama.

    But I am peeved with the amount of air time these loons get.

  108. Monkey Deathcar

    Hahaha.

    g6loq linked to wnd and thinks there’s humor in separates democrats into two words, “democ” and “rats”. Ok, one word and group of letters. While republicants is just as unfunny, at least it flows when you verbalize it. As death panel czar I award g6loq a dunce cap, yes it’s part of my responsibilities.

    Way to prove Phil correct with the Hitler stuff.

    -MDC

  109. enigma3535

    Ian, lunacy is good for ratings … hence, drive the lunacy further and farther to the fringe … reap the $s.

    Reminds me of one of the best scenes from the Dark Knight last year …

    “Because he thought it was good sport. Because some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

  110. enigma3535

    g6loq, not that any facts should get in the way of one’s opinions, but, your “Moveon.org Bush=Hitler meme” is not supported by actual facts.

    Moveon.org once held a contest where anyone could submit ads … unfortunately, these ads submitted by 3rd parties were viewable by the general populace … one of them did equate Hitler to Bush. Said ad was never officially published or promoted by Moveon.org.

    Contorting this event into a Moveon.org “meme”, is, IMHO, a persistently lame, fringe-nuttery that does play well to a certain constituency in this country. A constituency that you appear to be entrenched in.

  111. g6loq

    g6loq, not that any facts should get in the way of one’s opinions, but, your “Moveon.org Bush=Hitler meme” is not supported by actual facts…. Contorting this event into a Moveon.org “meme”, is, IMHO, a persistently lame, fringe-nuttery that does play well to a certain constituency in this country. A constituency that you appear to be entrenched in.

    Oh! I’m an entrenched lame nut with bad facts. A retard also?. Special Olympics for me then.
    I vaguely seem to recall, in a dimwit way, that moveon.org got caught and labored hard to remove all traces… after a few choice words. We still use words for the moment. Heil Stalin!

    Someone entrenched kept a record of the Bush=Hitler extravaganza.
    Light is the best disinfectant. Here:
    http://semiskimmed.net/bushhitler.html

  112. enigma3535

    Sir g6loq, I do not see anywhere that I called you a “retard”. That said, IMHO, your rhetorical style is breaking, regressing and showing who you really are; and that your link does not refute my last supposition regarding Moveon.org and the Hilter=Bush “meme” [BTW, a “meme” would require multiple references over time; LOL on that persistently wrong meme].

    My father was 14 when Germany invaded Poland in 1939. They took him off his farm and subjected him to slave labor for the next 6 years [he gets a “pension” from the current German gov’t every month for that … a pittance, IMHO]. My mother lived in eastern Poland; her farm was invaded by the soviets … she spent several yrs in a Siberian labor camp and was released after the USSR joined the allies, and then spent close to a decade in various refugee camps before her family settled [legally] in the US.

    After my father joined the US Army at the end of the war, he met my mother at a Polish-American dance in the US.

    I have made a concerted effort to plumb their experiences over the yrs … especially my father’s since my mother died in ’06. My take from said conversations regarding what happened in Germany and USSR during the war was reprehensible.

    IMHO, sir, your use of the term “sieg” in your posts, and now Stalin, is also reprehensible. Have you no shame?

  113. Haymaker

    Its funny how some people are. They see a few key words or phrases in an article or news story and it immediately distracts them from the point of it. Seems to be an enormous lack of reading comprehension going on, combined with short attention spans. I bet you a majority of the people behind those idiotic comments, never actually read the entire article…

    But anyway I thought your point was spot on. Enjoy reading your blog daily!

  114. Michigan Gardener

    Thank you for this post, Phil.

  115. Alien Death-Ray

    Dear Phil,
    As an avid reader of your blog I saw your post about President Obama’s speach. I myself was also impressed, and share your enthusiasm. But, I have to admit I am shocked at the reaction you’re getting from some of these posters. President Obama is a wonderful orator and I am proud that he is the voice of our nation. I can’t tell you how many times I watched Bush on TV and shuddered at the embarrassing gaffs he’s made. (“internets”, “OBGYN’s share the love”, etc. etc. etc.) That being said, I’m even more shocked at recent protests that are using hate-mongering and fear-mongering. Really? That’s your logical protest? Swastika’s and Hitler references will only inspire violence. I thought we (USA) were above that. Didn’t the events of 9-11 help to galvanize the nation? Now it seems we’re a lot further apart than we thought.

    Phil, please keep up the great work. I love almost all of your posts. Well, except for the ones about cats.

  116. jsb16

    “there was an entire lesson plan released by the Department of Education to be used along with the speech.”

    Anyone who calls what was posted on the DoE website a lesson plan has never had to write one. And, you know, I could’ve sworn that the Bush administration had a website for teachers and kids to learn about how to admire President and Mrs. G. W. Bush and VP and Mrs. Cheney.

  117. PeteC

    Benjamin (97):
    Thank you for at least presenting your post civilly. Some of what you suggest for health care reform is eminently sensible. However, I fear that, in my opinion, you are making the same mistake that so many political theorists of all types do. You are allowing pre-assumptions based on your own prejudices to be taken as given facts.

    The root of the problem is that almost every system of government or economics is perfect as long as the people involved are perfect. Communism is a wonderful system that provides happy lives to everyone – as long as everyone gives their best to the system and nobody tries to abuse it. Pure capitalism, unfettered by restraint or regulation, is perfect, encouraging innovation and advancement and leaving nobody in the gutter – as long as the capitalists are completely moral, provide private charity for those disadvantaged and always think long term (centuries) rather than for this year’s bonus. An absolute dictatorship is wonderful – clear decisions, rapid implementation, unified vision and planning, all done by a man who is brilliant and truly cares about his people, able to pick capable, incorruptible and honest advisers. Of course none of this ever happens.

    As Douglas Adams put it, people are the problem.

    Here I think you’re showing certain knee-jerk responses. “Socialist” programs are by their very nature bad. This is not necessarily correct. How a thing is done is far more important than the “-ism” behind it. You have multiple socialist programs in the USA already – socialist firefighters. Socialist interstate highway networks. Socialist air traffic control. Socialist food and drug testing. You use socialist, government run police forces instead of private security contractors. Most of all, you have an extremely large socialist military. Soldiers are certainly not paying for their own equipment, training and upkeep and then leasing their services to the military. It’s a pure socialist program. Though this has started to change in recent years, with the hire of mercenary units to guard important diplomats in dangerous environment, presumeably because either the competence or trustworthiness of the US Army and Marines is not regarded particularly highly.

    Your assumption that the laws of supply and demand would determine health care prices is not necessarily correct. Health care is not a limited natural resource, with only a certain amount being available, a number of suppliers and a number of consumers and the balance point being pricing against competition against demand. Health care prices can easily be twisted by price fixing amongst corporations, a system which makes it difficult to acquire health care under certain conditions, goverment legislation which increases costs or reduces availability of certain treatments, a patent system that keeps drug prices high or the opposite, preventing research as you can’t make a profit from a new drug, protectionism, the profit motive causing over-medication, over-prescription and over-testing in order to drive up costs, a parasitic legal industry making continual claims and many other factors.

    It’s hard to drop prejudices. Few US citizens seem able to even contemplate the fact that the US health care system is not “the best in the world”. Patriotism is all very well, but when “my country is the best” overides all other factors including evidence, then something is awry. The best US health care for the genuinely rich – senators, CEOs, those rich families which have now become the USA’s de facto nobility – may well be the best in the word. However, you’ll find that the same is probably true for most of the oil-rich middle east countries. I guarantee that the North Korean senior leadership has superb health care. I doubt that means one could claim that North Korea has the best health care in the world, however! When it comes down to numbers, the terrible evil socialist system in the UK produces a longer life expectancy, more hospital beds available per person, more nurses per person (though slightly fewer doctors), a vastly lower infant mortality rate and universal coverage for everyone for *half* the cost per person of the US system; there’s something in the US system that needs to be looked at.

    Just to re-iterate those numbers: for 2008-2009, 20.66% of the US budget went on medicare and medicade. 17.7% of the UK budget went on the national health care system, which provided coverage to everyone, with nobody needing to pay any more. If you take actual monetary values it gets worse – US citizens spent an average of $8000 per year on health care. UK citizens paid a little under $3200 per year in taxes, and we all got a pretty decent level of health care out of it. Now the UK system certainly has its own problems, and its certainly not perfect, and it has the odd screw-up – every system build by mankind does – but it’s really not bad at all. It’s probably not suitable for the US, but it does, on average, better than the US system for less than half the cost. Not bad for a “government-run, socialist” program, eh?

    As an aside that I find amusing, it is interesting to listen to politicians claiming in one breath that a publically-funded system would be bad health care, extremely expensive and inefficient, and in the next breath that private companies couldn’t provide health care as well or cheaply as a publically-funded system and would then go out of business because they couldn’t compete. I’m less amused by the implication that companies and their continued profits are far more important than people getting sick and dying, but that’s my European prejudices showing – I know that many in the US have a differnet philisophical view. We regard health care in the UK as a human right, when people don’t get it it’s an abuse and a tragedy; in the US it seems (to an observer) to be a tradeable commodity like any other; desired, but hardly a right.

    You clearly have some fairly strong libertarian beliefs, which is fair enough. Personally, I’ve always found the relative callousness of part of libertarianism – the whole “you messed up, so you can go die in the gutter” part of it, or the “you were born in a ghetto? If your parents can’t afford to educate you and you can’t break past prejudices for your background then tough luck” side of it – to be off-putting, but I can certainly understand the appeal of such enormous freedoms. It’s back to needing it to be perfect – libertarianism where everyone starts with equal opportunity and resources and then succeeds on their own merits and efforts it a lot different to expecting a man born to a drug addict in a ghetto and taken into care to have equal opportunity to a man a multi-million trust fund already in his name and a family politically connected for generations.

    Oh, and finally, while corporate research has brought about massive advances in technology, in terms of pure science, it’s much less successful. Few companies will fund research that might pay off in a few decades’ time. Hubble, the LHC and other similar projects are simply too hard to justify to the large investment companies at that year’s AGM when they are mostly looking for ROI this year.

  118. Julius McHup

    Two years ago, it was exactly the same, but from the other side of the aisle. All of the crazies on the left were being taken just as seriously when they were comparing Bush to Hitler. It’s not exactly a new thing. You can probably tell that I’m on the more conservative side of things, but that being said, the people who freaked out about Obama’s speech were idiots. I can’t stand the radicals on either side. Michael Moore and Rush Limbaugh are the same type of person as far as I’m concerned. But still, don’t try to pretend that its only the conservatives that have the wackos. We have our faith based ‘medicine’ and you guys have your people who think that arranging rocks a certain way and standing in the middle will heal them. I’m not asking that you stop lambasting conservatives when they lose it, by all means, I agree with your sentiments whole heartedly, I just ask that you be a little more self aware and call out liberals when they do something idiotic as well.

  119. PeteC

    Julius, you’re absolutely right that there were a lot of whackos comparing Bush to Hitler. There were all sorts of nuts who believed that the Sept 11 attacks were staged by the US government, and that the towers were brought down by explosives. There were plenty of suggestions that Bush might declare a national emergency and postpone the 2004 election “for the duration of the emergency”. It was all quite obviously nuts.

    There is, however, one important difference between then and now. The nuts then were given very little mainstream media time. Sure, they had their blogs, but CNN, CNBC, CBS, Fox, ABC and so on spent very little time on them beyond the “look at these weirdos” approach. You certainly didn’t have senior Democrat spokespeople making these accusations; you didn’t have the main liberal commentators and media people making these claims. Even Michael Moore, not exactly unliberal, didn’t claim that Bush ordered September 11.

    Now, however, it’s more mainstream Republicanism that’s making odd claims. The last Republican VP candidate, often mentioned as a presidential candidate for the next election, was claiming that Obama wanted “Death Panels”. Major conservative commentators on Fox News, one of the biggest news channels (and yes, it’s mainstream – Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation makes Turner Broadcasting, the owners of CNN look like a school newspaper) have been claiming that Obama hates white people like his mother and grandmother who raised him, not to mention Mr Limbaugh’s entertaining claims. And, worst of all, the media has been focussing on it, not dismissiong it as silly. I’m pretty sure the number of hours on the main news channels spent on the daft “Obama being a secret Kenyan Muslim planted by the Wordwide Muslim Super Conspiracy of Evil Geniuses fifty years ago as part of their half-century long brilliant plan and that’s why he doesn’t have the kind of birth certificate we want signed by god himself” issue far dwarfs the amount of time spent on “will Bush have a coup and cancel the elections” or “Did Bush order 9-11?”. It’s become good viewing to broadcast this junk – it keeps advertisers happy – so they’re broadcasting it just to make a controversy to get viewers.

    I think it’s an interesting problem that the Democrat’s electoral gains were at the expense of the moderate Republicans that they would have found it easy to work with. It’s made problems for moderate Republicans, along with a great chunk of the American public that is financially and politically quite conservative, but quite socially liberal. People who believe in keeping taxes low and government small, but also believe in live and let live and don’t care less about your skin colour, or if you’re gay, or if you’re not an evangelical or baptist Christian. The US could, in my opinion, really do with a party of the middle – social liberals who don’t want to tell you how to morally live your life or convert the world to their system of government, but also want to balance the books and apply law and order rigorously.

    Can you imagine the reaction had Pelosi called “liar!” at Bush? Does anyone believe that the Republicans wouldn’t have been demanding her resignation, or expulsion? Does anyone think the other Democratic congresscritters would have supported her afterwards?

    Can you imagine the reaction if anti-war protestors had turned up to Bush town hall meetings or the RNC with loaded AK-47s? Or pro-gay marriage protestors? Would they have been allowed anywhere near? I doubt they’d have even been allowed into those caged-off protest areas. They’d have been in jail explaining things to the secret service in minutes.

    Phil has regularly lambasted liberals for wierd and whacky beliefs – look at the way he has criticised Ohprah over the vaccination issue, along with other woo-woo beliefs.

  120. Benjamin

    @PeteC – I totally agree that my own biases shape my views in all manner of ways. And I don’t dislike Europe at all. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Spamalot in the Westend. But I do not over rate my fellow man. I believe that an individual making his own decisions is in the best position to see that all of his wants and needs are fulfilled. I don’t believe in anarchy or some other such dystopian/utopian nonsense. Socialist, and in fact all government programs, arise from the actions of people and as such are just as flawed as any other type of government. In the same vein corporations, non-profit organizations, clubs, gangs and every human organization is flawed. I just think that adding yet another level of bureaucracy, a de fcto middleman, drives up costs and takes decision making away from the individual.

    I am glad that you like your health care system but there is a large number of people who would not agree with you. The same goes for Canada. And as a person with a congenital heart defect who has had four major open heart surgeries and many minor procedures I would not want to have lived in a different country. (I had all of my surgeries at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. This hospital has been consistently ranked #1 in the country by US News and World Report.) Given the track record of our government, I’m looking at you Amtrak, US Postal Service, Medicare and Social Security, I don’t trust the government’s ability to run any type of health care system.

    Many of the “socialist” programs you list as good examples of socialism could easily run by service companies competing in a free market. This already occurs with car insurance, life insurance, some utilities, home security, and many other services, and in nearly every instance the prices of the company services are cheaper for the consumer. Take Laser Eye Surgery for instance. It is not covered by health insurance and so exists outside of this heavily regulated government controlled system. Being in the free market has led to a great reduction in prices, and yet I have never heard of any major scandals within the industry. As for the military this is a bit of a straw man as defense of the nation is a defining characteristic of being a legitimate nation-state, though this is changing as the US government turns to private security companies (i.e. corporate mercs.).

    As for the free market and health care, unless you can magically produce doctors, drugs and high-tech medical devices out of thin air, than yes it is a limited resource. Thus, it is still beholden to laws of supply and demand. So long as entrance into the market is unhindered, by either government regulations or corporations deemed “too big to fail” or getting an unfair advantage from government subsidies, price-fixing will be a non-issue as new companies will always work to undercut established firms. This is why the price of consumer products almost always declines soon after a new product is introduced. Why then should health care be any different from buying a big flat screen TV? The price of these TVs are always going down as competition forces price reductions. If hospitals and drug companies truly competed prices would fall and more services would be offered in order to get customers.

    As for whether or not the US has the best health care in the world, it depends on how you view the statistics. Survival rates for cancer and congestive heart failure, the two largest natural causes of death in the first world, are the highest. Infant mortality rates are higher because the US counts every live birth from the moment it leaves the womb not after an arbitrary grace period as many nations do. Also, the US has a high number of teen pregnancies which increases complications. The lower life expectancy is almost totally due to inner city violence which leads to a high number of young male fatalities. but if the victim makes it to an ER in the US they have a very high chance of survival. I contend that America’s health care is the best in the world, which is why the rich oil sheiks often come to Johns Hopkins for their medical care Unfortunately, other social issues such as inner city violence and teen pregnancies skew the statistics.

    As for your belief that American don’t care about the poor or sick, you are greatly mistaken. Americans are very charitable people. Hospitals are required to offer services if you go to the emergency room. Poor people are not denied care and there are many free or low cost clinics run by non-profit organizations and volunteers. I also do not have problem with a reduced Medicare that assists only those in true need of financial help. Remember also that a large number of millions of uninsured Americans are young healthy people who have made the conscious decision not to pay for health insurance. Would you force them to have insurance? Libertarianism is no more callus than the group think that spawns evil governments, and the actions of these governments always have a higher death toll.

    I get the feeling that you have never visited the United States, especially if you have the misguided belief that the people opposing health care reform do so because they feel, “…that companies and their continued profits are far more important than people getting sick and dying, but that’s my European prejudices showing – I know that many in the US have a different philosophical view. We regard health care in the UK as a human right, when people don’t get it it’s an abuse and a tragedy; in the US it seems (to an observer) to be a tradeable commodity like any other; desired, but hardly a right.”

    Having been to the UK, and many other European countries (Sweden, France, Spain, Italy, Slovakia, Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands), I can honestly say that nearly every nation is full of nice caring polite individuals (even the French;-). The same is true of the United States. Yes, even Republicans are by in large kind and caring, and very few of them are racists. Having a different view of the government’s role is not a sign of callousness or insanity.

    Finally, I have no problem with the government funding pure science. But I’d prefer to see it done in partnership with entities that will follow up on the research in order to make a profit. If this had occurred than perhaps the Apollo Program would have had a far more lasting impact on the history of lunar exploration and settlement.

    Benjamin

  121. Doug Little

    I don’t remember any meme from the left equating Bush to Hitler. Now equating Bush to the village idiot that’s another story. I think I’ll just sit back and watch the neocons self distruct before my eyes, they are extemely good at that with their “do as I say not as I do” attitude of late. And yes the republicans seem to be steeped in reality these days with 6000 year old earth proclemations and questions about how oil got to Alaska, as well as statements suggesting fruit fly research is a waste of money as well as that very expensive “overhead projector” that is found in the Chicago Planetrium. How about Mcain’s endorsement of the teaching of intelegent design in public schools as well as a majority of republicans (2:1) rejecting the theory of evolution. Yes reality based indeed.

  122. Benjamin

    @Doug Little – A very quick Google search “Bush Hitler” turns up a multitude of hits comparing Bush to Hitler. The photo-shop images of Bush as a Nazi are particularly damning. There are also images casting Bush as a vampire and other nasties. And low and behold even images (created before a similar incident involving Obama) casting Cheney as the Joker. So yes the liberals are every bit as wackey-kookey as the conservatives.

  123. Doug Little

    Benjamin,

    I think you missed my point, PeteC said it better, the difference is that the main stream media gave it no attention and no one in prominent positions poured fuel on the fire it was taken for what it was, fringe lunacy and given no credence. But now you have the lunitics getting face time like that have a valid point or arguement.

  124. ScottW

    Sorry, but as said before, the MoveOn ad thing was a bit of a kerfluffle, but it was a blip, and it was corrected. The culprits in that case were the jackasses who created that video, and submitted it to the ad contest in question – the ad which, when its content was discovered, was removed.

    It’s akin to saying that the owners of a building that has grafitti spraypainted on it 100% fully support whatever it is the grafitti says – even if they discover it the next day and immediately paint over it. And then years later, continuing to accuse the building owners as being pro-grafitti, or somesuch.

    But, from the tone of the posts hoisting this canard of a political gotcha, the above will be dismissed with a magical “Oh, I *know* what *really* happened”.

  125. @Benjamin

    drives up costs and takes decision making away from the individual.


    I don’t think you understand how socialised medicine works. I will use the example I’m familiar with – Australia. Essentially Medicare, the govt, pays the bills. That’s it. You choose your doctor and the service required. The government has schedule of fees that can be charged. Let’s say Medicare set the price of a doctor’s visit at $50. The doctor is free to charge $50, $100 or $500. If the doc charges $50 he can bill Medicare directly and you pay nothing or he can bill you directly and you get your 50 bucks back from Medicare. If the doctor charges $100 you, or your private health insurer, is stuck with the other $50. See, your choice. Go to the doc that bulk bills (charges the scheduled fee to Medicare) or go to the gouger. It is the same for public hospitals. You can choose to go to a private hospital. Very often you will get the same doctors at both. Many doctors work in both the public and private system. You can even be a private patient (self insured) in a public hospital. The level of service in the public hospitals and private is the same. In a private hospital you may get a private room with cable tv but probably not in a public.
    Seriously, I don’t know what you’re afraid of. Everybody wins. The patient won’t be bankrupted and the Doctor can still get an Audi. The doctors in Australia or France or the UK or Germany or Italy don’t go around calling each other comrade and don’t go home on weekends to work at the collective and don’t get paid in rubles.
    Almost forgot about the PBS, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. A scheduled prescription drug will only cost about 10 bucks. There are about 30000 drugs on the schedule. There aren’t many drugs where the consumer will be bankrupted for a course of medicine. Your US government wasn’t too thrilled about our PBS a few years ago when the FTA was hammered out between our countries.

    BTW, in Oz we call it the safety net and it is seen as human right even though some governments have tried to “reform” it.


    Why then should health care be any different from buying a big flat screen TV? The price of these TVs are always going down as competition forces price reductions. If hospitals and drug companies truly competed prices would fall and more services would be offered in order to get customers.


    Ridiculous analogy. I’d expect your hospitals to go off shore then, say to India, just like the call centres. Like anything labour costs are one of the biggest expenses. I don’t see that coming down in a hurry. Drug companies don’t compete. A company patents a new drug then licenses it to other manufacturers. Some conditions are so rare that the drugs will always be expensive. If I need an urgent heart operation I should go shopping for the best deal? Should I care that my room has cable or not?


    Infant mortality rates are higher because the US counts every live birth from the moment it leaves the womb not after an arbitrary grace period as many nations do


    Since the 90s most of the developed world uses the same WHO definition of live birth as the US does so the US is still ranked legitimately in the 30s.


    I contend that America’s health care is the best in the world, which is why the rich oil sheiks often come to Johns Hopkins for their medical care


    And some countries have a low population base and can’t support specialist services. Sometimes some countries can offer a new treatment that hasn’t trickled out to the rest of the world yet. Happens here in Australia and in Europe and in the US. I’d suggest you won’t find many French medical tourists at Johns Hopkins.

    I think I’ve rambled on enough. :roll:

  126. llewelly

    I think it is true that both sides do get equally shrill over the opposing president. The difference though is the subject matter. Perhaps I am cherry picking through rose tinted spectacles but I see the list as:

    Democrats complaining about Bush because of:
    – the or each war he waged
    – loss of freedom through the Patriot act

    Republicans complaining about Obama because of:
    – his birth certificate
    – is he a muslim/communist/Hitler

    Speaking of the Patriot act, many liberals are very upset with Obama because (a) the Patriot act is still in effect, (b) Obama’s legal team is still defending nearly all of the Bush positions on state secrets and trials of detainees, and (c) Obama is so far continuing all the state surveillance programs that Bush implemented, including the massive wiretapping of nearly all internal US phone and Internet traffic.

  127. Nick B

    ….. No politician I’m familiar with (other than Ron Paul, who does not count) has increased the signal:noise ratio on TV/Radio/news in the past decade.
    For any measure:
    The side in favor makes absurd claims.
    The side opposed makes absurd claims.
    The side in favor complains about the side opposed’s absurd claims.
    The side opposed complains about the side in favor’s absurd claims.

    This is true of health care (You’ll get to keep your doctor? How? You’ll get to keep your insurance? How? Not even the honest democrats make these claims, and Obama has been trying to back off of them “you may be able to keep your doctor” is the line now, and I’m sure everyone here is aware of absurd things said by the republicans) as it is true of most other topics. You want real signal? Start telling your politicians you won’t accept their lies any more. Tell them when they reach 1000 lies they’re out. How many Senators and Representatives do you think would keep their seats by that standard?
    Nick

  128. llewelly

    When the waiter at your favorite lunch spot, the cashier at your regular gas station, or the poor children your kids play with at school catches an infectious disease, you and your loved ones are promptly at risk, regardless of how much choice your health insurance grants you, or how good it is for the economy, or whether or not it is socialist.

    For every infectious disease which has been defeated or controlled in any significant region, the successful strategy relied on protecting everyone. Not just the wealthy, or those with good jobs, or whatever – but everyone. Polio, smallpox, measles, mumps, rubella, whooping cough, malaria – all of them – proved to be most vulnerable to strategies that sought to protect everyone.

    Universal care is what works. Anything else is a half-assed failure. Health care only for those who can afford it amounts to denialism of the germ theory of disease.

  129. vanderleun

    Keep comin’ back folks. Plait’s gonna be here all week.

    It’s called “The Phil Plait I Own Reality Show” and it’s a winnah.

    Phil’s top banana starts the laff riot off with “You’ve convinced yourselves that there’s an alternate reality….” (and indeed we have and this is it.)

  130. wackyvorlon

    I have to admit, from my perspective as a canadian outside the US, your country does seem to be getting crazier. It’s like an epidemic of madness that is sweeping through the country.

  131. vanderleun

    Pete sez: “Obviously you aren’t aware of the source of the term “reality-based community”. Here’s a hint, it was used by an aide to George W. Bush as a pejorative against his political opponents. Naturally liberals took it as a complement and adopted the term, but we weren’t the ones who originally applied it to ourselves.”

    Oh, really? Well, I guess you’re not responsible for the insanity of your current self-applied label. What’s that? The “Honest Officer, it just jumped onto my forehead” defense?

    Has it ever occurred to you that people, left, right, center, who wander about saying “We’re based in reality” are first in line for an increase in government supplied medications?

  132. vanderleun

    But… alas… life is short and lunch is long.

    Dear Walt Whitman,
    Please forgive me.
    ====

    WHEN I heard the reality-based astronomer;
    When the obamallations, the cute motivational poster parody, were slapped down on the blather scroll before me;
    When I was shown the cool Obama kids speech and the diagrams of real reality vs. evil nyet2science mindz, to add, divide, and sum up the Plait-Planck Political Constant;
    When I, sitting, heard the reality-based astronomer spin out of orbit and crater in the man moon’s Mons Veneris, where he lectured the like-minded Eloi with much applause in the room of Bad Astronomy,
    How soon, unpersuaded of his “Who? Me? Schmo?”, I became tired of said schtick;
    Till typing and clicking “Post,” I wander’d out of this alternate reality,
    In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
    Google Skyed up in perfect silence at the stars.
    ===

  133. @vanderleun

    Was that ‘poem’ really necessary? I love reading Phil’s posts, but I often hate reading the comments these days precisely because of stuff like that. Don’t pretend you’re all about discourse when you’d rather act like a 9th grader with a copy of the Norton Anthology of Poetry.

    Seriously, that kind of behavior really, really hurts these comment threads. I’m not suggesting you be lock-step with any poorly-defined political sub-sect, but for god’s sake you sound condescending as hell.

  134. Phil, you’ve got the power to get some of these whackjobs out of here – why not use it?

  135. Stargazer

    You can’t debate real issues with people who have made it utterly clear that they prefer to stay off the path of the real world. They are prancing around in lala-land and demand we treat them like reasonable, educated grown-ups.

  136. George

    It’s too bad that it’s the crazy/unreasonable people who are most likely to post comments/demand public attention. The rest of us, who (I hope) are reasonably intelligent and are capable of sorting out fact from fiction from absurd logical fallacy are much more likely to remain silent on these issues. Sure there were tons of crazies who, with knee-jerk anti-liberal/anti-obama/anti-moon landing reactions who felt the need to post comments here or on their own blogs, but the other 99.99% of us read Phil’s article, understood it, and probably agreed with it (really, you’d have to agree given that nothing controversial was said). We didn’t feel the need to post anything, because what else is there to add?

    As such, the crazies’ voices are effectively amplified and the fringe ends up being heard all too clearly. Sad.

  137. Orson

    I think Phil forgets that during 2004, President George Bush was compared with the likes of worse than Hitler. “Worse than Stalin….” “than “Hitler” and “worse than Saddam” – and these were not ordinary people uttering such inanities. They included the senior Senator from Illinois, Dick Durban-Senator from West Virginia, Jay Rockefeller-and the late Senator Ted Kennedy. All nationally prominent Democrats.

    To compare Bush because of Abu Graib to these evil mass murderers of history is patently absurd and self-refuting. But who remembers these calumnies now? I do.

    For two decades I was Democrat, until 1996, when an elder ex-Democrat who led the House Counsel to impeach then President Richard Nixon, Jerome Zeifman, explained that a young staffer named Hillary Rodham [nee Clinton] manufactured evidence against Nixon. She was outed by fellow staffers of good conscience. With Zeifman’s prescient recommendations, I watched her husbands deserved impeachment unfold.

    (And yes, a retired federal judge ultimately suspended Bill Clinton’s license to practice law for lying to a federal judge in a court proceeding. In other words, the ABA disciplined him for perjury-while in the highest office in the land, no less.)

    After the 2004 election, virtually ALL convictions for election fraud were against Democrats. How can anyone of good conscience be one? I don’t know. But I have become a committed Anti-Democrat because of the extremism Democrats showed that year.

    As an atheist, Democrats today have far too much “religion” to rule sanely. This especially includes the marxist Obama, whose obvious retromingent Alinski-ism forced me to vote Republican for president for the first time in my life. We have Obama to thank for impoverishing our progeny and bringing Chicago style smearing and thuggery to DC

    Out of 400 some August townhalls centered on Obamacare, there were 10 documented assaults (and lesser “crimes” like shoving). Eyewitness, video, and police reports show that 7 out of all 10 were by union thugs or Obama supporters against opponents. (SOURCE: instapundit, 10 Sept) I am not surprised–are you?

  138. Frode

    The level of non-existent detail and hidden agendas some people can read into other people’s statements and written texts is truly impressive (vanderauln, g6loq, I’m looking at you).

    I think the best summation of this rather weird debate, from an outside perspective, was by Nomen Publicus @48.

    Phil, your critical thinking, obvious fascination with science and good sense of humour is what brings me back here again and again. That being said, I miss the Q&A videos, will there be time for some more of those, in between the fundie bashings?

  139. Nigel Depledge

    TW (47) said:

    Sure it was, it was in the first paragraph or so…”A group of folks is very concerned about a speech of his today, because he’s talking to schoolkids. And hey, didn’t Hitler talk to kids…? That’s about as good as their logic gets.”

    So Phil disagrees with a subset of all people who disagree with Obama (i.e. those that likened him to Hitler), and that’s the same in your mind as disagreeing with anyone who disagrees with Obama?

    Is that really what you are saying?

  140. @All those who are bringing up that Bush was compared to Hitler, too, as justification for condemnation of Phil

    So what? That doesn’t make the current situation okay. You’d think that commenters would be, y’know, adults, but apparently they’re just children screaming “But Billy’s mom let him do it!” Apparently the old lesson of “If Billy jumped off a bridge, would you, too?” has not yet been learned.

  141. David D

    @Shane
    “Essentially Medicare, the govt, pays the bills. That’s it. You choose your doctor and the service required. The government has schedule of fees that can be charged. Let’s say Medicare set the price of a doctor’s visit at $50. The doctor is free to charge $50, $100 or $500. If the doc charges $50 he can bill Medicare directly and you pay nothing or he can bill you directly and you get your 50 bucks back from Medicare. If the doctor charges $100 you, or your private health insurer, is stuck with the other $50. See, your choice. Go to the doc that bulk bills (charges the scheduled fee to Medicare) or go to the gouger.”

    That’s NOT how it works here in the US.

    If you decide as a physician to accept Medicare/Medicaid patients (esp Medicaid) you have to accept the fees set by the government, which are often ridiculously low. You are not allowed to bill for the balance of the fees. The physician is “stuck,” not the patient. Hence, there are many doctors who simply choose not to accept patients with only this type of insurance coverage.

  142. Benjamin

    @shane – Regardless of how you want to describe your nation’s “safety net” it still leads to an increase in health care costs. First let me repeat – I agree that assistance is needed for those without the financial means or due to sudden castrophic health costs. That being said even if a benefit limit of $50 dollars is in place a price increase will occur, either inderectly in the form of taxes or directly in the form of higher prices. Usually, in these types of situations both occur as the market responds to having more money dumped into it and taxes increase to pay for the benefit. I not that well informed about the Australian system so I won’t comment any further. Prescription drug benefits generally raise the cost of drugs but that cost is hidden by the fact that it is the government paying the difference. What you’ll see is again, increased taxes. If price controls are put in place than innovation and R&D suffers. Nearly every Libertarian I know also feels that the patent protection durations are too long and drug manufacturers (along with most other intellectual property should move to the public domain in a more timely manner) should face competition from generics far more quickly. And I’m finding the not very well hidden, “We wise foreigners are so much more enlightened than you barbaric Americans.” self-righteousness a bit tiring.

    Comparing the cost of consumer electronics to health care is not a “Ridiculous analogy”. Inferring that a hands-on service industry will be able to relocate overseas to reduce cost in a free market is a far more ridiculous assertion. I have yet to see a robot, either autonomous or tele-operated perform more than the most simple of surgical procedures and given that “bed side manner” and “face-to-face interaction” are extremely important in health care there is no viable way a hospital could move overseas. Though there are many people worldwide who travel abroad to find better and cheaper health care, and many of these people come to the US.

    I stand corrected on the issue of measuring infant death rates, though many Asian countries are suspected of fudging the data concerning the deaths of female infants. But nearly all of the discrepancies in infant mortality rates are due to high premature birth rates amongst African-Americans. Before anyone gets their dander up this is not a racist statement but a fact. Even correcting for teen pregnancies and other societal problems African-Americans have a premature birth rate nearly twice the national average. When 12% of the population has an exceptionally high premature birth rate, and premature babies die at a much higher rate than babies brought to full term, than the national infant mortality rate will suffer. Even with increased awareness and effort to do something about said premature births the cause is not well known.

    As for wealthy Europeans using American health care…I don’t know. Though I would imagine it comes down to a cost to benefit situation. Are gaining a few extra years of life for a cancer patient worth spending tens of thousands of dollars and living away from your family? Probably not. Regardless, it still all comes down to simple economics.

    Benjamin

  143. ND

    How about all those Americans traveling to India to get cheaper medical care? Medical vacation is the term I believe being used. There are people leaving this country to get medical care as well as come to the US for the same.

  144. The fringe of the right likes to call Phil Plait “disingeous”. Why do they love this word so much?

  145. Er, I meant “disingenuous”

  146. PeteC

    @Benjamin

    I have been to the US, on many occasions, and my sister is married to a New Yorker. Please don’t take my comments as being anti-American; if anything it’s the other way round. You guys are better people than this; surely you can’t feel that normal, working men and women should get into a situation where they have to choose between food and medicine, or who in the family gets health care, or worry about where their insulin is coming from, or lose their entire retirements, savings and homes just because they got sick or some drunk driver ran them over? With as you rightly say some of the best hospitals in the world, some of the most advanced research and development and more money than anyone else, why does that still happen?

    I certainly know that Americans can be greatly generous people. People everywhere – from Iowa to Iran – are mostly just people, mostly good, a few bad, and the vast majority wanting to live their lives happily. However, I have usually found that Americans will be generous and caring personally but don’t translate that onto a large scale – they will happily give charity but don’t philosophically like the idea of paying the same money into a system that prevents the need for that charity. Health care is a good example – they’ll pay a thousand dollars to help a poor family down the road, but not a thousand dollars to a govenment funded health care system that looks after that poor family and others like them. Charity seems to be a more personal thing for Americans. That doesn’t mean that you’re not a charitable people, just that your focus is different.

    As I said before, the best of US health care probably is the best in the world – for those who can afford it. It doesn’t mean that the average US health care is the best.

    I’d like to see a bit more on those cancer recovery and other statistics – I saw a set of them once, but the figures I saw were a clear example of how to mislead with statistics. They were the statistics for those who (a) had health care, (b) had been approved for treatment, and (c) had completed their treatments. Do you have statistics for cancer recovery that includes all 300 million Americans? I suspect that the UK has brilliant cancer recovery statistics as well if you pick your data set carefully – say members of Parliament and those earning over £5M pounds annually. I suspect if you include cancer recovery rates for those who have no health insurance and those who are turned down for treatment by insurance companies due to pre-existing conditions or restrictions in coverage, the numbers would look a little different.

    As for the health care as a human right, it’s kind of hard to explain how we see it. When we hear of a free health care clinic that has thousands queuing up to use it, because they don’t get any care otherwise, we would automatically assume that you were talking about sub-Saharan Africa. The fact that it happens in the US is suprising to us – it would be like hearing about areas or states where the police do not go, places run by warlords who recruit child soldiers. Our world view includes health care in the same category as drinking water or the right to travel.

    Finally, one of my main points is that *how* a system is organised and run is more important than any social philosophy or political theory behind it. In the real world, labels like “socialist” don’t necessarily mean much anyway. You imply that a government run health care system automatically adds another layer of bureacracy and time wasting. It certainly could do; it doesn’t have to. How it’s done is more important that who does it. A good example is the recent case of my mother. She suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome. She went to her GP (general practicioner, basically a family doctor), who sent her to a specialist, who confirmed it was carpal tunnel and arranged for surgery a couple of weeks later. She had her surgery and came home and is now recovering. She has to go back in a few weeks to have bandages removed and a check-up. Fairly straightforward, and I suspect the medical process in the US would not be much different. The difference is that the biggest single piece of bureacracy she had to do was to phone the doctor’s receptionist to make an appointment. That’s it. No paperwork. She didn’t have to go to a government bureacrat to get approval. She didn’t have to go to a private insurance company to get approval. She didn’t have to involve herself in any way with the costs of the process. The only people she dealt with were medical people plus the receptionist at the doctor’s and at the hospital, and that was simple and straightforward.

    I’ll admit that it would be hard to convert to such a system in the US. One dislike I have for your administrators, particularly the Democrats, is that they really, really do seem to love their paperwork and their bureacracies. Nothing seems possible without setting up another half-dozen agencies and another three layers of management. Heck, successive US governments took half-a-dozen intelligence agencies, centralised them into the CIA, then created another half-dozen, then added Homeland Security to have responsibility… how many different competing intelligence agencies do they need? Your tax forms are ridiculous – just how complex and how much work should something as simple as income tax be? So in this respect, I certainly understand and partially agree with your more libertarian reaction to this much make-work nonsense.

    I would suggest again, however, that whether a system is funded by government, a private co-operative foundation, a group of charitable billionaires or private companies hoping for profit, the source of that funding and the philosophy behind it is less important to the result than how that system is organised and run.

  147. JT

    @ vanderleun

    Did you notice that giant whooshing sound just now. That was a point the size of the Hindenburg sailing right over your head.

    As was directly stated the phrase “reality-based community” was used originally by members of the Bush team as an insult. It is used today by those it was originally applied to not as some sort of arrogant declaration that we have a monopoly on reality, but as a means of differentiating ourselves from those who would consider calling someone or something “reality-based” to be an insult.

  148. jorge c.

    i am from uruguay a third world country (south america), who is a secular country, were the 80% of the schools, highscool and univerties are free. we have a health care systems run by our govermment, and where our actual president is a SOCIALIST!!! and we are as free as U.S.A. so I agree with all of you thaT the republicans are nuts.
    BUT, if our president (or those before him)has made a speech to ALL pupils, such as President Obama did, telling the children to study and wash their hands… We would think that he is crazy!!!!
    Mr.Obama has in his hands 2 losing wars, 9.7% jobless index, 9 trillion deficits, AND HE MADE A SPEECH TO THE SCHOOL CHILDRENS??????
    sorry but i must think that the republians are only nuttier!!!!
    (excuse me my bad english)

  149. Benjamin

    @PeteC – You’ve hit the nail on the head. It comes down to matter of differing views towards the role of the government. I prefer the adage…”The government that governs least governs best.” I have seen no evidence that shows that government programs provide services in a more superior manner than free-market options. And, yes, our government (both parties here) has a fascination with creating more bureaucracies.

    I think despite the ill sounding rhetoric coming from both sides is just a product of how importantly they view the health care issue. The same occurs when debating schools, because children are involved. Despite how vile some of it sounds it doesn’t bug me, unless actual violence occurs. The press and its readers love the sensational stories. Would it be a better world if we were all polite little sheep with nary a complaint? No. It would be a more boring world run by despots. I say bitch and complain all you want. Its your right and duty.

    I also understand that statistics can be manipulated and interpreted many different ways. I don’t know which country truly has the world’s best health care. It probably depends on a many differing factors and how the measurements are done. I just know that the government has made total messes of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. So there is no way I want them having yet more control of our nation’s health care.

    I’m glad you’ve had a chance to visit the U.S. I too meant no slight when I said it sounded as if you had not visited America. I spent some time in Darlington and then in London and really enjoyed the experience.

    Benjamin

  150. jorge c.

    and also: neither rodriguez zapatero, tony blair, gordon brown, angela merkel, nicholas sarkozy nor even silvio berlusconi!! haver never ever make an speech like your president. it is not they duty to do such things, but well, may be they are wrong…
    please note, it also applies to mr bush and reagan.

  151. Roen

    44. @Metre
    I doubt those of us who actually think saw it that way.

  152. enigma3535

    Ser g6loq:

    You said: No, you you didn’t call me a retard yet .. I spoke too soon.

    Response: Huh? Clearly you are a [more than average] intelligent person … and [IMHO] you are clearly someone in need of a hug.

    You said: The Democ.rats Bush=Hitler même is absolutely well documented. No wiggling out of it.

    Response: No wiggling … none what-so-ever … you said that Moveon.org had a meme regarding a Bush=Hitler connection. This is an ongoing falsehood that you side-stepped in several posts … IMHO, you know it is a falsehood … regardless, it plays so keep harping on it while conflating fringe-lunatic leftists beliefs… personally, I find this manner of discourse “propaganda ret large”. And, this makes you someone I would not want as a co-US citizen … this type of discourse works well but is indicative off one harboring sociopathic tendencies.

    You said: Your pedigree of WWII molestation by Socialists is admirable. Mine is similar to yours but add to it the lost of all teeth due to malnutrition in “work camps” and, some limbs lost in actual combat.

    Response: Given the style of your prose … I am dubious … that said, if it is true: my condolences.

    You said: No, no shame. I am not sure if you are being pompous or, condescending or, sanctimonious or, holier-than-thou … To me Stalin and Hitler were peas in a pod.

    Response: IMHO, a 5th option … a reality-based, pragmatic [right leaning] centrist calling a troll to the carpet for being a reprobate. Referencing the most abominable political figures in the last hundred years as equivocal to current US politicians that want to bring the same govt mandated health care that most of the leading nations on this planet already have.

    As you have appeared to state, you have no shame for what and how you have posted here … personally, I am ashamed that you have an opinion that anyone in the world can read.

    You sir, are not a retard … you sir are a troll.

  153. PeteC

    @Benjamin

    By the way, I think the sort of discussion we are having here is *exactly* the sort of discussion that should be happening in your country, rather than the orchestrated nonsense, exaggeration, outright lies, slanders and other lunacies currently going on. I’d like to think that people like you and [a US equivalent of] I could sit down, come up with an agreed set of goals and then debate how best to implement those goals. When it comes down to it, I suspect you’d like as much as anyone to see everyone getting medical care who needed it, but might debate how possible that is, how much compromise has to be made between availability of resources and need, mechanisms for supplying that need effectively, the balance of impact on existing private companies and the people they employ against the benefits of fewer uninsured and the employment created by a new system, the morality of impact against corporate profits and shareholders against the morality of people’s health and methods of preventing bureacracy creep and governemental or political interference in a system that should probably mostly run itself.

    The US media need to sensationalise this and focus on the extremists for the sake of entertainment, ratings and the eyeballs-on-adverts revenue is doing the US people no service at all, in my opinion.

  154. Benjamin

    @ PeteC – Yes it would be nice but unfortunately kooks get more air time. I know I don’t have all of the answers and I truly hate that some people die due to poor health care or are forced into bankruptcy, but Obama’s plan (or any other government plan I’ve seen recently) is dubious at best. I don’t hope that Obama is a failure as that bodes ill for the nation, but I do hope that some of the legislation that he supports is not passed. I felt the same way about Bush. It’s a difficult time in the U.S. right now A great economic/tech boom was followed by a stock market collapse, then 9/11 and now a housing/bank collapse. Many people are hurting and its a shame. Hopefully our legislatures wise up sometime soon. But I’m not holding my breath.

    Benjamin

  155. @Benjamin

    Regardless of how you want to describe your nation’s “safety net” it still leads to an increase in health care costs

    and

    What you’ll see is again, increased taxes

    Health cost are market driven and most services get cheaper over time. What doesn’t is labour – doctors, nurses and other health professionals. Do you know how we pay for our health care? We have a tax or levy of 1.5% of our taxable income. Low income income earners do not pay the levy. If you earn above a certain threshold and you have no private insurance you pay another 1%. As far as increased taxes go our taxes have been coming down for 30 years. Do you think the US can’t do this?

    If price controls are put in place than innovation and R&D suffers

    The only price control in effect is one all big business try and get away with every now and again – anti competitive cartels. We have a great deal of innovation in this country. One of the first H1N1 vaccines was developed here.

    Health care as human right does not imply free clinics with thousands of poor people queuing up. A major proportion of all the GPs (family doctors) operate what is essentially a free clinic. Crikey this morning I wandered into my local docs office and had a skin cancer burned off with liquid nitrogen, a diabetes blood test and a general check up that cost nothing, nix, nada, niente. I signed a medicare form that acknowledges I had treatment and walked out. So 1.5% of my income goes to pay for “free” health care. At least we know what part of our taxes goes to pay for it. Do you know how much of your taxes end up in Iraq? ;-) (Actually some of our tax money goes to Afghanistan too not to mention the blood cost).

    You imply that a government run health care system automatically adds another layer of bureacracy and time wasting

    No I don’t. We don’t have to wait for bureaucracy at all. Treatment comes first from the doctor of your choice. Paperwork is secondary and even then, as I mentioned earlier, it can be as little as the time it takes to sign your name. That is it.

    My point about Europeans using the US system is that they don’t have to and probably don’t except when the US might have developed some new treatment that could be some time from being spreading around the world. But that could work both ways too.

    One of the good things about our Australian system is that we have Reciprocal Health Care Agreements with countries like the UK, Italy and Norway meaning we can get medical assistance in those countries too. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have travel insurance but it something else you don’t have to worry about. Unlike the States where we have to make sure we have a high level of travel insurance coverage in case we get hit by a bus.

  156. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Hear, hear.

    This is really OT, but interesting anyway:

    @ Benjamin:

    Regardless of how you want to describe your nation’s “safety net” it still leads to an increase in health care costs.

    Huh? Reportedly US spends 2-4 times more on health care than those nations who have basic care for all. (IIRC, something like ~ 17 % vs ~ 5 % of GDP.)

    Presumably the difference in costs for US vs the world is because in US there isn’t any universal health care system that tries to keep costs under control?!

    And of course medical care is a human right. From the UN “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights”:

    “Article 25.

    * (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
    * (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection. [My bold.]”

    It’s a declaration that US signed 1948. It isn’t a treaty, but the inability to grant all its citizens human rights doesn’t reflect well on US.

  157. Benjamin

    @Shane – As I have said before, I don’t know the specifics of Australia’s health care system. The way you describe it sounds very good, but as a skeptic I would need more than anecdotal evidence. I am merely saying that the United States, with its long history of limited government and relative free and unfettered individual rights is not Australia, Canada or Great Britain. Our government does not have the best track record when it comes to running social programs. Perhaps we can learn from the systems other nations use, but we need to look further than the socialist systems of Europe. I here India has a pretty decent system given the circumstances.

    @Larsson – Yes, I know the US spends the most on health care, and that is part of the problem. Much of this excess cost comes from mismanaged government programs and only work to prove my point. ***U.S. government programs do not reduce costs, they increase them.*** Again, as I have said before, nearly all of America’s low rankings in health related measurements come from greater social problems within a small but distinct portion of this nation’s population. Again, I do think that everyone should have access to affordable health care, and there should be programs to assist those with financial needs. (It would have been nice when I got socked with a 6,000 dollar bill for being flown by helicopter from State College, PA to Baltimore, MD. Instead it went on my credit card with 16.9% interest.) So sure if you want to split hairs, you may call it a basic human right.

    But when you hold the UN up as an example, I chuckle. This is the same organization whose General Assembly just named Castro a “World Hero of Solidarity.” He was honored along with some other dubious world leaders. http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=342574&CategoryId=14919

    As for the level of nastiness in American politics…check this out. Maybe the US needs to bring back dueling. http://reason.com/blog/show/136036.html#comments

    Benjamin

  158. Phil Plait: The voice of reason in the midst of this turmoil. Thank you Phil, these couple of articles are a breath of fresh air… from both sides of the rhetoric driven debate.

  159. Mick

    I think there’s a very important and inconvenient elephant in the room some people don’t want to talk about here.

    The Republicans… they HAVE slid into madness. A process that in my personal view started as early as Reagan. (With extremist people like Jerry Falwell and the like being an influence on him being elected. And most certainly in mobilizing the religious right as a voting block around that time, bringing their perfidious influence into politics.) And that all that nonsense reached it’s half-fascist/half-stupid apex with Bush Jr. And lets face it… Obama getting elected has not stopped this trend at all! And the Republicans don’t show ANY signs of changing their ways. (On the contrary!)

    They are still the pro-torture, pro-illegal war, pro-banana-republic, anti-science, anti-non-white, anti-homosexuals, anti poor and so forth and what not party, and if you look at their newschannels and reporters… well it’s not a pretty picture. In fact… people like Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and so forth… If their not nuts, then their carrying on in the spirit of Joseph Goebbels, if you ask me. Fact is… an attack on the crazies in the right by now IS an attack on the Republicans as a whole. Because they, as a party, embraced these crazies.

    And whilst that may seem like partizan talk… but I’m the last person to cheer on the Dems either (actually as a European Socialist, I will honestly admit a strong dislike of the American way of doing things (Which I see as a people firmly under the jackboot of the wealthy and somehow proud of it.), although I also don’t think this way of doing things is in the average American’s favour, and I think many Americans would be better served with a more European style of living. (Even if they don’t know it and seem to think it will do something horrible to them.). Now I DO think the Dems have the better idea’s, but I also think THEY consistently show themselves to be way to willing to capitulate to the Republicans, rather then standing up for their plans. The Dems have some good ideas but they are all to often… WEAK, and then don’t get these idea’s done. Plus some Dems seem to actually be moderate Republicans (Who no doubt would not fit in with the extremist ACTUAL Republicans, but which are nonetheless not true liberals.) Now this Democratic weakness is preferable to Republican insanity, but that isn’t an endorsement of said weakness.

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