April 29, 2011

On choice and socialism

Had dinner with a friend last night (SOF is conferencing in another state), and we had a repeat conversation about the insanity of our healthcare system. My friend is from Germany, and so is often incredulous at our healthcare system, and how difficult it can be to negotiate.

But his biggest complaint, and one that makes this pretty calm person get flustered, is the allegation that somehow our current healthcare system is preferable to some kind of "socialized" program, because we believe in a market and having choice. To illustrate this, he notes that his healthcare choices here are chosen by his employer. Yes, he can purchase an individual plan on his own (if he lacks pre-existing conditions) but would then have to pay the entire cost of said plan. Otherwise, he has to take whatever the university chooses. Same with other portions of his benefits and retirement.

How, he asked, is this choice?

A very good question.

April 28, 2011

More on irrationality

Good discussion in the previous comment thread on how irrational most voters are and how little they know (both sides) about key issues, including Democrats who believed that Bush knew about 9-11 in advance and the rather shocking number (59%) of Obama voters who didn't realize in 2008 that the Democrats controlled the congress.

I kind of understand the first poll, since there was a bit of ambiguity about the information that Bush knew. We know that he was given some briefings about possible attacks, so there could be some who were unsure simply because they might have thought that the briefing about vague "using airplanes" to attack inside the US is the same thing as Bush knowing that it was all going to happen on that date.

The second part is stunning to me. But then again, I know who my reps are in Congress (and have pestered them on the phone and through the mail). But I know many have no clue who represents them in Congress.

So, I am certainly not surprised to see that left and right are prone to conspiracy theories and bad science. My nephew posted this from Mother Jones about why we often don't believe science, and more importantly, how often responding with factual evidence doesn't help.

Couple of points, and then I have to get going. First, I am again struck by the fact that while left and right have constituents prone to bad information, the right has been more interested in exploiting those beliefs. At least, to be fair, of late.

Second, and more personal, the discussion about how we filter information before we even rationally start to evaluate it makes me wonder about my own biases. How often do I pre-filter information or news that goes against my belief system. I want to believe, and hope to believe, that I am open to new information. That is party of my perpetual doubt or skepticism. But I am not always sure that I do that.

Anyway. SOF is at a conference. So I better get the animals taken care of before the revolution.

April 27, 2011

PolitiFact | Obama releases birth certificate

And Donald Trump makes it an accomplishment. Is Trump the biggest tool in America? Hard to say, given the plethora of tools on the right. But he has to be close.

This is a sad day in American history.

April 22, 2011

The Onion, again, sadly captures GOP cruelty

Mitt Romney Haunted By Past Of Trying To Help Uninsured Sick People | The Onion:
"'My hope is that Republican voters will one day forgive me for making it easier for sick people—especially low-income sick people—to go to the hospital and see a doctor,' Romney added. 'It was wrong, and I'm sorry.'"

As we have said repeatedly, how sad is it that the Onion is trying to satirize the right, but actually fairly clearly articulating their approach to helping the poor and the sick?

The GOP's birther problem

I read yesterday that some 45-47% of Republicans believe that Obama was not born in the US and is not eligible to be President. Donald Trump's sudden surge in the Republican polls suggests that among the hardcore base, the number is far higher. Michelle Goldberg believes that this can only help the Democrats, and to a certain degree, I agree.

But that only works if the broad mainstream of America is actually skeptical. I am increasingly unimpressed with Americans' ability to process facts and evidence. The denial of evolution, climate change, or even economic realities of inequality--suggest that people believe what they want to believe, and to hell with the facts.

April 21, 2011

How American healthcare compares to the rest of the world

Full disclosure. I received this link in an email from someone who evidently promotes various web content and came across our little blog. Naturally, I am a little suspicious, but the information looks rather interesting. So I post it with that caveat.

US Healthcare vs. the Rest of the World | Business PunditWhy Your Stitches Cost $1,500 - Part One
Via: Medical Billing And Coding

Paul Ryan Gets Booed

After dealing with my tea bagger student three days a week, I have to say that I loved seeing this clip where Paul Ryan Gets Booed By Constituents For Opposing Tax Hikes On Rich. Further, polling from the WaPo shows that people are more in favor of raising taxes on the rich than they are cutting Medicare. And I think that the Koch brothers may someday regret stirring up this pot, because once people believe there is serious inequity, like other narratives, that will become the mantra. I really don't quite understand why the super rich don't realize that being seen as the top 1% getting all the money is not ultimately good for even them.

But in the meantime, the right wing continues to go after the middle class worker--when they aren't voting to end Medicare. Teachers, nurses and firefighters have been maligned in the right wing's attempt to demonize unions. I understand why the Koch brothers and Rupert Murdoch hate unions and anyone who would dare ask for more money. These people hate minimum wage laws and bans on child labor.

What I don't understand are the supposedly intelligent conservatives standing by while the right wing demonizes teachers and firefighters. Anglican noted the other night that the damn greedy teachers were often working at outside jobs to make ends meet. I used to understand conservatives. They opposed administrator jobs that paid too well, and generally opposed anyone lazy getting a handout. How those same conservatives now bash teachers as "over-paid" or "part-time" workers? I have no idea.

But I do know that any of them who either cheer this crap, or look the other way while the right wing does their dirty work for them--they should be ashamed.

April 18, 2011

Gov. Rick Scott cuts aid to the disabled

This is the logic of conservatism. Rather than raise taxes, they will, and are, cutting actual help to actual living disabled people.

I am starting to think that Leighton had it right all along, that the "death panels" (and other examples) are just projections of what conservatives want to do. Since that is how they would deal with it, they just assume that liberals will follow suit.

As I have said repeatedly, I know that many Republicans don't actually belief this, and want reduced government spending, but not cuts for the neediest. At least that is what my conservative friends tell me. Perhaps it is time to just change the name of the party to the Ayn Rand Party, motto, "We Have Ours, You Can Just Suck It."

April 16, 2011

What a week

I have not blogged in a while. Life has been hectic. A week after losing our Streak, we are doing much better than we ever thought. At first, I was deeply puzzled by that, but then we remembered the months of grieving before. But we also have found some (and I am not fond of this word, btw) "blessings" from our Streak. His passing has done what he did so often in this life--he has connected us to people. The outpouring of niceness and goodness following his loss has been amazing. Because of Streak, I am closer to some, and am watching other events unfold that are all due to our little buddy. And even people who didn't know him, but knew of him, and know of us--if that makes sense--are reaching out. One of my tasks this weekend is to write a letter to our vet. Not only did we get to know all of them very well during this last year (there was a period last August where I could have picked up mail at the clinic), but they did so much to help Streak. I know SOF feels this way too, but they gave us extra time with him, and then helped him leave in the most peaceful and loving way. And we know that one of Streak's last (though not apparently his last) gifts to us was our sweet Alafair. As I said the other day, her passing was awful, and I could not look at pictures of her for months without a punch to the solar plexus. But we have been able to really celebrate both of them this last week.


School has also been hectic. I can safely say this has been one of my worst semesters in some time. Some of that, undoubtedly, was the stress of Streak's illness. And some has been the fact that I am teaching 6 sections at three campuses this semester (half of them are online, so I am not driving like a maniac). And part of it has been the fact that my individual classes have been stressful--and probably mostly because I have a tea-party (he told me the other day) activist in my post-Civil War class. I have had conservative students before. Often. And often, I would say, for those who are serious, I have been able to connect and demonstrate respect for their position. I can think of several who clearly respected me at the end of the semester. They were still conservative, so I wasn't recruiting.

But this guy is in an other world. On Wednesday, right in the middle of this weird week, he told me that he would prefer that liberals not be allowed to teach at all, and that conservatives (true conservatives) are unbiased and have the truth. Liberals, on the other hand, are socialists who put people behind ideas. Scholarship from liberals is something to simply reject. I tried, again, to be respectful. When he mentioned William Buckley as his idol, I talked about Buckley in a respectful way. But, as with most things with this guy, he completely missed that and then told me that all liberals hate conservatives as a matter of course.

When I turned away at that point, he said that he had not intended to offend me. To which I responded, "you failed at that."

I am unsure if I handled that right. But I don't know how to talk to this guy. I feel like asking him why he asks me questions when he just dismisses any info that goes against his beliefs. Feels like a waste of time.

So that was frustrating.

But Thursday night, my friend who is mentoring me on mandolin took me to see Sam Bush play in Tulsa. Because of my buddies connections, we sat in on sound check (which was very cool), and then even got to chat with Sam before the show. As we had just watched him do a rocking song with his electric mando, I joked with him that that was "just how Bill Monroe played that song." He smiled.

The show was great. Sam Bush is a rock star on both mandolin and fiddle. He plays bottleneck slide on a resonator mandolin, but then can turn around and play a traditional bluegrass tune with the best of them.

To tie all of this together, one of the last songs he performed is called "laps in seven" which was inspired by his dog who was drinking water one time in 7/4 time. I thought of Streak and smiled.

Here is a version where Sam starts out on "Ole Hoss" (I think that is a 1936 Gibson) and then switches to what some call the "Mandocaster." In my show, he played electric the entire time.

April 12, 2011

Ron Paul thinks Paul Ryan loves Big Government

Which is just one of the reasons I can't stand Ron Paul. I have agreed with him on some points--notably his opposition to the Iraq war, but his opposition to the Federal Reserve, and the insane idea of everyone getting to use the currency of their own choosing--well, that is just insane.

But what really confuses me is the rhetoric of the far right about government. If you read through this speech (or the reporter's take on his speech) is the constant refrain of government undermining American freedom and "self-reliance."
“And if we don’t have a house, they’ll give us a house. If we don’t have education, they’ll give us free education. If we’re hungry, we get food stamps.
Who was given a free house? Who has been given a free education? Isn't there a key difference between a handout and giving people an opportunity? I don't deny that food stamps are handouts, but most of what government does is not that. A good example is Social Security, where if you work hard, you get more back.

But even as I was wrestling with this post, I saw this in my twitter feed, and this eye popping image:

And Ron Paul wants more of this, not less.

April 11, 2011

Republicans won't rest until every poor person is worse off

Congress Readies For More Budget Battles : NPR

And they are willing to fuck around with the debt ceiling to get there. Even if that means defaulting, which, as everyone with a brain cell knows, is the dumbest thing that even Tea Partiers could do. Hell, I wonder if even Sarah Palin is this dumb.

Actually, I don't. This would be right up her alley. All show and no substance. All cruelty and no governing.

And all of this, btw, from Republicans who still refuse to even consider raising taxes. I read this morning that Eric Cantor has already rejected Obama's call to raise taxes on the rich, because that would be bad for the economy. No problem firing public workers or cutting programs (that means jobs, Eric). But dare raise taxes on the rich and our economy goes into another recession?

These people are not only the dumbest I have seen in American history--well, since the last time they ran the government into the ground in the 1920s--but are also the most shameless. Whoring out for the richest 2%.

I know I do a lot of these rants. But I am not sure how else to face the world. As I have joked, I wish I could just turn off any concern I have for others and become a Republican. After all, I don't have kids. Why should I care if we screw over the next generation. SOF and I have healthcare (for now, anyway) and are able to pay our bills. Why should I care? Where do I go to get that part of my brain removed?

April 10, 2011

Morality and public policy

As everyone knows, I am stunned by the lack of compassion and morality from the right in these recent years. Using the cover of fiscal responsibility, conservatives are in open attack-mode on the poor and the weak. Slacktivist notes that even the Economist thinks Paul Ryan's plan is “fundamentally immoral.”

But I see this just about everywhere I turn. People on FB saying that they don't think that well-off Americans should be mandated to pay taxes for social programs, but think that they should be allowed to just give as the Holy Spirit tells. I know I am cynical, but I suspect that this guy's Holy Spirit would oddly agree with him that he shouldn't have to give too much. Or the woman on another thread joking about how stupid liberals lie and cheat to steal money for the poor and then stick conservatives like her with the bill. Or the aforementioned person referring to taxation as "robbing" him. Oh, and a friend of mine told me that his neighbor ranked Ayn Rand's books with the Bible in importance. I told him that his neighbor hadn't read either, and had to pull out this quote from Leighton:
"There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs."

What is more, I hear conservatives everywhere saying that these kinds of social programs should be handled at the state and local level--of course, ignoring that they will oppose any taxations at the state and local level too.

I am still waiting for an answer from conservatives. If we remove Medicaid and Medicare, will the private charities step up to help those elderly who can't afford coverage, or those severely disabled, or those poor kids who aren't getting enough nutrition? Or will they just look the other way and continue to complain about immoral poor people getting abortions?

We are watching a version of Christianity that embraces cruelty as policy. Unbelievable.

April 9, 2011

Remembering Streak

It feels like we have been grieving Streak for a long time. It started in November of 09 when he had these weird screaming fits, and then, of course, went into high gear last fall when we found out he was sick. And to be fair, I have been grieving Streak since we lost Alafair--or to be more accurate, I don't think I have ever stopped grieving her loss.

Going through this with Streak brought all of that back out, but I think we both wonder if this is not a good thing. Losing Alafair was so painful. It was so sudden and also filled with such frustration with our vet (we since changed vets), and also with the helplessness of trying to give her some assistance.

Not that losing Streak has been easy. It has been awful. But we have already been able to look at his pictures and think about good times. He found us--as SOF likes to say, he "adopted me" one summer 14 years ago when he just appeared under our front tree. For whatever reason, he chose me, and connected to me from the very beginning. In fact, early on, we realized that Streak saw me clearly as the #1 in the pack while he saw SOF as #3 or #4. :)

I always thought that Alafair was "all in" with her love for all of us--and that included Streak. Her entire body changed when she saw us, and she loved just being with us. Streak, on the other hand, was so fiercely loyal. We used to say that he was our little "guard dog." In the backyard, he would run a regular circuit to check the perimeter, then would often take up a position with his back to us, looking out for threats. We got to tell him Thursday morning that we were letting him off guard duty, because we were pretty sure he wasn't going to stand down until his body simply failed. We had to let him go.

He was so smart, and so good, and so loyal and so devoted. And while I miss him so terribly, I also know he lived a good life. He was loved and he knew it. He loved and we knew that too. He completed his appointed task. I am often unsure about what happens after this life, but it is my sincere hope that Streak is reconnected with his friend Alafair. They loved each other so much. I remember a friend saying that his favorite image of heaven was a place where we got to reconnect with our animals. I would be good with that.

Farewell my sweet friend. You will never be far from my heart.

April 8, 2011

Back to the news

First, let me thank everyone for their kind thoughts and words about our losing Streak. It has been a very difficult week and we are still processing all of this. I will write more about my friend over the next days.


But back to the news. A few stories caught my eye (as I was trying to distract my mind) that I thought illustrate why I am not a Republican and why I have lost respect for that party. First, this poll that shows that Republicans are less interested in compromise and are even fine with a government shutdown if they don't get exactly what they want. Never mind that actual real live people will struggle to make their rent and pay their bills. Never mind that school kids will flock to the Smithsonian only to find the doors shut. What only matters to these Republicans is getting their way, and only their way.

That is not democracy. Democracy is the art of compromise and the recognition that you won't always get what you want. I don't find Republicans to be serious about anything other than getting their own way.

Second, this story on Republicans in Mississippi where nearly half of the GOP still thinks that inter-racial marriage should be illegal. So much for small government, I guess. But also, this highlights the huge amount of racism that the Republican party curries, but doesn't want to acknowledge. The conservatism of the Tea Party and so many on the far right is the old conservatism of the South. It is a conservatism of white supremacy and racial divide. And yes, I realize this is Mississippi. I get that. But jokes aside, this should be something that mainstream and adult Republicans decry immediately. But they won't. Because those racists are important parts of their base.

April 7, 2011

Our sweet Streak

We had to say goodbye to our friend of 14 years this morning. I will write more about him later, but wanted to just note that this blog community was inspired by this little guy, and everyone here has been so thoughtful and compassionate about Streak and before that, about Alafair. In fact, for a 30 pound dog, he introduced us to an awful lot of people.

Streak's blog will continue. He inspired me when he was in the room, and will continue to do so. We will all be sad for a long time. Right now, the music is off and the coffee has little flavor. But in time, the joy and sound will return. He was a very special dog and we miss him terribly.

April 5, 2011

Republicans Embrace Cruelty

Not sure how else to see it. Paul Ryan's "roadmap" for deficit reduction targets the poor and disabled. He plans to eliminate Medicaid and phase out Medicare.

Just curious, Mr. Ryan, what will you do when elderly with pre-existing conditions are denied coverage, or simply won't be able to afford coverage? Is this the death panel nonsense Palin has been talking about? If you can't afford to live, then you die?

And let's not forget that Medicaid goes to help the elderly, the disabled, and the poor. It assists with nursing homes and people with severely disabled children. In the name of "life" Republicans want to cut those programs? Seriously?

We are back to the world I talked about the other day, where some conservatives simply don't care what happens to the poor and disabled. Since it isn't happening to them, they couldn't care less.

Then I read today that Florida's Republican governor has advocated slashing the budget for severely disabled children.

Don't tell me this GOP cares about the poor. They do not.

April 4, 2011

Still with us

Streak is still with us today, though I had my concerns driving home from school. When I got home, he seemed a little rejuvenated and we went for a nice walk. I have told him that he gets one every day that he wants one, and I plan on keeping that promise. But tonight he is clearly tired and not eating. That isn't sustainable, and clearly all of this is taking its toll.

I appreciate all the good thoughts.

April 3, 2011

Format changes

Sorry about the constant changes to the blog's layout and design. I liked the sunny sky of the last one, but found it hard to read. That, and I am looking for things to distract my mind.

Streak update

Unfortunately, I think we are looking at the end. His nodes are back and swollen and he isn't eating that well. If he were stronger, we would do another treatment, but we can't put him through that now. We are trying to make him comfortable and still taking him on walks--though those get shorter and shorter.

Not sure what else to say.

On empathy and conservatism and taxes and faith

Reading through some news this morning, I came across this story about Clarence Thomas' recent majority decision in a case where a man very nearly went to the death chair after the prosecution had knowledge he was innocent. As you might think, Thomas and Scalia have very little concern for this man's experience.

I remember when George Bush ran in 2000 and emphasized "compassionate conservatism." While we found that there were a lot of limits to his compassion, it was an interesting idea, and one that many of us found to be appealing. The interesting part of this, however, was how many conservatives were uninterested in the concept of compassion.

This recent debate about taxation and policies seem to highlight this issue, and I am convinced there are two different conservative approaches. One, like many of my conservative friends, is the group that really wants to help the poor, but who simply disagree on the best way to accomplish that task. They worry that government is not the best way, or that they can encourage bad behavior, or that government is simply too incompetent to deliver the assistance. Those people, I think, we can work with, as they have a shared concern in the issues of the poor and disabled.

But the other side, and the one that scares me the most, are the Clarence Thomas/Tea Partiers who follow Ayn Rand was right and that helping people is a bad idea. They don't want to fund nutrition or healthcare, because they genuinely lack any concern for their fellow man. I think these are in the minority, but they are a vocal minority. They remind me of the small minority here in Norman who successfully blocked curbside recycling because they didn't want to pay 3 dollars more a month. Of course, with assistance to the poor, it has horrible implications.

We see this with Paul Ryan's recent proposal, which as far as I hear, will get most of its cuts from reducing Medicaid. Hell, those poor and disabled probably don't vote that much, so much easier to go after them instead of daring to alienate those who benefit from government programs but don't want to acknowledge that. It is an example of this kind of apathy, and the shitty approach to governing that the Republicans prefer. "Let's go after the poor and disabled." Gah.

Time for the compassionate conservatives to step up. Maybe that means that we cut programs that liberals actually like, but ones that can be managed in the private sphere. My fear, of course, is that the conservatives who want to cut all of this assistance, with the excuse that private charities can pick up the slack--is of course that they won't, and the conservatives will simply look the other way. Just as they did on torture. And just as they are doing on protecting what they call God's creation.


April 2, 2011

More reason to loathe conservatives who use religion

This, from one of the Wisconsin Republicans targeted for recall (and evidently the Democrats have the signatures to start the recall--or however that happens--for this tool). Anyway, he has taken to telling crowds that he has found Jesus in this process. Or something. And check out what he says about the idiot governor.
"I'm not ashamed to tell you I've read the Bible more than I ever have," Kapanke said.

"Awesome," a woman in the crowd said.

"So have we," said another man.

Kapanke shared a story of meeting one-on-one with Walker, who he said had a book about leadership through the Bible.

"How can you go wrong following a leader that obviously gets his mission on this earth?" Kapanke asked.
What a moron, and shame on every Christian listening who didn't just wince at that comment. If they really think that Walker is on a "mission from God" to destroy unions, then they might as well shred their Bibles. They aren't using them, and certainly aren't using any brain cells.

The legacy of Woody Guthrie

I have been a fan of Mark Erelli since Zalm first pointed me to his work. We have seen him perform locally twice, and will easily go the next time he is town. Great voice and he even plays the same model mandolin as me. Heh.

Anyway, you can hear the protest refrain in much of his music, including several songs that are clearly anti-war. Today, I read his newsletter and saw that he is also animated by the attacks on unions in Wisconsin and elsewhere:
As the son of two teachers, I have seen firsthand the hours of "off the clock" time and personal money some teachers invest to improve classrooms and curricula for their students. I have seen firsthand the second jobs some teachers take to supplement their income, which often isn't so high that they can afford to live in the communities where they teach. I take it a bit personally when I see talking heads on Fox News or read anonymous online commentaries belittling the teaching profession. This kind of invective strikes at the very heart of the American Dream that you can gain a better life for you and your family through hard work, persistence and education.

Indeed, the American Dream has taken quite a hit in recent years. We have "American Idol," but there's no popular TV show called "American Expert." We deride the educated as "elites," preferring instead the sexier narrative that one event or contest could pluck anyone from obscurity and set them on a pedestal to be revered and worshiped. We subscribe wholeheartedly to the "lottery myth"--that one sudden, transformational event can deliver us from obscurity or poverty overnight simply by buying a ticket. In a bit of twisted irony, we often use our lottery proceeds to fund our educational systems, which aren't valued enough to be shielded from budgetary jeopardy in the first place. What would our country look like if we truly valued education as much as we profess?
I read this after seeing that our local university just agreed to pay our next basketball coach a huge salary to lure him from Nevada--all while cutting funding for graduate students, denying raises to hardworking faculty and staff, and actually undermining the educational mission of the university. I fear that most universities are run like this, however, and they actually mirror the broader divide in American society--with the very top few doing very well and the bottom of the pyramid told to suck it.

April 1, 2011

Streak update

Not sure where we are today. After a few days of not eating, he started, but we noticed that his lymph nodes have come back. The vet was very hesitant to start another round, and we have decided to move slowly. He isn't moving well, and we are taking it a day at a time. One tough little guy, but his body continues to betray his mind, and that is tough to watch.

Here are your death panels

Let's remember that much of our budget shortfall--as with the state budgets--is self-imposed by people who believe in the magic of tax cuts. But here is a situation where that self-imposed budget shortfall and the accompanying "we can't fund everything" will lead to actual people dying. USAID administrator Rajiv Shah testified that this budget will result in the deaths of at least 70,000 children around the world.

Right on cue, the Republican said:
While I understand the value of many of these important programs, the funding request for next year is -- is truly unrealistic in today's budget environment," she said. "We simply cannot fund everything that has been funded in the past. And we certainly cannot continue to fund programs that are duplicative and wasteful."
She went on to say that she would support programs that have national security implications, not realizing that global poverty actually contributes to threats against us--something the military understands. But not the Republican party.

And regardless of whether it ultimately threatens us, it is a direct threat to those 70,000 kids. So, while this same congress will cut funding for Planned Parenthood in the name of life, they will cut funding for poor, non-white, non-American children around the world, and will undoubtedly brag to their constituents that they cut some "redundant" or "wasteful" program.

They will probably have a town meeting that includes a prayer and the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. I am beginning to think that Samuel Johnson, were he with us today, would add "Christian" to the quote about patriots and scoundrels.