It seems like with all the time conservatives spend griping about ham-fisted overregulation, they'd be eager to encourage the Dems to choose a more subtle market-based solution to the health insurance problem than simply passing laws mandating certain behaviors from people and/or companies.

I.e., rather than forcing a set of policies down the throats of insurers, or compelling people to buy insurance, and spending money to enforce all these laws, wouldn't it be less intrusive to simply set up a public alternative to private insurance and let the market do its thing?

But the notion of a public option is being assaulted as "tyranny" far more vocally than harsher measures that have been discussed.

Strange, ain't it?
Looking back over the last few weeks of this health care debate, I find it striking how perfectly the opposition illustrates the demagoguery of the corporatist right. On the one hand you have, more or less, the actual reason behind the corporate opposition:
Competition from the public option must be unfair because government does not need to make a profit and has enormous pricing and negotiating powers.

In so many words, a government-run health insurance option is bad because private companies won't be able to compete with it (without significantly changing the way they operate, at least). This reform will hinder the ability of health insurance providers to make money the way they have been.

This argument is what it is. I can certainly understand the desire of insurance companies and their stakeholders to protect their profits.

However, it must be fairly difficult to mobilize a significant national effort to oppose legislation on the grounds that it will provide better health coverage than private insurers are willing or able to provide. Not many people are going to show up at a town hall meeting to shout down reform proponents with chants of "WE WANT TO PAY MORE AND GET LESS!"

That's where the core Reep strategy comes in.

Rather than argue the plan on its actual basis in reality, they've opted to make up a bunch of horrible-sounding nonsense about it and use that to mobilize their army of what they refer to as wackos. People who wouldn't show up just to support insurance company profits will go to war to oppose, let's say, government-run abortion clinics, mandatory euthanasia for the elderly, rationing of health care services, or any of the other bizarre measures the right-wing propagandists claim are on the way if the bill passes.
It's a little hilarious that it took less than one month for people who spent the last few years denouncing all criticism of the Bush administration as treason to start dropping hints about taking up arms against the Obama administration.
I have to say, I'm very disappointed. I was expecting Rage Against the Machine, not Yo-Yo Ma. Obama was supposed to show up dressed like Huggy Bear, with a hijab-wearing Michelle in tow. Jeremiah Wright was supposed to get up on stage and call on God to destroy America, while Bill Ayers flung IEDs into the gathered crowd. And, of course, his first act after being sworn in was supposed to be to disband all branches of the military and ask the UN to come in and organize our peaceful surrender to anybody and everybody who cares to accept it.

Oh, well. Maybe tomorrow.

Certainty and the Jack Bauer Syndrome

I've taken to calling it the Jack Bauer Syndrome because, though I love and enjoy 24, the situations depicted in the show are extremely unlikely to occur in real life. Bauer always feels justified in his coercive interrogations because he is absolutely certain that lives are at stake and that his subject has important information that will help him avert disaster. This is how the show's writers justify their protagonist doing things that would otherwise get him locked up or worse.

And, in fact, the course of Jack Bauer's life as the show has progressed has strongly reflected Nietzsche's aphorism about fighting monsters. Bauer has sacrificed virtually everything that made him human, including his personal conscience. Everything has been replaced by his sense of righteousness and duty. He is a sociopath for his country, his every action justified by an absolute certainty that it must be done.

24 is, of course, fiction and melodrama. Bauer's preternatural, unerring certainty doesn't happen in real life. We lack perfect means of telling who's who and exactly what's going on. That is, after all, why we need laws and a Constitution in the first place.

It's just frightening how often otherwise reasonable people seem to forget that.

In this case, Mark Kleiman suggests that we should task the military with killing pirates:
When a pirate ship is sunk by naval forces, is there an affirmative duty to rescue the crew? If not, then the question of whether the pirate crews have rights of asylum might not arise. If the duty exists and is triggered by the presence of ships capable of effecting the rescue, then the use of long-range air-to-surface or ship-to-ship missiles might make rescue infeasible.
The problem Kleiman identifies is that some of the people on a ship might try to claim some sort of legal status -- perhaps claim that they are not, in fact, pirates? That they are hostages or cargo or wrongfully targeted?

The solution he offers to the problem of people claiming human rights is to let them drown.

In response to reader objections (mine, at the very least), Kleiman updates:
And I don't see the force of the "due process" objection: while the people being held as "terrorists" may or may not be so in fact, a vessel engaged in piracy is a pirate vessel, and the crew of a pirate vessel consists, by definition, of pirates . . .
Notice the sudden shift of frame: While people accused of being terrorists may or may not actually be terrorists, people who are pirates are actually pirates. In essence, Kleiman rejects the argument employed by the Bush administration in defense of Guantanamo -- specifically, that they don't have rights because they're terrorists, and we know they're terrorists because we say they're terrorists -- only to turn around and use the exact same argument himself: they don't have rights because they're pirates, and we know they're pirates because they're pirates.

Nothing in the post indicates what, if anything, Kleiman thinks will serve as an adequate standard for establishing that any given vessel is a pirate ship and blowing it up on sight. Since he rejects "due process" in the portion cited above, one assumes that it will be the President's discretion who to label a pirate. And since his definition of "pirate" is simple -- anybody unlucky enough to be aboard (or near?) the ship at the time is guilty. It's just that simple. (After all, the Dread Pirate Roberts never takes prisoners!)

I'm sure this would be the kind of American leadership that other nations would be glad to get behind: "Cargo ship? No, those were pirates! No, of course we can't prove it, we let them all die. They were pirates, after all."

Lawlessness begets lawlessness. Lawless individuals create lawless nations, which give rise to lawless cultures, like piracy, full of more lawless individuals. You can feed into that cycle, or you can try to stop it. You really can't do both.

Tentative Projection

Barring any unexpected developments, I'm betting McCain is going to win the election with somewhere between 270 and 290 electoral votes.

The surge in new voter registration will be largely countered in battleground states by the usual vote-suppression methods -- long lines due to inadequate provision of voting machines in dense urban precincts, misinformation and intimidation to prevent people from showing up to vote at all, systematic purges of the voter rolls, et cetera.

Obama may very well still win the popular vote, since many people in solid blue and red states are going to turn out to cast a historic ballot for the first black President who wouldn't otherwise bother to vote, knowing their state's outcome was basically decided already. Still, I'll be shocked if this is enough to overcome the dirty tricks that they're up against in the states where it counts.

As has been the case every two years since 2000, Dems will briefly show an interest in theft-proofing the electoral system in the two or three months that follow. Reeps will gloat and strut and tell America to quit whining, the people have spoken. Congress will slap a half-assed band-aid on the problem, and state officials will immediately start looking for ways to delay, circumvent, or counteract any reforms that actually get passed.

Everyone will then promptly forget about the problem until November 4, 2010.
Inside the house, officers found "Liberalism is a Mental Health Disorder" by radio talk show host Michael Savage, "Let Freedom Ring" by talk show host Sean Hannity, and "The O'Reilly Factor," by television talk show host Bill O'Reilly.

Terrorist movements don't need leaders to spell out a time and place to attack . . . the leaders need only to define an enemy and cultivate a following of desperate and zealous followers who will then independently mobilize.

Of course, it seems we're much more likely to hold the leaders accountable for the actions of the followers when the movement is foreign and the target is America, than when the leaders are American and the target is liberalism.
It doesn't matter how many times I watch this idiotic two-party dynamic play itself out, it never gets old.

Having clinched the nomination, John McCain is chucking his independence and getting in bed with the party establishment -- the same bunch of crooked and partisan figures that fucked him out of the nomination in 2000 and have been fucking the country ever since.

Why would a person with any principles or integrity do that?

Well . . .

He wants to be President.

Ditto Obama.

There's a reason you have to compromise your principles and resort to doublespeak and pandering to become President, and a great big chunk of that reason is the entrenched political Duopoly that dominates the political debate in this country. If it ain't Dem or Reep, it won't fly. Therefore, anybody who wants to get anywhere has to get in bed with one of these deeply creepy power structures, and that means compromising yourself in ways that would make your mother cringe.

Refuse to compromise your principles, and you'll never be a serious contender.

Sad, isn't it?

Wherein I wax morbid and foreboding.

I've linked in the past to the Avocado Declaration, but something just reminded me of this passage:
When social justice, peace or civil rights movements become massive in scale, and threaten to become uncontrollable and begin to win over large numbers of people, the Democratic Party begins to shift and presents itself as a supposed ally. Its goal is always to co-opt the movement, demobilize its forces and block its development into an alternative, independent political force.

The Republican Party has historically acted as the open advocate for a platform which benefits the rule of wealth and corporate domination. They argue ideologically for policies benefiting the corporate rulers. The Republicans seek to convince the middle classes and labor to support the rule of the wealthy with the argument that "What's good for General Motors is good for the country," that what benefits corporations is also going to benefit regular people.

The Democratic Party is different. They act as a "broker" negotiating and selling influence among broad layers of the people to support the objectives of corporate rule. The Democratic Party's core group of elected officials is rooted in careerists seeking self-promotion by offering to the corporate rulers their ability to control and deliver mass support. And to the people they offer some concessions, modifications on the platform of the Republican Party. One important value of the Democratic Party to the corporate world is that it makes the Republican Party possible through the maintenance of the stability that is essential for "business as usual." It does this by preventing a genuine mass opposition from developing.
To rephrase this, a little more simply:

The job of the Democratic Party is to inspire hopes of progress, and the job of the Republican party is to dash them on the rocks of reactionism and greed. In this way the country can be trapped in an endless cycle of buildup and letdown, and still feel as if we're getting somewhere. It is a symbiotic process, each side feeding off the other to perpetuate both.

Will we elect a black or female President someday? Definitely. This year? Quite possibly. Will it be momentous? Significant? Historic? Of course.

Will it really change anything? No. But it gives us inspiration and hope, regardless, and makes us feel as if we're getting somewhere.

I grant you, this is a deeply cynical perspective. I grant you further that as a white male, I probably lack a proper understanding of the importance of this kind of symbolism to other groups, groups who historically have been more-universally fucked over by the ruling class.

I will also say that I would love to see Obama win, for no other reason than symbolism and to provide that kind of hope and inspiration, because I think that's what America should be about. (I'd love to see a woman elected for the same reason, although, in my opinion, Hillary's election would be a step backward as far as genuine progress goes.)

But I don't for a second believe that electing a black or female President will change anything, in a fundamental sense. It will not end racism or sexism -- it could, in fact, aggravate them. Not that the prospect of aggravating racists or sexists gives me any pause, but having something to organize against will certainly help their respective causes. Perhaps these demons do need to be lured out into the daylight before they can be laid to rest, but if that is the case, taking the White House will mark the beginning, not the end, of the struggle.

And once met, there is no guarantee that the battle will go the way progressives hope. Too many people benefit too much from fostering ethnic and cultural factionalism to just let it become just another ugly chapter in history. Reactionism and greed, remember, are always the other half of this equation.

And to be clear, the above is just a tiny chunk of the cynicism lodged within me as we march toward this election. To put it bluntly, with expectations built up so high, how will we handle the letdown?

I'm not referring merely to the possibility that Obama will lose, though that is a part; even if he wins -- building up hopes even higher -- there will come the inevitable pushback, the inevitable letdown, the inevitable realization that the forces arrayed against humanity have no intention of giving up that easily.

Then what?