The health care “debate”

I don’t have a strong specific policy preference as far as health care reform goes, but I was out eating with some friends this weekend and was provided, courtesy of the CNN playing on the TV at the restaurant, with a telling example of how the health care debate is being carried on. (Usually I avoid cable news like the plague.) It was a special on health care reform (hosted by Wolf Blitzer, I think) and they kept talking about the dread “slippery slope” toward Canadian- or UK-style “socialized medicine.” There are several problems with this including 1) it presumes that “socialized medicine” is an inherently undesirable end point (slipperly slopes are not generally considered to carry us toward good things); 2) it conflates a Canadian single-payer system with a more genuinely “socialist” system where the state actually provides health care services, like in the UK; and 3) it implies that Canda and the UK are (or viewers will assume that they are) backward hellholes that no normal person would ever want to take as providing models or ideas for policy in the U.S.

You too can be a right-wing hack!

This piece at is really kind of embarrassingly bad, but it does serve a useful purpose in collecting many of the right-wing anti-environment tropes in one place for easy reference:

Point out that environmentalists want to run your life and take away your money (they’re basically communists in other words).

Feign(?) misunderstanding of scientific claims (e.g., Those crazy greens think CO2 is a “pollutant” – but we exhale CO2, so obviously that can’t be right!).

Explain that environmentalists are Luddites who hate modern life and the blessings of capitalism.

Compare environmentalism to religion (n.b.: this is a bad thing).

Quote dubious figures from a corporate-backed “nonpartisan” think-tank about the catastrophic cost of addressing global warming.

Pretend to be for “sensible” and “common sense” (preferably “market-based”!) solutions to (nonexistent) environmental problems.

Optional: make disparaging reference to Al Gore.

You might want to print this out for easy reference in case you’re called upon to a) write an angry letter to the editor of your local newspaper about some positive coverage of Earth Day they ran, b) argue with someone in a blog comment thread, or c) write an op-ed for a major conservative or libertarian magazine/think-tank.

Douthat to the Times

“Sam’s Club” Republican Ross Douthat has been tapped to replace evil neocon genius Bill Kristol on the New York Times op-ed page. I enjoy Douthat’s writing, which is generally thoughtful, and he has an interesting perspective as a conservative who seems genuinely concerned with addressing economic insecurity and inequality. Predictably, he’s a virtual heretic among many “movement” conservatives.

I have to say, though, I feel pretty much the same about the NYT op-ed page as I do about cable news shows: I realize it’s influential, but my general policy is to totally ignore it.

On the radio: Greenwald and Yglesias

Very interesting discussion between Salon’s Glenn Greenwald and uber-blogger Matt Yglesias on the press’s coverage of the campaign.

But one of the most important points comes out toward the end where Greenwald and Yglesias both agree that the Obama campaign has, disappointingly, shifted gears since the primary, where Obama seemed to welcome a debate with the GOP on foreign policy first principles. Now the Dems are blurring the differences, as highlighted by the Russia/Georgia situation. Sarah Palin, being relatively untutored, stated in her ABC interview the plain implication of admitting Georgia and other nations from Russia’s “near abroad” into NATO: that we would be committing to going to war with Russia to defend those countries. This is plainly crazy and horrific, but Obama/Biden has essentially the same view. The difference is that they, being professional Washington pols, don’t come right out and say that this is the implication of admitting Georgia, et al. to NATO membership.

Greenwald further makes the important point that, in a supposed democracy, this kind of stuff should be laid out clearly so people can see the implications of the policies their leaders are proposing. As always, I fear that in trying to be a pale imitation of GOP bellicosity rather than staking out a genuinely different position, the Dems will get rolled.

Into Great Silence

This documentary, about the life of a group of Carthusian monks living in the French Alps sounds really fascinating.