Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Notion of Disputation Arenas

Over in the closed discussion group of the Lifeboat Foundation, there's been discussion of the concept of "Disputation Arenas."  Or the notion that the art of argument badly needs an upgrade for modern times.

 Back during the middle ages, there were occasional attempts to bring together the wisest members of disparate, bickering factions in order to hear out both sides.  The most famous of these disputations involved Catholic prelates vs prominent Rabbis and they were anything but fair - always aimed at a foregone conclusion.  Yet, the rabbis came, nonetheless.  Why?  Because a little bit of light, in the darkness, is better than none at all.

And so, as the fellow who coined the term "Disputation Arenas," I have decided to post my response to the Lifeboat group here, for public tasting...

DisputationArenasArrowCover(For detailed background, see the lead article in the American Bar Association' s Journal on Dispute Resolution (Ohio State University), v.15, N.3, pp 597-618, Aug. 2000.

My article is now available on my website: Disputation Arenas: Harnessing Conflict and Competition for Society's Benefit.


Regarding the basic notion behind Disputation Arenas...
...I never envisioned a single forum where "truth" would be decided. rather, the notion was simply to empower Already-existing enlightenment processes to do better at their task of pragmatic problem-solving. One of the core elements of the Enlightenment, after all, is argument... the harnessing of inter-human competition toward the discovery of both errors and increasingly more effective models of the world.

An aside -- while I deeply respect my pal Robin Hanson for his lively mind and far-reaching intellect, I never did understand his argument (with which I disagree) that disagreement, in itself, is inherently flawed and not solvable by argument. (Alliteration is intentional. )

Rather, what seems inherent is our human propensity -- nay, genius -- at self-delusion. It is the core human quandary and one that puts the kiabosh on all platonic notions of rule by simple reason. The very best of us fall for delusions -- and moreover, we have no clear way of determining which of us is "the best of us." The one method by which human beings can reliably be made aware of their delusions is through interaction with others -- (a crucial point that we need to make clear to burgeoning artificial intelligences! )

YOU are capable of noticing the delusions that I am too in-love-with to spot or correct. In pointing them out, you do me the service of reciprocal accountability (RA) -- or criticism -- a great boon, allowing self-improvement, and a boon which I'll be only too happy to serve back to you, in plenty. As a favor, of course.

The irony -- that competition thus overcomes our resistance to criticism, and thus fosters a form of (involuntary) cooperation -- is rich and thick and delicious as cake.
(As ironic as the fact that the most vociferous "defenders of competitive markets" are all-too often those who do not get it, and strive always to harm the core process.  And yes, Cato Institute, I am talking about you.)

(See how all this fits into the Big Picture .  Those with immense patience and stamina might even try my way-over-caffienated (but entertaining) talk at Google about "Discourse and Problem Solving in the 21st Century!"

Am I suggesting that Twitter and Second Life and Facebook are helping to lobotomize us, at a time when we really need technologies that might help bring out our best and most mature problem-solving skills?  Well, yes, though I am not invested in pessimism, like Bill Joy or Nicholas Carr.  I feel that these "attention spreading" systems might have some positive effects (perhaps even 1% as much as zealots like Clay Shirky envision!)  But only if they are augmented by other methodologies - mostly not invented yet - that also help us to rediscover focus.

 The crux point is that current fads and trends DO enhance self-expression, vastly, but they also make it trivial to avoid criticism... or, rather, to avoid having to note or notice or respond to or perform self-modification as a result of criticism.  Those who praise ONLY vastly-enhanced self-expression, while ignoring the other half of the Creative Cycle, may be very bright, but they are being zealous fools.

Parse this carefully.  The pessimist curmugeons urge us to step back from the cliff of lobotomization-by-technology, by renouncing some of them and restoring older ways -- a method that never, ever worked in the past. 

Meanwhile, the fervid optimists cry out hossanahs to Twitter. 

Both sides are silly.  To guys like me, who are skeptical of every broad-brush generalization, who love technology but want it to empower pragmatic problem-solvers, it is clear what's missing. And, yes, the solution is more technology...  only much better balanced technology.

 Hence - getting back on-topic - the key features of any Disputation Area system must not only include excellent tools for argument-management , position-parsing, analytic tools and all that. It must also address to problem of how to get people (or advocacy groups) to come! And how to encourage an environment where ALL participants have to grudgingly acknowledge "Hm... I guess I need to take that into account."

Note that that is PRECISELY what happens in the four existing "accountability arenas"... markets, democracy, courts, and especially science. In the first two, it is filthy and inefficient, but also glorious, compared to all past, delusion-drenched civilizations. So, what I am asking for is not impossible.

It would, however, require some focus... and money... to implement. I can think of no more valuable thing for a billionaire to sponsor. But, then, I am not a billionaire and the delusion that I can tell billionaires what to do is... well, a rich one that's been subject to the criticism of life experience.

david brin
(Join a discussion of this issue.)

See a fascinating appraisal of the way that Amazon recently sent fingers into every Kindle device that had George Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four" on it, removed the book and refunded the purchase price, without notification -- an act with ironic resonance in many ways. 

The author goes on to offer some interesting comparisons of Kindle to the eReader.  What fascinates me is the extent to which we have allowed the new media to eliminate the freedoms that we had, in the time of videotape, audio cassettes and early computer disks.  True, copyright piracy is (generally) bad.  But the bloody inconvenience and blithering incomprehensibility of simply using a modern DVD player to watch a film that you already own - let alone record an episode of NOVA - it is why I keep three VCRs in the house, still.


Woozle said...

I'm still working on this, but the concept has been refined a great deal and the design is slowly coming together.

(I could outline the rules here, but the formatting gets ugly with Blogger's limitations; see the linked page. There are also several hand-built mockups listed here.)

As described, it would seem to be "a single forum where "truth" would be decided", but my thinking is that in practice different groups (some using Structured Debate, some not) will arrive at different sets of "truths" -- and then negotiate with each other using more traditional give-and-take.

This will just be an extra tool to give rationality an edge over the alternatives, for those who choose to use it -- a better means of keeping track of all the complex inputs that go into making a major decision -- not something which has to be imposed from above.

Though really, it's got to be orders of magnitude better than the sausage factories which currently pass for political debate, and I hope ultimately to see it completely and utterly replace them.

William_Shatner said...

Brin, I don't think Facebook is lobotomizing us.

I do not have my own account -- since I believe the rumor that is was started by the CIA to collect intelligence,... um, but my wife uses it a few times a week.

For it's particular use -- it is great to keep touch with people and is a bit more "a work in progress" than simple email. You can track the conversation, and get input from friends.

Twitter, on the other hand, is definitely one of the seven seals to be opened to bring about the destruction of life on earth. "I'm at the restaurant, drinking my Pelligrino -- come tweet!" "Now I'm picking up the dry-cleaning -- oh, still some spots left..."

It's the inundation with uselessness we get with advertising. When I was still ADHD in my youth (I was cured, along with my Lesbianism) I could almost NOT walk into a shopping mall because I would go blind. I couldn't see someone right in front of me because of sensory overload.

So the Social Media is just a normal extension of using the technology at hand to interact. It can be used and abused. Casual and occasional with some thought put into it-- rewarding. Squawking at you that Ashton Cutcher wants everyone's ideas about what present to get his wife? Banal. Distracting. Evil.

>> I think the REAL threat is Balkanization of social networks. My wife has made real friends with people -- and they are NOT a chorus of like-minded people. However, if she met them all through some single issue website AND THEN created a social network -- then everyone would think the same.

Finding a new way to allow people to debate and come to an answer is a great goal. However the forces at play right now, is to reward the outlier. For instance; if I were to visit the Comicon convention in town, I'd be lauded as a hero for having a great Wolverine outfit with retractible claws (details are important). Someone merely donning last years Star Trek outfit, isn't going to get any points.

The REASONABLE middle ground wins in a group of disparate people -- while the most EXTREME person wins in a group that is already marginalized.

>> If you want a good groundwork to start from on Conflict Resolution --- look at some of Jimmy Carter's writings on the subject. This man has done great work getting people to work together when they wanted to annihilate each other before the meeting.

He starts with goals and principles of each side and only checks off the ones that are common. He starts with what both sides of the discussion have in agreement.

I think THEN you define ground rules; Like "When Fake_William_Shatner is talking about Feeble Humans, it's about muscle strength and NOT about efficient walking." This provides a clear understanding of how on topic the debate is and avoids left-field evidence to distract.

Next I'd suggest you lay rules for what you WON'T talk about. So if it's the Palestinians, they won't talk about pre-1965 boundaries, and if it's Fake_William_Shatner, you won't abbreviate his name with the sordid moniker that reminds one of a trip to the mens room.

What is acceptable evidence? Is a peer reviewed science paper acceptable? Not if you think all the Climatologists are scheming to make money on carbon taxes. Documentation? Not if you just KNOW Obama isn't a US citizen or think that 3-year-old babies are a risk for Manchurian candidates.

Would I accept a paper from the Cato institute? No. I consider them a corporate-paid lackey that is funded for the sole reason of creating paper support for corporate media to lie to us.

In my mind, the problem with debate today, is we all have our favorite sources of truth. Or maybe it's because, the old institutions that were credible enough to lie to us on a regular basis, are losing their strangle-hold on "TRUTH." Hard to say.

Sociotard said...

The 1984 link didn't work for me. Try:

The author of that article gets a few things wrong. Copyright lasts for life of the author plus 70 years (enough to take care of a couple generations of the authors kids)

Also, he doesn't take into account the people who put time, effort, and expertise into the creation of a book besides the author. When companies reprint old books like 1984 the words are the same (and can't be copyrighted), but the formating and pagination is usually redone, and that means that the work as laid out can get a new copyright, as can the extra forwards and commentaries that also get thrown in.

William_Shatner said...

Consider moderation system:
Only a random selection of regular users get 5 points a day to moderate. The voters cannot select their own discussions and cannot vote on a discussion they contribute to. Making the votes valuable and limited means that you aren't over-run with arbitrary points.

If you go to "", anyone can vote up or down any point. It's usually just a popularity contest and also not based on regular contributors.

There are not punishments or ostracism for ignorant or hateful comments.

>> Even a BAD system of judgement, is going to be useful than none at all. But the value of the vote, is probably inversely proportional to its cost.

When I've been called to jury duty on occasion, I'm impressed how thoughtful the decisions can be. The jurists have no direct relationship to the trial -- a key detail. They can leave personal baggage at home and can be given specific instructions as to what they are deciding; "Guilt or innocence." Whether they like the person or not is off the table.

So we need a jury -- not PART of the system and not paid. WE need accountability -- meaning, some punishment for bad behavior like creating two accounts to vote more often. To try to get to objectivity, the judging should be done by people who have no benefit to the outcome either way.

>> In my opinion, Non prejudiced voting is more important than informed opinion.

For instance; if you asked the average Wall Street tycoon if making Banks able to speculate on financial transactions would be a good thing a few years ago -- they'd say; "Yes, of course." Because that's how they butter their bread.

If you had a brief introduction to pro's and con's of unregulated banking, than I think based upon a quick history lesson, the average citizen would most often come to the conclusion; "You must be crazy! A bank could tie in some insurance mumbo-jumbo and put it as a deposit in another bank!"

>> Just my 3 cents.

By the way, the Slashdot code is available as open source -- so you could get a leg up on at least comment moderation.

Tony Fisk said...

Jamais Cascio had a few words to say about the Kindle debacle. He concluded that it was "...exactly the kind of thing that guarantees people will work to break the Kindle DRM simply to protect themselves."

As it happens, a day or so later, I came across this article which already had a work-around.

"In Australia [NB *not* USA!], copyright expired in Orwell's work in 2000, 50 years after his death. His books are now in the public domain and freely distributed as online downloads from the web.

Make magazine has published a guide teaching people how to download copies of Orwell's books from Adelaide University's website and load them on to the Kindle using software designed to turn the files into PDF documents.

(I might also point out that doing this little trick from the US will still get you into trouble until 2020)

The same article reports that, in the spirit of reciprocal accountability, Amazon have admitted they were idiots!

scrochyp: I don't know what this might be, but it doesn't sound like anything good!

Tony Fisk said...

A while back, Tim Bray was musing about how well the various Web 2.0 technologies addressed various modes of communication, trying to map them out (Yes, I did put in a good word for the Holocene! Yes, it did appear to fill a hole in his graph. No, nothing more has been said: in public, at least!)

You really are on the b#@!link today, David! Where is this 'fascinating discussion'!?

oh yes: a 'scrochyp' is the act of redeeming an ungood document from your Kindle. (knew it was nothing good!)

Tony Fisk said...

Just trying something different here: publishing one comment per topic. Is it better/worse than doing it in one go?

barmo: yes, that probably sums it up!

Tim H. said...

Could "Disputation Arenas" be useful in reducing marginalization? I've met, or read people that are out on the fringe in one way or another, but very few of them could be fairly described as "100% full o' fertilizer". For that to work, folks would need to swallow their distaste and sift the valuable ideas and experience. Might be more likely to get working anti-grav than to see this in wide implementation, but one should sometimes dream.

Stefan Jones said...


RE the three VCRs, have Ben put together a MythTV system for you! I can record two programs at once (one in HD) and copy the resulting recording to DVD if need be.

'fatapoli': Festive orthern Italian pasta dish.

Tony Fisk said...

Off topic:
This one probably comes under the Moon beckoning us back: with a sample of the traditional composition!?

inglesi: as in 'those crazy..'

Zot said...

The mention of disputation arenas being used by Catholics & Jews reminded me of this classic old joke:

Centuries ago, the pope decreed that Jews in Italy had to convert or leave. There was an outcry from the Jewish community, so the pope offered a deal: He would have a religious debate with the leader of the Jewish community. If the Jews won, they could stay in Italy. If the pope won, they would have to convert or leave.
The Jewish people picked an aged, wise rabbi to represent them in the debate. However, as the rabbi spoke no Italian, and the pope spoke no Yiddish, they agreed that it would be a 'silent' debate.

On the chosen day the pope and rabbi sat opposite each other.

The pope raised three fingers. The rabbi looked back and raised one finger.

Next, the pope waved his finger around his head. The rabbi pointed to the ground where he sat.

The pope brought out a communion wafer and a chalice of wine. The rabbi pulled out an apple.

With that the pope stood and declared that he was beaten. The rabbi was too clever. The Jews could stay.

Later the cardinals met with the pope and asked him what had happened.

The pope said, "First I held up three fingers to represent the Trinity. He responded by holding up one finger to remind me there is still only one God common to both our beliefs. Then, I waved my finger around my head to show him that God was all around us. He responded by pointing to the ground to show that God was also right here with us. I pulled out the wine and water, to show that God absolves us of all our sins. He pulled out an apple to remind me of the original sin. He had beaten me at every move and I could not continue."

Meanwhile, the Jewish community gathered to ask the rabbi how he had won.

"I haven't a clue," said the rabbi. "First, he said to me that we had three days to get out of Italy, so I gave him the finger. Then he tells me that the whole country would be cleared of Jews and I said to him that we were staying right here."

"And then what?" asked a woman.

"Who knows?" said the Rabbi. "He took out his lunch, so I took out mine."

Tony Fisk said...

Oh, I'm passing that one on!

Gilmoure said...

Panel Wants Deep Space, Not Landings for NASA.

A subcommittee of the panel studied several possibilities, including NASA’s current program to send astronauts back to the Moon by 2020, a more ambitious plan to skip the Moon and aim directly for Mars and what the members called the “flexible path,” which would avoid the “deep gravity wells” of the Moon and Mars, saving the time and cost of developing landers to carry astronauts to the surfaces of those bodies.

Edward F. Crawley, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who headed the subcommittee, said, “The flexible path essentially goes across stepping stones” of progressively longer, more challenging missions by which NASA would learn how to operate long missions in deep space.

A flyby of the moon might be followed by more distant trips to so-called Lagrange points, first to the location where the gravity of the Moon and the Earth gravity cancel each other out, then to where the gravity of the Earth and Sun cancel out. There could also be visits to asteroids or flybys of Mars leading to landings on one or both of the low-gravity moons of Deimos and Phobos.

This approach, Dr. Crawley said, would provide “the most steady cadence of steady improvement.”

Cool! I sent in my recommendation for near-Earth Asteroid and Lagrange points missions (am I the only one who hears ZZ Top?).

David Brin said...

Terrific. That's the second time in two days that top people seemed (seemed, sigh) to be listening to me. Probably simply because adults are now in the room.

Asteroids. Phobos. That's useful real estat. And we can go soon.

Travc said...

Good news regarding the NASA panel IMO.

I can easily imagine a Mars mission where a manned vessel sits in high orbit and teleoperates probes and landers. Much like most deep see oceanographers these days go out in a ship and use ROVs to do the actual underwater part. Makes a lot more sense at this point than trying to put people on the surface... where they couldn't really do very much anyway.

Of course, as Dr Brin points out, the really valuable space 'real-estate' isn't on the planets at all. Why we don't have telescopes (and communication relays) at the Lagrange points already is a mystery to me.

PS: It seems absurd to me that the shuttle has to go up to the ISS to get a visual inspection of the tiles. Don't they have a flyable camera? Hell, you could build one with a web-cam, RC car servos, and a fire extinguisher!

TwinBeam said...

@Travc - I've tried pushing the "Mars orbit and tele-operate" approach over at New Mars. I gained some traction, but there were a few who were simply too tied to their fantasy of personally walking on Mars' surface to continue debating it productively.

I figure it's so obviously easier/better/safer/cheaper that the only way we'll go to the surface first, is if we get into another national prestige "space race".

TwinBeam said...

To the Human Space Review committee, I commented "Why waste the 300+ tons of ISS mass by crashing it back into Earth's gravity well, when you've already got it halfway to anywhere?" We should expand ISS experiments with VASIMR thrusters, and eventually launch it toward Mars (unmanned) to test VASIMR and study radiation penetration, to help design the Mars station.

Or simply take it to lunar orbit, strip off some useful components to soft-land, and crash the rest to eventually be salvaged for use on the lunar surface - easier to recycle scrap metal than to extract and refine metal from lunar resources. The decommissioning and scuttling from lunar orbit would be a good first human mission for the "no gravity wells" approach - long duration but not too far from Earth.

nobodez said...

In regards to the whole 1984 bit. The MOST important piece to take away from this story is that Amazon only removed the versions of the books that were illegal. They only removed the versions that were illegally uploaded to their service by a company that did not hold the publishing rights to the works in question.

Was it the right way to do it? No.

Was it legal and ethical within the framework of our laws? Yes.

Tim H. said...

Why not two more modules for ISS, a drive module and a shielded crew module (storm shelter). Get a feel for what an interplanetary vehicle needs to be, take it out to the moon, or a near earth asteroid, and back.

Woozle said...

"Why waste the 300+ tons of ISS mass by crashing it back into Earth's gravity well, when you've already got it halfway to anywhere?"

I thought the exact same thing about Skylab -- what a senseless waste, letting many tons of equipment and a serviceable shelter (even if some of the tech might need gutting and replacing for many uses) already in orbit just burn up

And then they did it again for Mir.

This is especially tragic given that proposals were being floated back in the 1980s to boost empty Space Shuttle external fuel tanks into orbit where they could be used for storage or possibly habitation, since they already get most of the way there.

Getting hardware into orbit is terribly expensive, and it doesn't make sense to just let it be destroyed if there is any alternative.

I don't know what to do about this except hope that as the glamor of the early space triumphs fade and people start looking at space exploration in more practical terms, they will start thinking about maximizing resources rather than drama.


Re Kindle/1984:
- Was it the right way to do it? No.
- Was it legal and ethical within the framework of our laws? Yes.
- Am I ever going to buy a device which lets someone, without my permission, delete content I paid for? Hell no.

I would also amend the second answer to "legal yes, ethical no".

For one thing, apparently one student had been taking notes on his copy -- and when the book was deleted, all his notes (his work) went away too.

For another, look at the principle of the thing. Let's say I went into a bookstore and found a bootleg copy of Harry Potter for 25 cents. Not realizing it is a bootleg, I snag it. Some days later, the publisher complains to the bookstore that they've been selling bootleg copies of copyrighted material, and demands to be compensated for every copy.

Does the bookstore have the right to break into my house and take back the copy I bought? No. Do they have the right to ask that I return it for a refund? Yes. Am I under any obligation to comply? No. Can they counter-offer a legitimate copy, perhaps for free or at a steep discount? Yes -- and whether or not I accept depends on how much I like the bookstore or the person offering the deal.

That personal relationship (how much I like the store or its representative) is an important part of the give-and-take of doing business; it's an "accountability arena", whereby retailers are punished or rewarded depending on how they treat their customers (and staff).

Using technology to make that personal interaction unnecessary in this situation takes away a large chunk of that accountability.

Woozle said...

An afterthought: if Amazon rented or leased Kindles, that would be a substantially different situation; it would be understood that they remain the owner of the device, so anything you leave on there is subject to their whim. Plus you wouldn't have the loss of the sunk investment cost to constrain you from ditching the gadget if you got ticked off at Amazon and didn't want to deal with them anymore.

Since you would lose all your "purchased" books when you stopped renting the device, the books should probably be rented instead of purchased as well -- a few pennies to the copyright holder every time you access a new page in a particular book. If you read a few pages and decide you hate the book, then they don't get much. Try-before-you-buy literature, for reals.

That would be true "intellectual property" innovation, and a more honest business model.

Of course, they needn't stop there; why not let people submit reviews and ratings via the Kindle? Sharing of user notes? There are all kinds of things for which they've already done the heavy lifting, but apparently haven't thought of... or maybe they will be available in future versions.

Hank Roberts said...

Pertinent and worth reading in full:

Brief excerpt follows:

"... I agree that outside the scientific community nobody takes seriously that something didn’t appear in the scientific literature.

That is a problem with outside the scientific community.

Doing science is difficult. Over the past 400 years, the modern scientific method has accumulated a lot of knowledge and understanding. Doing science means changing that body of knowledge and understanding. Sometimes that means saying that even though we used to think that something was the case, it really isn’t. Making that argument successfully is hard work. ‘Even’ the easier argument of making an addition is hard work. It’s hard work because other people have to be able to rely very strongly on everything you say in your paper. Everything...."

Stefan Jones said...

Partial archives of Electric Sheep Comix is back online!

The interface is deliberately crude; Farley noted in his blog that since he's starting over he may as well go back to a 1980 vintage Apple II menu.

'brubled': To sputter in enthusiasm and delight, as when learning that the Electric Sheep Comix archives are going back online.

William_Shatner said...

The idea for Disputation Arenas is sound.

The problem is, fundamentally, that disputes are so dang profitable and work to move people against their rational own best interest.

We put up with loads of smog, traffic, un-nourishing food, long hours at work -- yet, we sacrifice all because we've got a 1 in 10 million chance that someone foreign might take our life from us.

>> Hoping I'm one of the people actually listening to Brin (that however, would require feedback). ... I think for a place on the web that could be used to find truth (like but with debates?), we need a place on the Web to ascribe real value to certain endeavors.

I would also have to re-examine my desire to debate politics, conspiracy theories and other philosophical notions with people who just want to argue or see who is smarter. The cost-benefit to worrying about things I have little control over for the nebulous benefit of being right when I predict that things will break -- I'm also not thinking in my own best interest.

>> Oh, and though it does nothing to benefit me; It seems we should be watching the Fed, using the banks to buy up the Treasuries -- it's a stalling tactic for our economy because China is NOT buying our debt, and the US dollar, though the fallow hasn't dropped out -- is not being accepted in a lot of places anymore.

Then we have the Commercial Properties that are going to start dropping like flies. All those job layoffs to preserve profits have caused less traffic for marginally profitable consumer service/sales companies. So I expect the Stock Market to go up for two weeks, and that we will have another massive slide down in late September.

William_Shatner said...

@ Travc;
I can easily imagine a Mars mission where a manned vessel sits in high orbit and teleoperates probes and landers. Much like most deep see oceanographers these days go out in a ship and use ROVs to do the actual underwater part. Makes a lot more sense at this point than trying to put people on the surface... where they couldn't really do very much anyway.

Well why go to Mars at all if you can remote everything?

With the rover they have now, they send commands that it can carry out over time.

Some of the issue is latency. Which a Lagrange point satellite with astronaut might improve.

But the real limit to going to Mars with humans is still how long a human can be weightless. Then you have to change out your people (being out of the gravity well makes it easier).

I could think of a few solutions -- but I'm preoccupied with some ideas for Anti-gravity, so it's hard to think too hard about space elevators when you are going for the newer tech. ;-)

>> And I'll vote in agreement with everyone else that crashing our space stations back to earth is a HUGE waste of resources. If they can't find something useful to do, maybe just come up with an international La-grange dumping point and boost things out to it (at 1/100th of the cost of lifting it up in the first place). A junk yard in space, that is worth more per pound than gold -- simply because it's mostly refined metal at a high orbit.

Sorry for being off the DISPUTATION topic here -- but seems that space exploration is the meme of the year.

Hank Roberts said...

Another web page here relevant to the topic :

Brief excerpt follows. But read the whole page.

... In a nutshell, Greg Craven’s process of risk management takes the pressure off us to be amateur scientists. It doesn’t require that we assess the statistical methods of people with PhDs when we only have a high school knowledge of science. Instead, it shows us how to use logic, assess credibility, and weigh the benefits and consequences of taking action vs not taking action on an uncertain threat.

I suppose I sort of expected that Greg Craven’s book would be a step up from the videos, would contain even more ideas, anecdotes and talking points that I could really sink my teeth into, would tell me more that I hadn’t already heard in the six hours of Manpollo.

But his book wasn’t like that. Greg Craven disappointed me.

And I’m grateful for that.

See, the book was not aimed at people like me who have an interest in climate change that borders on obsession. It was not aimed at the people who already know which sources are skeptical of anthropogenic climate change and which are worried about it. It was not aimed at those of us who can rattle off the current concentration of atmospheric CO2 without a second thought.

The book was aimed at the average person, who basically knows what climate change is but hears so much shouting in the media that they have no idea of its level of agreement. Who knows there are two sides and doesn’t want to offend anyone. Who has never heard of Milankovitch cycles, methane hydrates or the Goddard Institute of Space Studies....

matthew said...

Check out Slate's "How Will America End" series now running.


Lets you choose your favorites out of 144 choices, vote on them, then see the compiled data on Friday.

Also some of this discussion ( by "futurists" on the same subject (America's end) touches pretty close to the idea of disputation arenas.

Check this out, if you have not already.

matthew said...

And just the inclusion of "Cronyism" as one of the 144 choices leads me to suspect that Josh Levin has *probably* visited our hosts' site fairly recently.

TwinBeam said...


Simulating gravity should be pretty easy - tethered spinning - though engineering it for safety and stability will take some effort.

Radiation is harder. It's possible to shield well and orbit near Phobos to approximately match Mars surface - but we really need to beat cancer if we want to go into space for long periods.

Tony Fisk said...

Bill Nye says: 'Retiring the Space Shuttle Will Set Us Free'

Way off disputation arenas but, then, the preferred mode of future space exploration is a disputation in process.

Truly off-topic:

Mr. Farley's resurrection of electric sheep got me looking at Apokemon in full (St. John never sounded so lucid!). Maybe it was a more than passing similarity between the door to Abaddon's pit and Ayers Rock, but I got to idly comparing it to an Australian folk song 'The Drovers Dream'. Since the first verse ends with "I was dreaming I suppose, for my eyes were partly closed, when a very strange procession passed me by", you can see a vague connection, even if no genetically modified livestock are involved!

It was a later passage that really made a couple of hairs stand on end, though:

"Then the dear old bandicoot/played a tune upon his flute,
and the ko-alas sat round him in a ring

Synchronicity and St. John really do not mix!

William_Shatner said...

TwinBeam said...

Simulating gravity should be pretty easy - tethered spinning - though engineering it for safety and stability will take some effort.

Radiation is harder. It's possible to shield well and orbit near Phobos to approximately match Mars surface - but we really need to beat cancer if we want to go into space for long periods.

Sure, I know about spinning. But that's in an expensive space station. What a real space program needs is conditions where you roll up your shirt sleeves and turn a wrench. I'm talking heavy construction projects. Turning moon dust into bricks and fuel can be automated in some regards, but someone has to clear the pipes, set the channels, and fix anything unexpected.

IN a very thick moon dome -- radiation can be reduced (however, there is probably plenty of ionizing radiation from the moon material itself).

I think efforts in invisibility, are going to lead to the secrets of Gravity -- I realize that sounds counter-intuitive, but I'm not ready to talk about why I think this is so. Space is a separate dimension from ours and Gravity is the conduit to that with us (particles) in the middle. Light interacts with gravity and it's a two-way street.

This article speaks about a tractor beam phenomena discovered by splitting a laser beam and having it interfere with itself. It only works when beamed down a narrow nano-tube and on the small scale-though the article doesn't mention it, I'd guess the tube would be a resonant distance for that light frequency if the beams were NOT interfering.

My theory; invisibility caused by nano-holes and wires, is due to interference of space adjacent to the nano features-- it may be "de-interfering" the space like polarized lenses allow us to see through the reflective surface of a pond -- you have to realize, that matter SHOULD BE transparent, because it's barely even there as a far as the ratio of particles to space volume. This is consistent with the "tractor beam" phenomena, because it works at right angles to the beam -- like creating a wake and drawing an object into a lower pressure region in water. Either it is stretching space, or reducing gravity in the region by vibrating it in some way -- of course, it could be a right-angle EM effect, but the articles says nothing about only effecting metallic objects.

When we look at waves in water, or scattered light, WHY is it that an infinite number of waves or light can pass through an area, and keep track of each beam. In the case of water, the wave itself is a movement of pressure in the water, a complex interaction of kinetic force amongst molecules that are compressing and expanding at a right-angle to the force. I see light the same way, but we are not able to be aware of the water it moves upon. And there is no one plane that is effected. However, we do get polarized light, so there is a cross section involved. Has anyone tried a polarized laser, and then interfering with it by having a beam split off and polarized at a right angle to itself?

Anyway, as long as we are bending light -- we should be able to bend gamma rays and such. So the best shielding for radiation might be an invisible dome. Hopefully, it won't depend upon nano-holes and wires which could quickly be covered by statically charged moon dust.

Getting lots of space to work on the ground will help us reach the solar system. The 1/6th gravity well of the moon is not a bad trade off for the abundance of resources. The Moon lander that allowed astronauts to return to earth, was a toy compared to the rocket that was required to leave the earth.

Gilmoure said...

Paul Krugman has an interesting blurb on congressional polarization:

A number of commenters on my Michelle Malkin post objected that it’s not possible to reduce political views to a one-dimensional, left-right scale.

That’s what I would have thought a few years ago. But then I became familiar with the Poole-Rosenthal work on Congressional voting. They use a clever algorithm to jointly map bills and members of Congress in a hypothetical issues space. The number of dimensions in that space is arbitrary — but they found that historically just two dimensions accounted for the great bulk of voting. One dimension corresponded to left-right on economic issues; the other was basically race/segregation.

And since the 1960s, with the great Southern realignment, the race dimension has collapsed. So Congressional politics is left versus right — end of story. Oh, and polarization along that dimension has increased hugely: the center did not hold, and there really isn’t any middle ground.

Now, real people may be more multidimensional than Congressmen. But I suspect that even among the general public, we’re more one-dimensional than you might think.

David Brin said...

I wish I could engage Paul Krugman (a sci fi fan) on this issue, since -

1) The hardening of congressional partisanship may be directly attributable to gerrymandering, which has served the interests of politicians, at the expense of civil political life.

2) What does "left-right" actually MEAN? Sure, all Republicans seem to hew to a particular set of litmus-tested standards. So do maybe 50% of democrats... leaving roughly half of congressional democrats as the principal set of non-doctrinaire deliberators in or current political world. One could call this dogmatic partisanship.

But doesn't the argument become circular? Anything that most Republicans consistently support becomes "right"?

But one has to be careful. And to this day I have never heard a satisfactory definition of that horrid French political "axis." Not one that ever makes any sense, or bears close similarity to what the next person says.

Clearly "right" does not mean "opposes deficit spending". Nor does it any longer signify what it did to 1948 conservatives, who wanted isolation and "avoidance of foreign adventures."

It cannot mean opposition to regulation, since eight out of ten of the major DE-regulations of the last generation were performed by Democrats, largely to eliminate "regulatory capture." Indeed, Regulatory Capture would seem to be a central aim of Republicanism, making all the anti-state rhetoric just hot air. Irrelevant.

Indeed, I must quibble with using voting records as a sole source in this attempt to measure political dimensionality. I would add the far more pertinent question of "who benefits?" For example, can a party be called pro-free-enterprise, whatever its rhetoric, when small business startups and profitability languish, during its time of power, in favor of monopolistic oligarchies? If the supposedly more socialistic party is consistently better at fostering small business growth, does its socialistic cant (or left-leaning congressional voting record) matter as much as the actual effects?

Someone pass this on to Krugman?

Gilmoure said...

David Brin said...

Someone pass this on to Krugman?

I posted that back in the comments on Krugman's post. It's 10 or 12 posts back so not sure what it's chances are of being seen.

Tony Fisk said...

As Krugman refers to Poole and Rosenthal, I thought I'd go looking for their data on polarisation (here)

They also published a 2006 paper on the effects of gerrymandering on party polarisation

The abstract:
Both pundits and scholars have blamed increasing levels of partisan conflict and
polarization in Congress on the effects of partisan gerrymandering. We assess whether
there is a strong causal relationship between congressional districting and polarization.
We find very little evidence for such a link. First, we show that congressional
polarization is primarily a function of the differences in how Democrats and Republicans
represent the same districts rather than a function of which districts each party represents
or the distribution of constituency preferences. Second, we conduct simulations to gauge
the level of polarization under various “neutral” districting procedures. We find that the
actual levels of polarization are not much higher than those produced by the simulations.
We do find that gerrymandering has increased the Republican seat share in the House;
this increase is not an important source of polarization.

'ostro': Yes, young chrononaut, your good-ish ancestors were discussing republicans. Which brings to mind a quip (attributed to John Howard) that a conservative is "someone who doesn't think they are morally superior to their grandfather". A nice sentiment, neatly framed (try denying the comment outright and see how you feel about it!).
I would prefer to say that yes, we are morally superior to our grandparents in some areas; and that's because we had good teachers.

David Brin said...

My son will be a better man than me. That's already apparent. And I am pleased to say it is because I am... a parent.

Tony Fisk said...

Speaking of ancestors, Aesop wrote a fable about a crow and a water pitcher. It seems he knew what he was talking about! (Now be honest, how long would you take to figure it out on your own?)

William_Shatner said...


The only thing I can consistently find that Republican Policies support is pro-Corporate.

Nothing with fiscal prudence, deregulation, foreign entanglements, or states rights.

It's always if it comes down to Citizen vs. Corporation, Corporations wins. Let's not mince words; Fascist.

Pro-Power (as long as it is Republican) and Pro Corporate. With a sprinkle of religious outrage for anyone having sex outside the Hostel on C-Street.

Of course, it makes it difficult to have a dialog with people, if their own self-image tells them they are Republican because they want a Strong America (more guns), Rule of Law (for the little guys only), and Big Government out of the Way (Goldman Sachs steps into the vacuum then?).

I don't think this debate is going to matter much in a few months. While senior citizens are rounded up to protest fixing health care so that they can afford it, the Service Sector is about to pop and start its round of layoffs.

We are going to lose a lot of jobs and not get them back. The Health Insurance companies can try and siphon off enough money from the Bankers because they will be the only ones with cash. My guess is, there's going to be a flood of Oxford loafer refugees in the Cayman islands and an ice tea is going to cost $20 there.

David Brin said...

Actually, the correlation is not quite perfectly with corporate interests. Many corporations did poorly under Bush. Rather, it is pro-aristocracy and pro-oligarchy.

Moreover, the greatest sin of the democrats has been to allow this relentlessly focused GOP effort to be combined with frenzied grassroots populism. Maybe %million in TV ads ought to nail the point. But none of the dems will get right down to the trenches.

BTW, be clear. Fascism was a SOCIALISt movement. The Nazi Party was the National Socialist Party. They took over many companies, nationalized some, and put labor union people on the boards of most of the major corporations. Of course they were all-aryan labor unions and evil as hell. But "left-right" just doesn't map at all onto it.

Today's GOP is "right wing" in a much more classic sense, that they serve and represent the classic aristocracy. They are the House of Lords.

lc said...

When I was a college student during the Vietnam era, I remember an establishment type saying, "You're not one of those protestors, are you?"

Having just seen hysterical right-wing protestors at town hall meetings for health care reform, I wonder about "protestors" no longer being an insult and now denoting a class of right-wing heroes.

Stefan Jones said...

Viewing footage of the angry, grievously misled and gullible Tea Party protesters, I have to wonder how long a Disputation Arena would actually survive in any meaningful form.

These folks have had their minds made up for them to their complete satisfaction, and nothing will budge them: Obama is a socialist (or maybe a Nazi), the new health care system will save money by euthanizing old people, and the incompetent government had better keep its hands off of my Medicare!

Faced with the prospect of actual facts about an issue coming to light, the opposition just needs to let loose the hordes of stupid and the whole notion intelligent debate becomes moot.

The planning guide for these protests plainly state that intelligent debate is not the goal; the protests are all about "rattling" congressmen and shouting them down. It's a show.

Robert said...

I am reminded of something I read on Livejournal several months back. Basically it had an ultraconservative group who was facing a reasonable rational liberal who refuted every single argument with logic and facts and who started convincing some of the ultraconservatives they were wrong. The final solution? Screaming on top of their lungs and refusing to let the rational liberal get a word in edgewise, and then celebrating when the rational liberal walked off in disgust.

This is the same exact scenario. Except rather than parody and satire, it's real life.

You know, I think it's time to get drunk when satirical writing turns into fact. What's next, serving up infants as food?

Tim H. said...

The really annoying bit is that the oligarchs are diminishing the country. They seem to value dominance over wealth, and would be just as happy in a cold stone house with a privy, as long as the commoners were worse off. What the progressive movement offers for them is a smaller piece of a really huge pie, and competition. I think everyone here already gets this, but if the dark side can reiterate bovine byproduct, can't I do the same with truth?

David Brin said...

Um... "Contrary Brin" here to remind you that this phenomenon is not the exclusive domain of conservatives. Just try pointing out corners of logical inconsistency among - say - feminists or nativist activists or PC police. You'll see the very same types of behavior, that are now coming under scrutiny by PET scans that can trace the rhythms of dogma-driven delusion and denial.

Example - the leftist intellectual community despises Evolutionary Psychology and any other field that considers human beings to have any pre-programmed instincts at all, beyond perhaps suckling at birth. Social patterns and behaviors that are seen among almost all animals have NO relevance to human beings, who are portrayed as being infinitely flexible, self-changeable entities of absolute choice.

This position, in moderate form, reflects the Enlightenment position -- both noble and practical -- of rejecting group-destiny. A wholesome and scientifically justified move away from the older method of pre-judging individuals based on their happenstance membership in some unchosen type or caste. (e.g. a race or gender). Moderately applied, it has made us both better and richer, by far, than our ancestors.

However, this push-back against group destiny has been taken to silly extremes by leftist dogmatists who proclaim that humans are utterly choice-driven and almost completely instinct-free, unlike any other creature on the planet. What makes this more ironic is that the extreme position was chosen for the most inane of reasons...

... because of a strawman fear that admission of ANY inherent proclivities -- even merely statistical and contingent ones -- could be used to impose stereotypes upon, say, women. Or else, even worse, used by rapists to evade responsibility, claiming "evolution made me do it."

In choosing to follow this path, leftists pay no heed at all to the implications -- for example, that they are now siding with religious fanatics in proclaiming human exceptionalism. Or that this position is starkly at odds with the "at-one with nature" or animal rights parts of the liberal movement.

But that is a core trait of dogmatism. A perfect ability to ignore inconsistency. Take the greatest example of all, the reflex choice, made a couple of decades ago, to declare homosexuality to be absolutely obligate-predetermined in the genes and womb, without the environment or the conscious mind having any say in it, at all. True, there is some evidence supporting a strong genetic component... but some also for behavioral or experiential or conscious components - and the latter evidence is either swept under the rug or declared the work of evil researchers.

I do not have any axe to grind on this issue, only a strong impulse to point out lapses of logic, when I see them. In this case, the stunning juxtaposition that leftists call human beings UTTERLY self-programable by personal choice... with one perfect and absolute exception made for homosexuality. This glaring hypocrisy is as illogical and bizarre and monomaniacal and dogmatic as anything believed on the right...

...only with the saving grave that leftist dogmas are generally (in our present place and time) harmless and merely irritating exaggerations of pretty-much acceptable tolerance motifs.

Meanwhile, though, most of the garbage contained within the right-wing edifice is far more harmful to our nation, persons and civilization... part of a construct whose purpose is to justify an oligarchic putsch, nothing less. Hence, while I will happily turn and skewer hypocrisies of the left -- and we must always recall that that direction once was, and could again be, frightfully dangerous -- there is no question where I'll point my major outrage, at this point in time.

David Brin said...

The big question, though, is this; can anything be done about the MACRO problem of human delusion and denial, that thwarts our problem solving pragmatism, at nearly every turn?

It is the focus of my life. It is why I push transparency and reciprocal accountability, the key elements of the Enlightenment. It is why I call for better tools of argument and discourse. It is why I try to get researchers to study such mind poisons as self-righteous indignation -- even while I wallow, personally, in a rich cocktail of that brew!

Were I to take this matter a scintilla less seriously, I would have another novel by now.

As is? I am off to DC again in a few weeks, to consult with some unnamed agency, for a pittance. Because I keep hoping that some people will see a bigger picture.

Stefan Jones said...

When you get back from DC, start writing a novel, because in the end the only things that last are stories.

Tim H. said...

Dr. Brin, my bad, I know blindness to facts runs in many directions, I'm not always as fair as possible when I'm making a point. Especially when it looks like folks are being manipulated against their best interests, as in the health care debate, as poor southerners were manipulated to protect the interests of oligarchs who held them in contempt. In a more rational world, people might see political factions as a buffet of ideas, rather than identifying with just one, warts and all. Hope your time in DC goes well.

Stefan Jones said...

"Kris" and "Kaka" are robots. Exterminate!

I think democracy in America has been broken, or all but crippled, by the Conservative lobbyist / media complex.

They sold "us" on a unwarranted, costly war. They convinced tens of millions of Americans that a blatantly nutty conspiracy about the president's place of birth is something to be taken seriously. They convinced a critical mass of citizens and legislators that global warming is a hoax. And they are, right now, crippling chances of much needed health care reform by spreading utterly insane and unfounded rumors about euthanasia.

We're screwed. I see no way out of this. It's a business that will flourish as long as lobbying dollars keep flowing. It's not specific personalities; Rush Limbaugh could be caught on camera raping toddlers to death and another triumphalist blowhard would take his place in a week. Glenn Beck could die injecting steroids in his tear ducts and an up-and-coming demagogue would be found to fill his timeslot.

"The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care." -- Sarah Palin

That's the Republican Party's recent vice presidential candidate. Conservative hoi polloi believe that crap.

It doesn't matter that there are lots of decent conservatives. It doesn't matter that some Republicans offer rebuttals and denials. The voices of sanity and reason are drowned out by the messages of fear and hate, because fear and hate get out the votes and fill campaign war chests.

I'm seriously thinking about dropping the whole productive, charitable citizen thing and becoming a con man. Because people with the mental habits that allow them to watch Fox News are gullible enough to be sold anything.

tacitus2 said...

As you are at least honest, and feel that alternative viewpoints do not matter, I feel silly pointing out a few things.
First, I seriously doubt that tens of millions of Americans believe that Obama's birth certificate is a fake. Maybe tens do. Don't make inflated claims. Now, if you ask a broader question, is Obama keeping things out of the public eye, sure, lots of Americans do believe that.
The whole birth certificate thing is silly. The short form he has allowed to be released is legal and accurate. Of course, there would be more info on the long form. Do you consider it to be in the land of tin foil hats to imagine that the Pres wouldn't want a lousy set of Apgar scores, or a C- in Undergrad American History to get loose? Look in the mirror and ask, if you had that info on G.W. Bush would you think it important and newsworthy?

Personally I consider that kind of stuff to be a distraction.

As it happens, I, a conservative, agree that our health care system is a mess. I would be delighted to see it provide better care and to all citizens. When an honest debate on this actually occurs I will be in the thick of it.

But really, the stuff currently being tossed around like a frisbee at the beach is entirely ga-ga.

The "savings" promised by Big Pharma and the hospitals will never show up. The merits of electronic records are in general not those of cost containment. Most EHRs (and I "speak" 6 and claim fluency in 3) actually increase charges!

Our elected officials owe us honest numbers and we are not getting them. And if an honest appraisal shows something that the majority of Americans can't live with? Darn that democratic process!

There is so much distracting crap being churned out by both sides. Watch the CBO reports, they are as close to honest as anything right now.

Just for fun, I have in mind three or four measures that, if enacted, would significantly reduce the costs of healthcare in America without reducing quality. I will toss 'em out for you, but let's hear your ideas first.


mythusmage said...

David, regarding your comment starting with...

[quote]Um... "Contrary Brin" here to remind you that this phenomenon is not the exclusive domain of conservatives.[/quote]

I pretty much agree with your point. We have a tendency to agree with what our group says, while rejecting what our opposition says. We think our objections to others applies only to the others, never to us.

This is just as true of skeptics---for example---as it is for creationists and birthers. A skeptic comes up with the "it's an ape suit" objection, and so an explanation for the subject of a very short film has been made. Any evidence pointing to another explanation can now be disregarded and ignored.

We don't like things that discomfort us. For some people it's the idea we evolved from a more primitive ancestor. For others it is the notion we share North America with another large ape. Such ideas cannot be investigated because they are automatically beyond the pale. When brought up they are to be automatically denied.

At the same time both groups will insist they are being fair. That they have evidence to back up their claims, never able---willing in some cases---to admit they could be wrong.

Now those who support evolution---oh heck with it, let us take pride in the appelation "Darwinist" and wear the badge proudly---have the advantage of supporting a notion that is support through research and information. Thus we have an advantage over creationists. Cryptozoologists don't have that advantage over the skeptics because cryptozoologists tend to accept some rather troublesome things. The chupacabra and Jersy Devil for example. Or the Yowie of Australia---which apparently started off as a joke, but became taken seriously fairly shortly. The fact the skeptics discriminate against claims gives them the advantage over cryptozoologists.

Anyway, that's my piece. Hope you DC trip goes well.

Update: No blockquotes?

Rob said...

I really hate the "death planning bureaucrat" line; I think it's a bitter lie. I recall hearing that one of the bills wanted to add the preparation of a living will as one of the benefits of Medicare, or add end of life counseling as a benefit or something, but I never got the impression that anyone wanted to shove it down anyone's throat.

It seems hypocritical anyway, coming from a faction so opposed to doctor assisted suicide.

Perhaps I could go on record as someone who thinks living wills and living trusts are a marvelously good idea. Perhaps, in the interest of public health, it could even be a marvelously good idea to require the filing of a living will in order to receive Medicare benefits in the first place...

Stefan Jones said...

Tacitus, you should absolutely tell us your ideas.

I'm not happy with what I've heard of the House of R health plan. Not enough ingenuity, too many compromises.

But the pundits and howlers aren't interested in debating the fine points, or in offering up alternatives. They're displaying fulminating anger toward the notion of change in general, with a healthy helping of paranoia and racism. These are the conservatives who are phrasing the debate. And the GOP's stated reason for opposing health care reform isn't a better alternative, it's to "finish" Obama.

So please forgive me for being utterly disgusted.

tacitus2 said...

Alright then, I will.

Firstly, I visited a website that is organizing folks to be noisy at Town Hall meetings. Their talking points are about equal measures of empty fluff, utter nonsense and important truths that are not being spoken.

If my, Democratic, Rep. actually had the cohones to meet with his constituents over the recess I would likely go, and courteously mention the following:

Realize that the major obstacle is simply atitudinal. We can't provide to all citizens the health care that they have come to expect, because what they expect is and for some time has been unrealistic. We can do better.

1. Malpractice reform. I suppose I lost most of you with those words. But really, most medical errors are systemic errors, a chain of apparently reasonable decisions that go bad. Or sometimes everything is done by the numbers and things still go bad. I have seen stats that suggest 60% of the expense of med mal goes to the lawyers, but that is chump change. Easily 25% of what is ordered in an ER setting, where I am usually, is defensive medicine that adds little or nothing to care. Serious money.

When we establish a system where people who have been injured are compensated in a fair, non adversarial fashion, and where the "evidence based medicine" approach is a sufficient legal defence, we are a long way to controlling costs. Major obstacle? Plaintiffs attorneys are a huge Dem donor source.

2. For roughly 80% of all prescriptions written there are entirely adequate generics. Mandate their use. Oh, not for things like seizure drugs or for genuine innovations. But I can tell you there is no clinical difference, not in this world or the next between generic omeprazole and brand name Nexium. Problem: Big Pharma will trace this posting, hunt me down and dispatch me.

3. EHRs (electronic health records) do not acually save money at present. They are sophisticated systems primarily designed to maximize coding. If the software prompts you to mention that the tongue looked ok and that there is a family history of asthma you can charge a bit more for looking at a mole. It adds nothing to the care, but more "bullet points" make the Medicare software happy. Only a universal EHR, coupled with the above legal reforms, will do anything. If I know a patient had a CT of the head somewhere else two weeks ago, and that it was normal, I won't order another one. Otherwise, heck, its my ass on the line. So the government should just pick the best system out there (my vote is for EPIC), buy it and give it free to all practiciing physicians and health systems. It would pay for itself. Right now each health system, hospital etc has its own, and they do not interact.

4. We have enough health care facilities and personel. Or more or less enough, we are aging. But the distribution is wrong. We need to subsidize some inner city and very rural facilities. Suburbia, well, not so much. And we need to somehow encourage primary care. Maybe the feds should forgive all educational debt for folks completing a Family Practice or General Internal Medicine residency. (Nurse Practitioners and PAs have smaller but important roles too). Right now, General Internal Medicine is a near extinct species.

My specialist colleagues do fine work, but our system is top heavy with them. Of course, some areas of medicine are so specialized that they will always be pricey.

Problem. While the above is true, it must not be said to voters.

Well, I am in day 6 of a stretch where I am working 10 days out of 11, so I am out of gas for now.

Hope the view from under the hood is of some interest.


Stefan Jones said...

Excellent T-2!

I was thinking about the rural problem the other day, after seeing coverage of one of those horrifying charity medical-blitz events. Horrifying because they're necessary. It is disgraceful that Americans should have to resort to lining up outside of a school for volunteers to fix their teeth.

Note again that my current foul feelings aren't toward conservatives but the specific confluence of money-driven lobbyists and a ideology-driven media. They've broken, deliberately, an ecosystem of sorts.

John Rogers sums up my feelings well:

mythusmage said...


And sometimes a generic is the wrong drug to take. The people who manufacture Lipitor point out that there is no generic for Lipitor. There are generics for other antistatins, but none for Lipitor. Your insurance says you have to take something other than lipitor, they are in effect saying your doctor is wrong. They are, in effect, practicing medicine without a license.

Where the web site encouraging trouble making at town hall meetings is concerned; are they? I would like the read their words for myself. Do you have a link.

(No, I will not trust anybody who insists on shielding me from what the opposition has to say.)

David McCabe said...

An interesting bit of history: DejaNews Considered Harmful. As of the early '90s, people didn't expect online conversations to be recorded and archived forever. As a youngster, I have always taken this for granted. (And I really wish somebody had told me not to use my real name, when I was 12.)

David McCabe said...

That link comes from Charles Stross: his blog is one of the Web's most interesting, including the commentary!

Tacitus2 said...


It is generally felt that statins exercize a class effect. You will have the same degree of cardiac protection from a generic lovastatin as from brand name Lipitor (an excellent drug btw).

Real clinical studies pitting them against each other are very seldom done. Who would sponsor such a trial? The low budget generic manufacturers don't have the money. The makers of Lipitor don't have the motivation.

My medical colleagues, sad to say, are fairly easily influenced by trinkets, glossy ads and cute sales reps.

Having said this, I do find occasional patients who tolerate one of the statins better than the others.

The web site in question was not enouraging rudeness or disruption, but certainly advocated vigorous exercize of the First Amendment. I mentioned it only because it had a talking points list.

I am on shift now and have limited computer access, so can't dig it up just now.

from the trenches


Robert said...

If I were to try and create a simpler version of "Public Health Insurance" what I would do is this: have the government buy out blocks of insurance from several insurance providers, much like corporations do, and with the same exact discounts those corporations get for bulk transactions. Then offer this insurance to small businesses who cannot otherwise afford health insurance to its employees. The employees now can get cheaper health insurance through their workplace, the small businesses aren't being screwed by higher premiums, and the Republicans can't scream bloody murder because the government is going into the insurance business.

As an added benefit, it torpedoes the Republican line of "hurting small business" because it's specifically meant to help small business.

(My other thought is to have the government provide health insurance to pregnant mothers and for all children until the first day of their 19th birthday. Remove this aspect of insurance from private insurers entirely; everyone evenly pays for a child's insurance, and the Republicans once again are torpedoed in attempts to nix it because "you seriously are telling me you are going to kill health insurance for babies and children?" would cause even the most ruthless of Republicans to backpedal. ^^)

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Reviews

Tim H. said...

Just thinking that one of the factors driving health care expense is the investment community's striving for maximum shareholder return. Now the country's alarmed at their overreaching and may succeed in trimming some of the expense, it is as if the downsizing and "rightsizing" that was inflicted on the nation has become part of our culture and it may only be a matter of time before the investment community finds itself under much more scrutiny over it's compensation, and it would be kind of refreshing to see them caught in their own gears.

tacitus2 said...

Tim H.
With respect, what is driving health care costs in this country is insatiable desire on the part of the "consumer". Pair this with a payor system where a large percentage of the population never really sees the bills. And an avaricious business community will be more than happy to accomodate them.
Unrealistic expectations, slick marketing, faulty regulation, but mostly a complete dissociation between what things cost and what people pay.

Stefan Jones said...

Susan Neilsen is a columnist in the local paper. Normally she fills the role of the dutiful conservative parrot, repeating stuff other pundits have already said, or lapdog of business interest. For example, her essay attacking a requirement that fast food places list calorie counts suggested that this took all the fun out of eating.

But today's column is great: A sensible and informed plea for people to make living wills.

Why this surprised me: It is a provision in the health care bill to reimburse doctors for end of life care counseling that somehow morphed into the talk radio slander about euthanasia, and Sarah Palin's deranged rant about "Obama's death panels".

tacitus2 said...


Having end of life discussions with patients is only practicing good medicine and trying to spare them from some of the indignities of end of life issues. For God's sake, don't defibrillate a terminal cancer patient only to bring them back and suffer some more.
This principle is well established already, if not always adhered to. It seems to me more likely to be filler, just something to make the reams of health care legislation thicker, than a nefarious plot. But heck, a critical eye on our rulers is not all bad. Why was this provision put in there, its not as if it really was needed?
BTW I agree with you on the ideologically tainted media.
Of course, we disagree on the nature of the infecting ideology. Bad reportage all around, perhaps we are in accord there!


Tim H. said...

T2, under my plan the copay for a checkup is the whole thing, I understand others have a less expensive deal, but I don't find myself disassociated from the cost. I see your statement as correct, but limited, other western cultures have cut their medical expenses, while achieving some better stats than we manage here, with more health care in the hands of publicly owned corporations. That doesn't mean there aren't other factors, but it makes the investment community a reasonable suspect.

Duncan Cairncross said...

I am an engineer not a medic but when I was living in America the time I was the most "upset" by the US system was when the doctor decided my son needed an operation.
I am 99% sure that he did need the operation but I would have preferred that making that decision did not put money directly into the doctors pocket.
I believe that his doctor was excellent and was not motivated by that sum of money but I do not believe in adding temptation unnecessarily!

tintinaus said...


Bob Cringely wrote a piece on his blog about malpractice insurance where he argues for a change in the way practice insurance is handled.

(Mal)practice Makes Perfect

Travc said...

T2, good points on heathcare. The current healthcare reform bills being worked on don't solve most of those problems, at least not directly. Most Dems have already (before the debate really even started) 'compromised' to the point of arguing in favor of reforms which create mechanisms where the most important real reforms may just possibly be implemented eventually. They went from arguing for a better system to a arguing for changes to the current system which might allow it to become better. Not a very smart move IMO.

The "public option" combined with Medicare might make an institution powerful enough to actually push many of the reforms you mentioned. The idea of an expert board to review and revise medicare benefits based on effectiveness should excite you (in a good way). Who would pay for a comparative analysis of statins? Well, they (perhaps through the NIH) would have good reason to do such a study.

What is often missed by honest conservative critiques (as few and far between as they are) about 'socialized' healthcare reforms is that the reforms are less about 'fixes' as creating a system where fixes are actually possible. Public heathcare systems aren't perfect by any means, but they are more responsive and adaptable to the needs of patients. It sounds counter-intuitive since we've had generations of 'government=bad' indoctrination, but sometimes the government is by far the least bad way to go.

You are right about people having unrealistic expectations of healthcare. Insurance shielding people from actually realizing the costs directly is a huge factor... But the private healtchare industry should get a lot of the blame, since 'selling' those expectations is critical to their business.

Even more fundamentally, it isn't moral to not shield people from the costs of healthcare though... The Hippocratic Oath and common decency says as much. We don't have unlimited resources, so we have to allocate them somehow, and price isn't the right way in the case of healthcare.

Personally, I'm for real universal healthcare. Simpler, more efficient, and much easier to fix/adapt as reality changes than the insurance based schemes. However, an insurance based scheme with a government run player is a hell of a lot better than pure corporate control of the system. At worst, the government plan will be captured by corporate interests and we aren't really any better off... but potentially the government plan may reflect the interests of the public and come to dominate (which really means being popular with the public... when did that become a bad thing? That used to be called "succeed".)

As for competition... we don't need competition (in the economic sense) between healthcare providers. For suppliers (pharma, equipment, ect), competition is a very good thing, but actual providers should not be profit seeking entities in the first place (Hippocratic Oath again). There is competition between non-profit seeking entities still; prestige, efficiency (doing more with the same resources), popularity (more 'happy customers' and supporters), and more are all forces acting on non-profit (even government run) providers. Profit maximization is sometimes, but not always aligned with those... in the case of healthcare, too often it is a cross purpose.

Travc said...

Re: political polarization.

I think people are looking too hard at some underlying basis for political camps. There are political schools of thought with some real philosophical basis, but those don't dominate the dynamics of parties and political arguments. They are more like weak attractors the camps will tend to form in the neighborhood of.

The dynamics of party/camp/tribe formation is an emergent property of group dynamics... it has very little (probably no) causal basis with any underlying political/philosophical landscape. Self-organization is an oft-abused but applicable term here.

Sure, there are correlations with political proclivities and the dynamics of how groups organize themselves. A dogmatic group will tend to be conservative, because authoritarians tend to be conservative. Liberals will tend to be found in less cohesive groups with less ability to marshal power.

The current sad state of politics in the US is really all about the rise of authoritarians (successful authoritarian leaders to be precise). Some of this can be explained with pop-psychology and the 60s, but I think changes in media technology leading to fragmentation is the dominant cause. The authoritarian sheep have always been there, but televangelists, talk-radio gasbags, and FOX News 'personalities' are much more successful shepherds now. Some (probably most) of these authoritarian leaders are not driven by a political (or religious) philosophy so much as the philosophy they espouse is the one most comfortable for the most sheep. Doubtless, some are self-deluded and buy their own preaching.

Not to be underestimated are the 'meta' authoritarian leaders. Ailes, Norquist, and a host of others who are mostly behind the scenes. The personality/psychology of these people is pretty much a black box... there aren't very many of them and they aren't exactly cooperative. It seems most plausible that they represent the 'upper tail' of the authoritarian leader bell-curve, the most ruthless, amoral, and self-centered of the bunch... also the most successful. They do seem to have a notable lack of need for direct adulation, which differentiates them from many other leaders. L Ron Hubbard was probably one of their clan.

Anyways, instead of droning on more, I'll just get back to the point. Political polarization has a lot less to do with actual political philosophy than people seem to be assuming. It is dominated by the dynamics of a self-organizing systems (which it is) and hinges much more on how groups are formed and maintain themselves than what their philosophy is.

David Smelser said...

Re:Healthcare reforms.

I like Denninger's suggestions:

1. If you sell "insurance" to anyone in a given state, you must accept all persons in that state on the same terms and at the same price. If an insurer has a "we accept anyone at the same price" policy for a business, you must be able to buy into their plan for the same amount of money that the employer is charged on a per-person basis.

2. All "insurance" companies must offer a true insurance policy covering only unlikely-but-catastrophic events on the same terms as their "full service" policies.

3. All health providers must publish a price list and may not bill or accept payment at anything other than that price; doing so becomes a violation of Robinson-Patman and exposes the provider to civil suit for treble damages. This instantly stops the practice of billing the uninsured or privately insured at a higher price than Medicare, for example - a practice that is rampant, particularly among hospitals.

4. No event caused by the provision of your treatment may be billed to you. Period.

5. If you show up without insurance or ability to pay with a life-threatening condition, you will be treated, but the hospital cannot cost-shift the bill - it instead bills The Federal Government.

Read more at:

David Smelser said...

Travc, when you wrote: "As for competition... we don't need competition (in the economic sense) between healthcare providers."

What do you say about the trend in health care products that aren't covered by insurance -- such as lasik eye surgery? It seems that lasik quality has increased and the price decreased. Isn't this a different trend from insurance covered procedures.

I suspect that transparency in cost and transparency in effectiveness plays a role here.

Stefan Jones said...

Well, the conservative media / lobbyist machine has apparently decided that the public really is stupid enough to believe the "Obama health care will kill grandma" meme and decided to run with it.

They're producing ads based on the theme, and the pundit gallery is echoing the theme.

Open question: Are they stupid enough to believe this themselves? Evidence for this possibility: From an Investor's Business Daily editorial:

QUOTEPeople such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn't have a chance in the U.K., where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless.UNQUOTE

Idiots. Contemptible idiots.

Tim H. said...

Just read an example of the stories the anti-reformers are telling each other here:
Seems to be more about how untidy it will be to define the line between health care and death extension than public vs private financing of health care, not the first time I've encountered someone who goes straight to the nuclear option in a debate.
A more legitimate question would sound like "Could congress and the Obama administration make a bad situation worse?".

Travc said...

@David Smelser...

Denninger seems to have looked at Japan's healthcare system. It is managed by direct price controls on private providers. You literally have a government empaneled board publishing a price list for all medical treatments/procedures.

The Frontline episode Sick Around the World looks at several different healthcare systems (including Japan) and really should be mandatory viewing.

Good point about lasik. Many elective treatments like that do actually work pretty well with a traditional free market. There is a bit of an issue (sometimes major) with asymmetric information (as you note), but not too severe in most cases that a reasonable consumer can't educate themselves on the risks and benefits. Even under a good universal healthcare system, there is a viable niche for private elective procedures.

That said, the reasoning doesn't apply to most healthcare. If it is unreasonable to answer the question "how much money is the procedure/medicine worth to you", it is not something for market based allocation.

Travc said...

Stephan, wonderful catch on the quote about Hawking... Truly they are morons.

@Tim H: A more legitimate question would sound like "Could congress and the Obama administration make a bad situation worse?".

Of course, though given the current state of things, it is pretty unlikely. It really couldn't be much worse given the wealth, professionals, and technology in the US. Even a half-decent system should be producing amazing outcomes here.

A more relevant question to my mind: Without major reforms including government involvement (a minimum the "public plan"), is the current system capable of becoming significantly better? I really don't think so.

tacitus2 said...

Ummm....have any of you guys actually, you know, read the draft of the House bill? Not that I want to divert you from the approved narrative that your political opponants are nazis and STOOOOPID.

We, and our children will be living with the final result of whatever comes out of this process.

Having a full time plus job I have only found a few spare moments, but I have made it through the first 50 pages of thing thing.

Heck, already I am ahead of most Congresspeople!


Tim H. said...

Tacitus2, I find the native tongue of congress critters impenetrable, so you're ahead of me. And it has occurred to me that whatever bill health care bill comes out of congress may simultaneously comply with Murphy's and Sturgeon's law. Congress seems to be trying to get the health care industry to accept a bottom to the trough, instead of the public option the voters expected, industry remains insatiable, the mosquito that won't pull out. Given all that, the current system has become a competitive disadvantage, an excuse for outsourcing and a guarantee of national decline, an attempt at change is a necessity, though an "F↑!" is always a possibility.

Anonymous said...

Ummm, T2, have you actually, you know, looked into this nazi thing. Not that I want to divert you from your ditto-head narrative, but, crazy people at the town halls are equating health care reform with nazism and fascism, not the other way around. You can look it up.


OtherDave said...

Off topic: Ages ago David Brin wrote about fiddling with BASIC PEEK() and POKE() on an old computer and the desire for sharing that with his son, while many commenters wrote that he should use a modern language or a emulator. I was remembered this discussion while reading "I am a strange loop" by Douglas Hofstadter

One important aspect that PEEK() and POKE() illustrate is a deep concept of a general purpose Turing machine, while an emulator or abstracted high level programming language hides it. Using a program to peek and poke at its own innards illustrates the Turing machine concept well.

Stefan Jones said...

Palu, you're being unfair to Tacitus2.

His comments here suggest that he's NOT in the dittohead contingent.

He also actually works in the health care profession.

He's also actually reading the bill, as opposed to taking the word from someone on Fox News for what it contains.

What more can you ask?

Anonymous said...

Is it unfair? I think it was well deserved. My comment was not about him being in the health care industry or that he is reading the bill.

My sarcastic mimicry was completely about him passing on blatant misinformation. His side is the side calling people nazis. I am just sick and tired of the constant stream of misinformation from his side.

What more can I ask, well, to stop the misinformation at least.

I can respect his opinions even if I don't agree with them.


Tony Fisk said...

Since the US health system seems to be something uniquely American (and long may it stay that way!) I'm keeping a low profile. Still, I thought calling anyone a nazi in a 'debate' was an admission of defeat. If so, we seem to have a lose-lose scenario here.

Palu is just being snippy, by picking up on a single line. T2 is actually looking at the source material, which usually puts one at an advantage in a debate.

Or maybe not. British National Health would leave Hawking out to die?? No doubt, the white Australia policy involved eating black babies.

Stefan is right in saying that disputation doesn't work on such people as the 'baggers, and I don't think it ever did. What it *does* do is give each side a place to market their side of the story, and let the casual onlooker make up their own mind.

Of course, if the entire population is already polarised, then debate is futile and, as a folk song put it, it's on.

However, what may be happening is this: the sensible fruit are departing from the conservative mix and so the remainder is getting nuttier.

Anyway, while on the topic of collisions, cultural and otherwise, astronomers have detected signs of the real thing in a planetary system 100 light years away. Sounds like a good spot to get away from all this?

knornso: a visionary who is resigned to being ignored ('knornso deaf as will not hear')

TwinBeam said...

David Smelser:
"1. If you sell "insurance" to anyone in a given state, you must accept all persons in that state on the same terms and at the same price."

Really? The same price? For smokers/non-smokers? Obese/thin? (What if it's genetic? What if they can't exercise? What if they're secretly a bulimic? How about anorexics - are they choosing to under-eat?) Drug-abusers/teetotalers? Prostitutes/school-teachers?

I suppose you may then say "well, the terms and rates would be the same within a risk group - higher rates for those who chose a dangerous lifestyle".

But then what about police officers, firemen, doctors and nurses, etc? What about Rich/Poor - do you think you can make it cheap enough for someone living on $10/hour?

"4. No event caused by the provision of your treatment may be billed to you."

That's a good way to see the prices of risky but valuable treatments skyrocket OR disappear from the market.

"5. If you show up without insurance or ability to pay with a life-threatening condition, you will be treated, but the hospital cannot cost-shift the bill - it instead bills The Federal Government."

Cool! I guess I don't need to pay for insurance after all! Or are you going to require everyone to have insurance, and fine anyone who doesn't?

tacitus2 said...

As you appear to be new to the discussion I will cut you some slack. But if our esteemed host were not on a road trip he might remind you that uncritical partisanship gets stern scoldings in this saloon.
Still, I answer all questions asked of me in even remotely acceptable tone.
Have I actually looked into this "nazi thing". Yes.
Here is a quote from the third highest elected official in the land (at least by Presidential succession)
"They're carrying swastikas and symbols like that to a town meeting on healthcare".
N.Pelosi, 5 August, 2009.

What she failed to mention was that the signs in question featured a swastika with a red line through them, the universal symbol of disapproval.

(There is some speculation that she did not know this, as her research looks to have been cribbed from the eminently fairminded Kos site!)

Anyway, the general tone of the protest was not that healthcare reform was evil, but that the tactics being used by the Administration and their allies were undemocratic.

Here you can find legitmate divergence of opinion. Both sides are marshalling supporters. Both sides are behaving rudely. But those opposing the current health care reforms see meetings being stacked with SEIU members in blue T shirts (so, not brown shirts I guess), special doors only being open for Obama supporters, etc. To date the only violence has been a shoving match in St.Louis where some SEIU members got arrested for roughing up a (black) guy trying to hand out flags after a rally. And in the video I saw, it almost looks like he fell off a curb.

(Kudos to Brin btw, he forsaw the deployment of mass videocams in this way before anybody!).

Certainly the Democrats are not making a sincere effort to gauge the mood of the country in this regard. I mentioned that my Rep. (D) is holding no public meetings I could find, and in fact, around WI there are very few D pols doing so. Republicans seem less shy.

As a foot note there was a swastika painted on the office sign of a Georgia (black) congressman last night. Perpetrators unknown. There is precendence for red neck crackers doing this sort of thing. And there is also Tawana Brawley.

I am still looking and thinking on this matter. So far it is not clear if this is a sea change or not. But from where I sit it does not look like a highly orchestrated thing so much as an untidy, spontaneous uprising. Flyers in a small town coffee shop kind of organizing.

And to be clear, I am a supporter of health care reform. I just absolutely insist that the numbers be honest. So far, not even close. Dang, the media allies of the WH are even having a hard time keeping straight faces.

Respectfully yours.

Tacitus 2

Travc said...

T2, many if not most of the congresscritters have a staff who divide and conquer on analyzing big bills. You know, actually doing the sensible thing instead of (or in addition to) the principle just sitting down and reading it like a book... which doesn't work very well comprehension wise.

The "have you read the bill" thing is mostly a stupid 'gotcha'. More relevant would be: "Have you analyzed the bill, and who else's staff and outside sources are you trusting?"

One more time with feeling... the important current reforms being proposed are not so much about creating a good healthcare system in one swoop of the pen. What they are about is creating a system which isn't pathologically bad and can become better over time.

There are plenty of specific 'fixes' in there to placate specific constituencies. There is also a horrid mess of 'compromises' to placate powerful lobbies interested in preserving the system. These make the bill long, complicated, and hard to sell to the general public. They are also, sadly, necessary for getting the bills out of committee in the current mess of a political system.

Stepping back a bit... think for a moment about the Constitution. How may specifics are in there? Not many... and the amendments (past the bill of rights) are mostly about changing those few specifics. The important part is the adaptable system it creates, not the specifics.

Off topic... on a computer language to learn:

For diving into the deep end, Haskel is probably the way to go. It is of the new class of truly better languages.

However, I'd suggest actually learning multiple languages simultaneously for any youngster (with the time to actually explore instead of just demands to get it done.) A scripting language like python, a high level programming lang like Haskel, and a legacy lang like C/C++. A moderately large/complicated project can easily use all those at once.

All this is a bit of cart before the horse. The problems to explore/solve are really the hard part. Kids are good at generating ideas though, so take one of those and encourage/help them solve it using a computer and whatever language you want.

Tony Fisk said...

David's original complaint on languages in modern computers was that there was no opportunity for kids to really get under the covers of a computer.

I do have fond memories of tweaking the address of the font definitions on my ZX Spectrum, or poking data straight into the display buffer (the display was 256x192 pixel B/W resolution with an additional 32x24 colour resolution. This meant that there were 32 bytes used for each line of screen. The standard OS displayed 32 characters per line, but it was possible to write an assembler program to type 64 characters per line.)

Languages, in my experience, are all pretty similar in syntax. Over time, they have come to handle the more mundane and time consuming tasks (collections of data, data typing, dynamic memory handling) as I commented on a while ago (and, on the usual justification for touting one language or another: 'after all, what I'm using must be the best: I'm using it!!')

Haskell I haven't tried yet. I gather the interest lies in its ability to handle multi-threading; a feature that comes in handy with multi-core processors.

It's no doubt something that will come in handly over time. Meanwhile, you can deal with the locking issues of multi-threading quite handily in much the same way as a shared pointer in C++. I refer to it as a resource pattern.

tacitus2 said...


The Constitution is several orders of magnitude better as reading material!

The current House draft will not be signed into law. Something rather like it might have been if the hasty "before the recess" timetable had been adhered to. I think it is not "gotcha" to review it and ask questions, even complain about parts. This seems a citizen's legitmate duty. I doubt you would take such a trusting lamb approach to, say, the Patriot Act. And the possibility that Marion the Librarian would rat you out to Dick Cheney was much less plausible than the concerns being raised about how we pay for this glittering new Health Care system.

There is in much of the Conservative movement an element of "sauce for the gander". When citizens are chided for yelling at public meetings we wonder where was the outrage at disruption of the Republican National Convention last year? How many of you applauded the mope who tossed a shoe at W?
There is so much irony to be surveyed...a Texas Congressman who now requires photo IDs to attend his public meetings, yet voted against needing same to vote!
My great fear, as I have oft mentioned, is that the country is becoming ungovernable. Do the polarized sides still know how to cooperate in the national interest? That's for another post, need to hit the road for another day in the health care trenches.


Stefan Jones said...

Admit it, T2:

While there are no doubt Republicans with genuine concerns over specifics of the health care bill, who are willing to engage in constructive dialog to fix an unsustainable system . . .

And I have no doubt that you are one of these conservatives . . .

There is no denying that bile and outrage peddled by Fox News is far, far more obnoxious and damaging to the Republic than any amount of the tepid drums-and-puppets protests of the Bush era.

For populist conservative activists, over-the-top anger and intolerance have become the norm. Nutjob conspiracy theories, Obama-as-Hitler posters, "take back our country," defeat of the bill, destroying the president's effectiveness . . . THAT is the message.

Not "let's be patient and do this in an effective and sustainable way."

And the Republican leadership has shown no sign that they disagree.

William_Shatner said...


Wouldn't you agree, that the principle CAUSE of malpractice -- the systemic errors and DEFENSIVE -- but covering procedures that are not there to improve care would go away if we hand Universal/Single Payer health care with insurance companies out of the picture?

Where torte reform has limited claims, it's had an average effect of 2% on prices -- I'm pretty sure that's not the angle you are arguing -- but it's pointing out that the DEFENSIVENESS of doctors and hospitals are due to costs. Remove the costs -- you remove the system. The reason patients have to go after malpractice aggressively, even if there wasn't a bad procedure -- is they can't afford the procedure in the first place -- much less a do-over.

>> I'm of the mind that I'd actually prefer if Republicans stop the Health Care reform of Obama. I don't know who he is trying to compromise with. The Dems act like they didn't win a landslide. Why compromise BEFORE you debate, and take Single Payer off the table? Because Lobbyists spent their money well.

Likely, this bill is too little, too late, and it just wrings out a few more years of pathetic from a failing system. It's the same reason I was against the TARP bailouts -- it's patching up a system that benefits the Robber Barons.

We will eke out the next few years, with everyone pretending they can keep the status quo of corruption going.

>> I predict soon, that idiots are going to cause some damage. That Same Old Corruption is going to break the Camel's back.

I just can't stand the pathetic offerings of the Democrats -- as if the Conservatives had a point about economics, or that Globalism "wasn't all that bad."

Better it fail and then let the Republicans hang with every hiccup from the failing status quo. Hopefully we can replace some incumbent Dems -- but then again, have we gotten rid of electronic voting yet? If not, then even THAT will be pointless.

Stefan Jones said...

Well, that's it.

It's not just reliable nutjob Sarah Palin, and eternal putz Newt Gingrich.

Standing Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley and GOP chair Michael Steele are onboard with the Grandma Must Die meme.

Mainstream Republicans, running with a demonstrably false scare tactic.

Shameless. Utterly shameless. Cynical political monkeywrenching.

The GOP leadership is a bunch of worthless, pandering pols.

'erlacite': Mineral formed by impact of coprolitic meteors on ice planets.

tacitus2 said...

A lively discussion. Thank you gentlemen, ladies and others of annonymous internet identity. I shall have to do a two parter to keep my thoughts from tangling on two topics.

Stefan. Regards Fox I must defer to you. I never watch it. I can't recommend its shoddy reportage for either Conservatives to use as an information source or for progressives to try and understand their fellow citizens. I really should endure it for my edification. I can actually choke down light exposure to Kos after all.
It got me to thinking a bit. Maybe Conservatives and Progressives view all media differently? It is axiomatic among my brethern that the media is often fibbing...maybe there is no blind acceptance of Fox and Rush. I certainly look at a lot of news items and infer base motives. Perhaps it is a general effect. otoh, maybe if you are of a mind to believe what you see and hear less critically, you imagine that Fox actually is something other than a tawdry dog and pony show. What, the mouthpiece of the
GOP? Yeah, right.

Regards the news, I see numerous things tossed out that I consider frivolous distractions, things to keep our eyes off the ball. Dick
Cheney involved in Fed Attny firings, reports of "concerns" about right wing militias. More noise about prosecutions of former Bush officials, Sarah Palin divorce rumors.
Not that any of these are off limits topics, but ideally there should be a concerted public debate on the issues of the day rather than a gnawing on old bones as a distraction.
Just some thoughts.

Oh, and Conservative bloggers, who actually are the best investigative reporters around these days, are finding evidence that the Obama Hitler posters are being copied off the Larouchie web sites, and in some instances being waved by folks later seen handing out flyers for their Democratic congressperson! Tawana Brawley lives?


tacitus2 said...

You raise some interesting questions. In Great Britain there is a single party payer system and little malpractice legal action. I believe there is occasional criminal action against drunk and inept practitioners. How would the Trial Lawyers, easily among the most staunch Dems, like that scenario?
Malpractice suits generally result from a convergence of bad decision(s), poor documentation, bad outcome, and a poor doctor patient relationship. When all converge you are in big trouble.
Eliminating malpractice suits in theory could reduce defensive testing, which dwarfs the actual cost of malpractice insurance. But there would still be matters of pride. Physicians are very sensitive to any accusation of imperfection, or to patient complaints that wants were unmet.
Really, what patients and their families demand is a major driver of the system costs.
Like you I would like to see a Universal system. In this I differ from most Conservatives.
But we need an honest evaluation of what it costs and what it does. Not seeing that yet.
"Trust us", say the Democrats. No thanks, say I.


Robert said...

And once again, I have to say that perhaps the most effective way of starting the ball rolling on universal health care that the Republicans could not nix would be to offer universal health care for all children until they reach 19 years of age. It does not matter how rich the parents are, or how poor. The government takes over for any and all existing policies.

This means that private health care is either for one person or for a person and their spouse. This saves money for families and it reduces the cost for health insurance companies as well as they don't have to worry about children anymore.

Best yet, 18 years down the road, we'll have a generation of people who were under a universal health care system all their lives and who won't freak at the thought of a single payer system. ^^

Rob H.

TwinBeam said...

The healthcare bill is just too big and incomprehensible for most people - of course they are easily led to anger and suspicion.

Congress needs to go back to work, and pick the "top ten" urgent issues that they can actually do something about. Then work out short, comprehensible bills for maximum effect with minimum cost. One problem and solution per bill. Publish them for people to review and consider and comment on - no rush to vote. It won't eliminate all contention - but it should eliminate most of the fear.

Instead of starting on the "socialized medicine" features, start with problems that affect the majority of people who are being asked to pay for the rest - maybe they'll respond more positively to paying more, if they've already seen other legislation passed that is going to save them money.

Bob Cringely's idea for fixing malpractice insurance would be a good starting place. A single specific, obvious problem. An easy to understand solution. Benefits are easy to understand - and it doesn't hurt that one of those benefits is "anti-blood-sucking-lawyer-profiteering" - always a popular theme. A winner, IMO.

Fixing the pre-existing conditions issue should be right up there. The burden should fall on the insurance company that was covering someone at the time the condition arose, so they have an incentive to keep that person with them and paying premiums. Leave non-covered conditions to a separate bill - again, trying to solve all problems in one bill will likely end up solving nothing well.

High prices on new drugs - maybe the government should provide "innovation awards" - paid in direct proportion to the number of prescriptions of a new drug for its first few years. That way, drug companies have an incentive to drop the price, to maximize prescriptions. Pay for this with a surcharge on all drugs sold - we all benefit from medical innovation.

Fixing the emergency room mess would be another top target - emergency rooms should simply be required to charge "full-price, insurance or cash up front" for non-emergency treatment. This one throws bone to the crowd who believe illegal immigrants (1/5th of the 45M uninsured) are the source of all problems.

Immediately follow that by a bill that will allow anyone to sign up for a program that would assure them access to basic medical services at income-appropriate fees. Non-citizens could sign up - ensuring they have access to treatment - but would be placed at the highest fee category - essentially paying "typical costs". (Yeah, I know, your heart bleeds - but it's not going to pass otherwise.) Doctors would be assigned patients from the pool, just as lawyers may be assigned pro bono cases by judges, with all practicing doctors in an area getting about the same number and the same "co-pay" income from pool patients. It would be tacitly expected that they will shift excess costs to other patients, as is already common practice - socializing costs without taxes, to end-run the "socialism" attack.

Chronic and catastrophic care would be dealt with separately - again, keep it simple, solve one problem at a time. With the above and other one-at-a-time healthcare solution bills in place, maybe we could tackle this difficult and expensive issue with appropriate humanity and rationality.

Travc said...

You missed my point about "reading the bill". Personally reading the entire bill is a horrible way for most people (including congresscritter) to actually understand it. Instead, they need to actually analyze and understand it, which is typically (and effectively) accomplished by dividing up the task among trusted delegates.

When a congresscritter gets asked "have you read the bill" and the "not personally" soundbite is played back, that is a gotcha. What they (and we) need to do is synthesize analysis of the bill. (Actually, proposals for provisions in the bill at this point.) Many if not most of the people actually working on it in congress have been doing that carefully. "Have you read it" keeps the more important questions about what sources are being trusted and what the actual analysis says from being asked.

Sadly lacking on the proponent side is publicly accessible analysis. There are some technical reports available, but informative press releases and summaries are generally missing. The right wing welfare system ('think tanks') have generated mountains of material, some of it gloriously fact free. Of course the media is not covering anything not spoon-fed them.

There is one big exception... Henry Waxman (his staff really) has put together a great (if too dense IMO) site on the bill out of the Energy and Commerce Committee.
They really need to write more editorials and press releases from this material.

Twinbeam... you are in a nice sounding fantasy land regarding a series of simple reform bills. The core problem is much more fundamental, and simply addressing individual symptoms won't do much good at all. ...Why does a line from Rocky Horror keep popping into my brain ;)

The (non-blue dog) Dems made a big mistake by taking the simplest and most effective proposal off the table before the debate even started. Universal single-payer is a lot easier to argue for than the patches to the current system plus a hodge-podge of narrow 'fixes' being offered. It also created the disparity in 'energized' opponents to proponents we are now seeing. Reform proponents are rightly not terribly excited by 'better than nothing' reforms, while the opponents are dominated by a carefully cultivated crop of delusional folks railing against specters.

Travc said...

I'll provide the link to the Committee on Energy and Commerce healthcare reform bill page again... it is worth taking a good look at.
America's Affordable Health Choices Act

The second item is a 4 page summary
and a good place to start.

Funny thing, click on the "Minority" tab at the top right...
The second item in their list is "E&C Democrats Pass Government-Run Health Care". Compare that with what the bill actually does.

It is also notable that the Republicans site basically just posts a bunch of news clips and press releases, many if not most about the politics and not policy. Illustrates their focus quite well.

Robert said...

Taking a small break from politics and health insurance, I've a question for Dr. Brin. In his short story Tank Farm he talks about using electrical charges to push a space station into a higher orbit. My question is this: would it be possible to do this with the ISS, and what would be needed to bring this about?

One of the costs of the ISS is fuel to adjust the ISS's orbit. It seems to me that the principles used in Tank Farm could easily adjust the ISS orbit higher or lower as needed to dodge debris and thus significantly reduce the costs needed to run the ISS. The only question is: how?

Rob H.

David Smelser said...

I wrote:
"1. If you sell "insurance" to anyone in a given state, you must accept all persons in that state on the same terms and at the same price."

Twinbeam replied:
Really? The same price?

To which I reply:
YES. I see no reason when I buy insurance, that it should cost different amounts whether I purchase it directly from insurance company as an individual, purchase by my small business employer, or purchased by my large business employer. The same company is providing the same benefits to the same individual who is going to the same doctors and has the same medical risks.

I wrote:
"4. No event caused by the provision of your treatment may be billed to you."

TB Replied: That's a good way to see the prices of risky but valuable treatments skyrocket OR disappear from the market.

I reply: I guess you didn't read the full article I link ( Here is the relevant text:

"No event caused by the provision of your treatment may be billed to you. Period. Specifically, MRSA infections and similar contracted in a hospital cannot result in billing of that treatment to the consumer. If you call someone to fix your roof and they break a picture window, they have to eat it - they can't bill you for the roof and the window which they broke! The best incentive for better-quality care, particularly when it comes to controlling in-hospital cross-infection rates, is to make it ruinously expensive for hospitals to fail to prevent these adverse events. Prohibiting by federal law the billing of any amount for a condition caused by the provider of health care (or a health facility) puts in place a very strong free-market disincentive for lax infection and process control."

And here is the complete text for point #5:
"If you show up without insurance or ability to pay with a life-threatening condition, you will be treated, but the hospital cannot cost-shift the bill - it instead bills The Federal Government. We have created an expectation that if you show up needing emergency treatment you will get it, irrespective of ability to pay. This creates a monstrous problem for hospitals and results in the $30 aspirin, among other outrageous distortions. The solution is to have The Federal Government receive all uninsured and unpaid bills, with the debt being immediately paid by the government. Said debt then becomes a collection item against the citizen - a debt to the Treasury, administered by the Internal Revenue Service. If you cannot pay cash, that's fine - the IRS will be happy to take payments (at interest.) If you're an illegal alien the Federal Government will be mandated (by statute) to collect from the other nation, and if they refuse to pay, to deduct any such amount from foreign aid of any type and source on a dollar-for-dollar basis."

TwinBeam said...


I guess that's what I get for trying to propose a transparent, moderate approach that won't end up tearing the country apart...

Talk about living in a dream land! Single payer sounds simple. It's a bit like explaining all natural phenomenon by saying "God makes it work that way." Very simple - except it simply ignores the vast complexity that has to go on behind the scenes.

Just the transition to single payer would create a vast mess, as we throw out hundreds of existing alternatives, and replace them with a new one that is just getting up to speed, with all the chaos any new enterprise entails.

And once it does get going, you really haven't solved any problem except "Some can't afford health care". You haven't solved "who pays, how much?", "how much is spent on whom?" and "who doesn't get treatment they want or think they need?", and "how do we deal with fraud or incompetence?" and on and on.

I know - let's let God provide our health care! That'll solve everything! Like the government, He's omniscient and omnipotent and perfectly moral - and since He owns the universe, He won't even have to charge taxes like the government does!

TwinBeam said...

@David Smelser - No, I didn't even notice the URL. You should learn to use:



<a href=""> Denninger </a>


After reading that, while I can agree with the idea of breaking insurance free from employers, I have to say that neither you nor the article addressed the issue I raised - namely that some people are going to cost more than others, and some of that is going to be due to bad choices.

Employee health insurance usually just turns a blind eye to that, and the employees don't care because they think the employer is paying for it - they never see the increased cost come out of their paycheck.

Look in on any debate about obese people flying and whether they should have to pay for two seats - it turns ugly FAST, focusing on the idea that the over-weight are immoral and weak and deserve to pay more than the moral, strong-willed thin.

The point isn't whether that is true or false, but that people are going to object to paying for those they feel are willfully behaving in a way that costs others money - and even worse, people often disagree about what is willful risky behavior (homosexuals and HIV/AIDS?).

The same will apply to health insurance, except it will apply to a lot more conditions.

A similar problem applies to point 4. If you go to the hospital, have some surgery, then get pneumonia - is that because of the surgery, or because your immune system was weakened by a lifetime of doing drugs? If you have diabetes and end up having a toe amputuated, but then gangrene results in you losing the whole foot - is that due to genetics, poor lifestyle choices, or the surgical removal of your toe?

Travc said...

@Twinbeam regarding a series of 'simple' discrete reforms/fixes...

There are different levels of complexity at work here. Yeah, single payer involves complicated work. It is a form of price control/fixing after all. However, the system is conceptually simple and the mechanisms for adaptation are relatively direct and transparent. The complexity is restricted primarily to a single domain: the services covered and reimbursement rates for those services.

The current system is far more complicated due to the interactions of all the parts. The effects of a 'simple' rule change will often have difficult (or impossible) to predict effects all over the place.

Aren't conservatives supposed to be wary of the law of unintended consequences? Single payer is a big change (with admittedly big disruptions for the industry), but under a single payer system unintended consequences are much easier to avoid and fix when they do occur.

Addressing you specifics...

Single payer addresses a lot more than providing access for the poor. (Technically, you could have single payer which isn't universal, but that would be dumb.) Most fundamentally it provides a direct allocation mechanism. Very simply, access to healthcare can be allocated based on need and not ability to pay. (That is not possible under a market system obviously.)

"who pays, how much?"
Who is pretty easy actually: Everyone. How much is a point of argument, but most people consider a progressive scale fair. I'd advocate just paying for the system out of general tax revenue, but that isn't likely given the idiocy of the budgeting process.

"how much is spent on whom?" and "who doesn't get treatment they want or think they need?"
Answered based on need as assessed by the provider (aka doctors). Private providers and insurance companies answer this question every day, with motives which we know damn well are not aligned with need.

"how do we deal with fraud or incompetence?"
A damn sight better than we do under the current system. Instead of having to deal with privately owned 'arbitration' in the pay of the insurance industry, we would have the normal legal recourse. We'd also have a political recourse which is completely lacking in the current system.

Really, the entire healthcare issue can be boiled down to one fundamental question.
Should access to healthcare be based on a person's ability to pay or their need? A system where profit is the central motivator cannot allocate based on need.
Our current system rations based on profitability and an individual's ability to pay, a single payer system would ration based on the social and public/political pressures exerted upon the board setting the benefits schedule.

Actually, a profit based system would allocate based on need if everyone had exactly the same resources and identical rational utility functions... speaking of fantasy lands ;)

tacitus2 said...

Looping back, sort of, to the original topic of Disputation Arenas.

The Milwaukee Sentinal did a quick survey of the congressional delegation from my home state. Are they holding public meetings the rest of this month?
(D)Sen Kohl-0
(D)Sen Feingold-4
this does not surprise me, Feingold holds positions quite a bit more liberal than mine, but is a man with integrity. Very consistent despite changing political winds. A rarity. Kohl? pretty much dead wood.
(D) Rep. Baldwin-0 although you can sign up for a "telephone town hall" if you want to.
(D)Rep. Kind-4
(D) Rep. Moore-0
(R) Rep. Sensenbrenner-0
(R) Rep Ryan-17
(R) Rep Petri-5
(D)Rep. Kagan-0
(D) Rep. Obey-0

So, the total is, the three Republicans are holding 22 open meetings and the 7 Democrats a total of 8.

Interesting the Rep.s from the staunchest Dem strongholds of Madison and Milwaukee are no shows.

Rep. Sensenbrenner on the Republican side is also MIA.

It almost looks as if there is something new under the sun.....our Congresspeople seem to fear us!

My own (D) Rep. has announced no meetings, but says if he has any the will be announced "a few days prior". Not that he wants it to be easy for people to, you know, get off work or anything.

Strange times, strange tides.


Stefan Jones said...

Were those lists made up before or after hate-crazed cranks started specifically targeting Democratic lawmakers' town halls in order up to turn them into media circuses?

And the representatives themselves started getting death threats?

Put another way, your post is disingenuous bullshit, T2.

As for the Republican pols' town halls . . . the cranks probably don't even know about them.

Anonymous said...

Brin said: there's been discussion of the concept of "Disputation Arenas." Or the notion that the art of argument badly needs an upgrade for modern times.

Gee. D'ya think?

Let's see, we've got paid flacks screaming about mythical "death panels" that will euthanize senior citizens when Obama's health care reform passes, and fat white guys waddling around with guns carrying signs threatening to murder the president of the United States.

Hm. Yes, it is possible that the art of argument might need a wee bit of an upgrade.

Here's an idea:

Instead of screaming urban legends and outright lies and toting guns and making threats, we can settle this with duels -- flamethrowers at 10 paces. That should work.

Next, we need a tastier variety of smear. "Death panels" isn't extreme enough, just doesn't get your blood racing. How about "attic insulation is made from the bodies of people over age 30 in Europe who get murdered in a Logan's-Run-style annual gerontocide?"

Yeah, that's the ticket! There's nobody left over age 30 in Europe -- all those old people on the TV are inserted digitally, it's a giant conspiracy.

Now if they could only find a way to work in grey reptoids and the hollow earth somehow...then we'd be cookin'.

I love the way Obama talks to these flakes like they're rational people and gives them a detailed breakdown of the policy implications for about 5 minutes before he mentions that there isn't actually going to be an authanasia or death panels... So the crackpots with guns think, yeah, Gramma actually will get turned into Soylent Green and fed to us as premium dogfood.

In the Lincoln Douglas debates, the American people sat around for three hours per session and listened to a reasoned discussion. Now they're carrying signs saying IT'S TIME TO WATER THE TREE OF LIBERTY and shouting down congressmen with chants of "No death panels! No death panels!"

I feel like I'm living in the movie Idiocracy. I have this urge to phone Obama and yell "Do something smart!"

tacitus2 said...


That I am full of bullshit can't be dismissed out of hand. It is an opinion I have heard before. But, disingenuous? Pshaw. And again I say, Pshaw. I am passing along current news from a paper that is hardly the National Dittohead-didn't Milwaukee elect two socialist mayors?-and adding the opinion that the times are strange.

Yes, this list is current, after the recent disorder at town meetings. That's why its newsworthy. And the Republican town halls are at least as well publicized as the elusive and rara avia Democratic version.

But this is Wisconsin for goodness sake, none of these pols fear for their lives. They fear being made to look weak and foolish, a not altogether unsaluatory effect that they likely fear more than death itsself.

Missed 'ya Dave.

I am sure my Contrary tweaking would have been administered a few well placed, and sometimes deserved smacks were you on shift.

But honestly, are you adding to the quality of discourse by calling these protesters crackpots, obese waddlers and paid political agents?

The "pro-reform" camp is hiring people too, some of whose waistlines could stand trimming I assume. (again, this is Wisconsin). And overall the Administration and its allies are outspending the other side exponentially if you count the TV ad campains.

Consider the possibility that there is genuine outrage.* A bit frothy I admit, the whole Death Panel thing is extrapolating about as far out as the Manchurian candidate scenarios I have scoffed at.

Maybe the Genuine Article is a new experience for the current crop of political gentry. I always felt that the Bush era protests did have a sort of cutesy, faux Woodstock feel to them (chants and puppets I think a poster said above). Public assembly and vigorous exercize of First Amendment rights does seem a bit closer to the mark than having suburban town councils in New Hampshire pass resolutions of disapproval.

I will close though by saying that there are people on the progressive end of the spectrum whom I respect deeply. I know a retired physician who has been out every weekend holding up a sign protesting the war in Iraq. All through the Bush years. And he is still out there, often alone.

Democracy is a messy business if you allow actual citizens to get involved.

But I do retain perspective, despite my hard to conceal enjoyment of Gander Sauce. I expect in the end there will be some form of health care reform that will annoy both sides, but will more accurately reflect what those pesky citizens really want.


*remind me again, of the general approval ratings of Congress.

Tim H. said...

What we're seeing is true believers that think their cause is so important that it's okay to misrepresent the facts, sometimes massively. We have conservatives exaggerating what they perceive as negatives in health care reform and there's an issue or three at the other end of the spectrum where the proponents don't seem to mind the occasional stretching of the data. Problem is, exaggerations become known, and the response is often "I've been lied to!".

Gilmoure said...

Bill Gates has filed some patents on 'Hurricane Calming' by pumping cold water from 500' down to the surface, to reduce heat to hurricane.

Travc said...

T2, I think you got who wrote what crossed. No biggie, but I don't think your disingenuous at all. Hell, a conservative who is actually knowledgeable, thoughtful, and can make a decent argument is a treasured resource these days ;)

As for "what the pesky public wants"... constitutional republic here. What the public wants is very important, but what makes sense has some room too. The NIH and NSF don't give out grants based on what research proposals the public likes. The DOD doesn't buy equipment based on public approval either... both a good and a bad side there.

We really need to focus on the goals the public wants to achieve, not the means (or lack of means) the mob is convinced will realize them. What the overwhelming majority of people want is to not have to worry about access to healthcare. They want treatment when they need it... full stop. Now, how best to attempt that is an argument to have. However, it isn't something to debate in town-halls.

BTW: As California keeps demonstrating, the public is crap at evaluating the technical details of legislation. If you love unintended consequences, then direct democracy should make your heart go all pitter-patter.

PS: Town councils passing 'protest' resolutions is probably closer to what the founder's had in mind than mass marches. Hell, what do you think the Declaration of Independence was ;) (I'm being snarky... no actual insult intended.)

Robert said...

Here's a thought. The pollsters need to ask a two-tier question the next time they ask about Congress and their thoughts of it.

1) How do you rate Congress in terms of the job they are doing?

2) How do you rate your own Representative/Senator?

I'm willing to bet that you'll see really low levels for Congress in general... but a surprisingly high level of approval for their Rep or Senator. Because their Rep/Senator is doing what it takes to represent their district and interests, and it's the rest of those "bums" who are to blame.

Rob H.

tacitus2 said...


You are correct, I was mistaken on the "disingenous bullshit" matter. The conversation at the tail end of a long thread is rather like taproom discourse near closing time-passionate, slightly slurred and with a lot of background noise!
Accept my apology. Stefan, you dodged one there.

The question of popularity of Congress vs your personal guy or gal has been addressed many a time, and with the exact results Rob H. projected. This reflects a fundamental problem in our political system--how do we work for the common good when it conflicts with the local pork delivery franchise. I can say that with no irony, as my Rep. is Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, and you better believe he Capitalizes every word of that!
Maybe I should run against him....

Yeh, that would turn out well.


Jester said...

Tacticus -

You've been hoodwinked.

The event in St. Luis? That was an SEIU sponsored event to which Russ Carnahan was invited.

Dig it - those "protestors" were the equivelent to a pack of Code Pinkers trying to crash a NRA event at which a Republican Congresscritter was an invited Speaker.

I really don't know whether to be mad at you for failing to fact-check, or mad you for jabbering about right-wing kooks on teh intertubez somehow being the "last real journalists".

They don't even know who is paying for the parties they crash :(

Oh, the outrage. The people who paid for the event reserved seats for themselves first. Obviously, they're agents of the Fourth Reich.

"There are crazy MF'ers on the far left" really isn't important, or relevant - The vast majority of us on the left call our crazies CRAZY.

RE: Pelosi

Do you *really* think it matters that the Swazis have red lines on them?

We get that they're paranoid freaks who have entirely lost their collective minds and are gathering to scream "IslamoCommuFascist Foreigner!!!!" as loud as they can.

That's what we're mocking.

The "Obama wants to kill all the old people" paranoia is what Nancy of the blinky eyes was referencing, everyone understood, and there was no misleading.

The point is - These people are so goddamned crazy that they think the Democrats - *Who invented Medicare over the strongest possible Republican objections for Christ sake* have decided that they want to let old people die.

WHen Cindy Sheehan or Code Pink or ANSWER coalition act like paranoid slow-witted freaks, only a tiny handfull on the left will sit around arguing about how some rightwing extremists do X or Y instead of simply saying -

"Yes, those people are paranoid freaks I'd rather not associate with"

Yet... sane and reasonable Republicans like you seem to feel a need to defend the absolute worst elements on your "side" or rant about 20 year old grudges when they act up...and I don't get it.

Frankly, you're generally a pretty decent fellow. I can't understand why you can't just say -

"Yes, a small minority of douchbags are making us look bad, most of us aren't like them, I don't support screaming and stomping and throwing fits and trying to shut down debate.

BTW - Most of them aren't even Republicans, but are Constitutional Law Party, Libertarians, American Independence Party hanging off our coat-tails the way Greens and Socialists try to hang off yours"

I don't excuse the tiny handfull of @wipes who broke windows at the RNC last fall - or the Cops who used their behavior as an excuse to start cracking the heads of innocent peaceful protestors.

But what I *do* notice is that not one of these right-wing nutters has been tazed, or pepper sprayed, or arrested just for speaking.

A leftist tried to shout down John Kerry last year...and got swarmed, pounded to the ground, and repeatedly tazed. Right-wingers pull the same melodramatic stunts..and they're politely asked to step outside and cool down.

Such Thuggery.

I've seen the video, btw, and the heavyset middle aged guy in the SEIU shirt is on the ground when it starts. Now, I don't know who started it, and there's no way to tell from the video.

All an honest person could say is "A scuffle broke out". We seem to be becoming a smaller and smaller minority.

Kenny boy (the guy in all tan in the video, appearing totally uninjured but now claiming that he was "savagely beaten") had his lawyer with him. That sets off no alarms for you?

tacitus2 said...

As you know, I answer all questions addressed to me in even a half polite tone!

So, the SEIU sponsored the St.Lous meeting? Odd, at your suggestion I went back to primary sources and find no mention. The St.Louis Post Dispatch of that morning described it as a town hall, although other sources seem to indicate it was a forum on aging and that Carnahan was annoyed to get questions on health care. We are talking about the Bernard Middle school meeting?

The SEIU Missouri website also does not mention this in their comments on the evening. I am not saying it might not be true, but if true I think average citizens might honestly have missed it.

One thing that riled up the protesters quite a bit was that it appeared that visible supporters of Carnahan were being admitted preferentially. They had, it seems, RSVP'd. Of course, if the invite had been somewhat selective that would tend to pack the hall for the sort of empty political kabuki theater that our pols so love. I think annoyance at that sort of shenannigans is understandable. The Post Dispatch writers account of the evening mentions the perception of the crowd that this is happening.

Now, just as I peruse some sources that you likely do not, the reverse seems likely. What is your source that identifies the meeting as an SEIU gig? (leaving aside for the moment how appropriate it would be to listen exclusively to one organization on a contentious issue).

Much of the rest of what you say is just plain correct. My first comment on the "violence" echos your thoughts. A couple of guys who look like they tripped over the curb. From working ER-quite a lot recently btw-I can tell you there were no serious injuries from what I saw. And whenever people "lawyer up" they are being less than frank.

I also agree that yelling is rarely the persuasive method of choice. As an expression of frustration when people think the fix is in, and/or that they are being bald faced lied to, I guess I understand it. But as you can tell from my posts in these parts, senses of perspective and of humor are more nimble weapons to wield. I doubt I have yelled at anyone in my adult life, absent a handful of times when my kids richly deserved it.

Regards the left and right ends of the blogosphere and their research. Please, do me the favor of looking up info on the gal who showed up at a Texas town hall meeting for Rep.Sheila Jackson. Said gal, a Roxanna Mayor, claimed to be a pediatric primary care physician in her comments in support of health care reform. In fact, she is not a physician, not from that District, and is a former Obama delegate, none of which was reported in the Houston paper despite the fact that the reporter apparently knew this stuff.

visit and look over the material on this, from 12 August.

I look forward to your thoughts.

Sure, its only dishonesty, not violence, but I thought it was nicely exposed in a prompt fashion.


Jester1137 said...

Blind squirrels...nuts... :)

You're right, SEIU Co-sponsored the one in Yorba City, Florida that went nuts, not the one at Bernard Middle School. I mixed 'em up. The one in Carnahans district was almost entirely staffed by SEIU members who were registered Volunteers, but they were not official co-sponsors of the event.

Part of what seems to have lit-up the TeaBaggers (in St. Luis) was people in SEIU shirts going in and out of the room, while SEIU folks watched the door.

Well...unions are the Democratic volunteer base.

If anyone wants to get first notification of one of the Congresspersons events, the best thing to do - regardless of party - is the check the Congresspersons web-site and send them some e-mail so that you wind up on their mailing list.

Of course, Right-wing folks don't do that in D districts, anymore than Left-wing folks do in R districts...but either way it means missing the chance to pre-register for stuff like this.

And, like I said, I like ya Tacticus. No attacks on you meant, I just don't get essentially decent folks defending rampaging @holes who show up not to ask questions, not to engage in debate, but just to shout "Tyranny" and rend their hair and gnash their teeth.

Yeah, the worst of the Left is honestly just as bad, with the Code Pink crowd, ANSWER, ect. We's got our own Tea-Baggers too, no denying it.

"the worst are filled with a passionate intensity"

I don't see a whole lot of Republican Congresscritters out there begging Greens to come to their town halls. If they did decide to show up, signs and all, and start demanding entry to an event that was already booked to capacity....

I don't see things turning out a lot differently