Monday, August 24, 2009

Sentential Links #182

Before we begin, I'm instituting a new policy here with regard to these posts: I will be shutting off comments, so if you wish to vehemently disagree with something I link, your recourse is to visit that blog and register your vehement disagreement in THEIR comments. Which is kind of why I started doing these posts in the first place, anyway.

(But if anybody's wondering, no, I'm not likely to remain in a political mood forever; this is not going to become a "political" blog. But I never promised anyone a complete avoidance of politics -- or, rather, I did, but that was seven years ago when the blog was new -- and right now, the health care debate has me pretty fired up. For ease of use, I'll organize these posts a bit so those who don't want to read the political links can slide right by them.)


:: Like most conservatives who argue for "tort reform," Palin elides the difference between "frivolous" suits (which the courts, by all accounts, do an efficient job of rejecting) and decisions rendered by juries in actual cases of malpractice. Her solution, predictably, is to use the thunderous power of the state to cap awards; for someone who believes phantom "death panels" are looming over the horizon, Palin's faith that government can establish a fair ceiling on the economic value of human life is remarkable. Ultimately, capping malpractice damages might have the effect of reducing malpractice suits, but it will reduce legitimate ones as well, and it won't do anything to reduce the cost of liability insurance, which represents far and away a greater weight on the cost of health care than any malpractice suit that winds its way through the courts. More significantly, the link between "tort reform" and better, safer health care is opaque at best. I'm sure Sarah Palin has an explanation for why damage caps will spur medical practitioners to new heights of Hippocratic vigilance, but she's probably trying to decide how that issue relates to something she did while she was mayor of Wasilla.

:: I tend to be pretty squishy and bleeding heart over things like compassionate release for prisoners with terminal diseases. (I don't. Or rather, I don't if the prisoner has been sentenced for life. To me, that means, "You're going to die here." It does not mean, "We'll keep you here until life gets awfully painful and debilitating, in which case we'll let you go." Give them end-of-life care, manage their pain, whatever -- but releasing them? Ugh. And releasing the Lockerbie bomber makes me want to vomit.)

:: Just once, I'd love to hear producers/hosts explain why McCain has to be on one at least one of the Sunday shows 11 times in eight months. Refresh my memory: was there this much interest in John Kerry's take on current events in 2005? (Surely it's because John McCain is just chock full of insightful things to say, as in, "I totally want Sarah Palin to be President if I die!")

:: The central political reality of health-care reform is that if the bill fails, the vulnerable centrists who are queasiest about supporting it will be the casualties of its collapse. Properly understood, Barack Obama's popularity is not very useful for pressuring wavering Democrats. If the president remains popular, they have little to fear. Rather, it's his unpopularity that should concern them.

:: We live in a nation which spends more than any other on its military, which has comprehensive public education from kindergarten through graduate school, has public police forces and fire departments, has Medicare and Social Security and maintains any number of other socialized programs. There is a reason that we have these programs, and that reason is that the alternatives are bad for you. You don’t have a choice about paying for the fire department because having market-based private fire protection would be a terribly burny idea. We have comprehensive public education because even with market-based private choices, we recognize that it’s a terrible thing for society if we have a permanent underclass of children who are consigned to illiteracy. Americans, I have faith, truly enjoy it when society as a whole does not screw over people who could potentially be them.

:: When the hollering started and some of these guys claimed it mean that America had conclusively rejected the Obama Presidency after seven months, I thought they were just exaggerating for political effect. Now I begin to think they really believe it. And so we find ourselves trying to right a badly listing ship of state with a large percentage of our countrymen convinced that their first order of business should be to throw the rest of us over the side.

:: But maybe it's not Frank's response to that woman that's the beginning of something. Maybe it's the crowd's cheers. Maybe it will get noticed---or maybe we can make it get noticed---that those are the cheers of Americans who aren't afraid of Nazis and commies under their beds, who don't need to carry weapons in public to make their points, who listen and pay attention and think, and who want good health care for everyone.

:: "Death panels" is such an excellent term. You know exactly what it means, and therefore you know you're against them. Debate over. This term more than anything else seems to have unified the opposition to the Obama health care proposals. It fuels the anger that has essentially shut down "town hall" meetings intended for the discussion of the issues.

Of course the term is inspired by a lie. There are no conceivable plans to form "death panels" or anything like them. The Obama plan, which has some bipartisan support, doesn't seek or desire to get involved in any decisions about who should live and who should die. But now we hear "death panel" repeated so often that the term has taken on a sort of eerie reality, as if it really referred to anything.
(Also worthwhile is Ebert's follow-up post.)


:: It's also annoying. Charles Darwin was wrong about many things — I'll even give an example at the end of this article — and it's part of the nature of science that everyone's work will be revised and refined over time, and some of us will even be shown to be completely wrong. It's rather unseemly to collect a lot of data that Darwin did not have, run it through PAUP 4.0 on a fast computer, map the data onto a molecular consensus phylogeny, and cackle gleefully over discovering something Darwin did not know. Really, it doesn't make you a better scientist than Darwin.

:: Mike was the last one to leave. I was suddenly overwhelmed, and we hugged, and I said, in tears, "I'm overwhelmed - thank you so much." He said, "Listen, baby, what we did today was a barn-raising." (A wonderful post that should be read by anyone who has more books than storage space. And like I said in comments over there, the post should really be read with this music playing in the background.)

:: Here in this part of Oklahoma the scenery is not as spectacular as in the Talimena area but we do have some fairly impressive hills and lots of trees. (I can't remember if I've linked Lynn's recent posts in which she's putting up photos she's taken of Oklahoma, but even if I have, they're worth re-linking because that is one beautiful state. I've never been to Oklahoma.)

:: In short, we did none of the major monuments, nor did we go see the Capitol, or the Supreme Court, or the White House. But what we saw was all worth while. Wish we could go back. (I find it harder and harder to believe that I've spent so much of my life within a day's drive of Washington, DC and yet I've never been there.)

:: I've said in the past on this blog that, much as I love Gilbert and Sullivan, I usually can't bring myself to go to see their works performed any more. Part of this is just something that can't be helped by anyone who puts on a G&S operetta: there aren't that many of these works, and by design (Gilbert's design) the characters have no depth, so there really is very little you can do to make them fresh. If you know the music and lyrics and script, almost nothing a G&S production does can surprise you. But most productions try to solve this problem with gimmicks, rewritten lyrics and dialogue, non-singers in singing roles. None of this gives the plot or characters any more depth than they had before, and they make the production harder to sit through. (Spare the next teevee sitcom that thinks the height of comic sophistication is to re-work the lyrics to "Modern Major General" yet again!)

:: Where's our GooglePern, GoogleWorldofGreyhawk, GoogleRiverworld?

All for this week.