An intellectual freedom blog with an emphasis on libraries and technology

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Who should Recuse?

In the Proposition 8 case working its way through the courts the question arises : should the former federal district court judge who first heard the case and found Proposition 8 unconstitutional have recused himself because he is gay?

According to the SF Gate story: "Proposition 8 supporters argued that Walker should have been disqualified from presiding over the case because his 10-year same-sex relationship gave him an interest in the outcome of the trial."

But what about a heterosexual judge married to someone of the opposite sex? Why would that judge not have an interest in the outcome of the trial? If we take the core argument by the Prop 8 supporters at face value, that the extension of marriage rights to gays constitutes some sort of harm to the institution as practiced by straight people, how then does a straight married judge not have an interest in the outcome of the case?

Any ideas?

Scary pictures outlawed in Tennessee

Here's one that belongs in one of those books about wacky laws. Only this one is brand new. Tennessee passed a law that imposes a 1 year jail sentence for someone who

"transmit[s] or display[s] an image" online that is likely to "frighten, intimidate or cause emotional distress" to someone who sees it.

That's right. Tennessee has given it's citizens the right not to be frightened, intimidated or distressed by a picture on the internet.

Rachel Maddow's show has a great segment on this:

And here's the post from Roger Ebert's blog that tempts the fates. Definitely look at the pictures that Ebert has posted: they're hilarious and wonderful.

Which of the pictures on Ebert's blog post do you love/hate the most? Which picture(s) would frighten, intimidate or cause you emotional distress? Please post your list in the comments.

Pictorial subjects that could get you a year in jail if I were a citizen of Tennessee and decided to press charges:
  • Michael Jackson
  • Ronald Reagan
  • Sarah Palin
  • Any stills or clips from the movie Waterworld
  • Clowns
  • Jesus on the Cross
  • Speaking of which, also any stills or clips from the movie The Passion of the Christ.
  • New Jersey (Maps, satellite pictures, landscapes, Google Earth pictures, all of it)
  • The Confederate flag
  • Food arranged on a plate in the shape of a "happy face"
  • Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker
  • Actually, make that any and all televangelists who ever lived.
  • That weird furniture in the design section of the MOMA that makes me dizzy.
  • Pope Ratzi (or whatever his Pope name is, I can't be bothered to look it up).

I could go on, but I have to end this post sometime.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Protecting the Man-Cave


[Correction. In the original post I mistakenly identified Richard Nixon as the President who signed Medicare and Medicaid into law. That was actually LBJ in 1965].

People in the right-wing rank and file, I strongly suspect, know full-well that certain of their most cherished "principles" do not, in reality, actually work. They very happily vote into office right wing-nuts who carry out certain right-wing policies which embody certain cherished right-wing principles but expect that government will inflict these policies on people the right-wing rank and file despise.

This explains why "supply and demand" and "private industry" and "freedom of choice" all justify policies that crush worker's rights while no one makes any move to apply these same "free market principles" to doctors, lawyers or other high-income people. Somehow it's OK for low-wage workers to compete with each other to see who can work for the least money without the benefit of collective bargaining while the American Medical Association and the American Bar Association actively restrict the number of people who can become doctors or lawyers. Thus we see unions busted and jobs shipped overseas to the sound of right-wing rank and file cheering while the number of high-earning professions remains artificially low.

But when the same "free market" principles apply to the right-wing rank and file, something strange and amusing happens. They totally lose their shit then scream for government intervention. They whine about the evils of entitlement programs but when eliminating one has obvious adverse outcomes for them, then, suddenly, the program in question receives a special exemption from their ire. And even better, when the justifications for the elimination of such a valuable and important program as medicare state their most "cherished principles" they treat us to the awesome spectacle of watching the worst of the right-wing, Republican, "conservative," rank and file totally NOT buying the lies that they themselves have been screaming into our faces for years.

The Paul Ryan "Kill Medicare" budget bill has opened up a pandora's box of weirdness in U.S. politics. Just consider the basic, fundamental assumptions the right holds dear, the memes which their leaders pound out day after day, the simplistic crap they hold as self-evident truths:

1. "Free market" solutions are inherently superior to any other kind.

2. "Competition" assures the best products at the lowest prices.

3. The "Law of supply and demand" will inevitably generate solutions to every kind of problem.

4. 1-3 above makes private enterprise "more efficient" than government and therefore handing over responsibility for dealing with any sort of problem to private industry will obtain a better result than anything the government could do.

A little history:
Medicare and Medicaid came into existence when, of all People Richard Nixon, tried to bring about a national health care service in the United States. By the Nixon administration all other industrialized democracies had implemented such a system. Social-demographic changes in the post-WWII U.S. together with the de-regulation of the health insurance industry brought about the realization by a large segment of the voting population that private health insurance has one big, obvious flaw: no one wants to insure a bad risk. (For a detailed explanation of this concept, see Are you a good risk or a bad risk). By Nixon's LBJ's time the health insurance premiums for senior citizens had risen to unaffordable. This generated a voter push for a national health care system, as private insurance companies do not want to insure people who are nearly certain to have expensive health problems (if they don't have such already). Medicare and medicaid prevented the implementation of a single national health care system run by the government by co-opting the huge voting block (seniors) who found themselves looking at destitution in their old age.

Of course die-hard libertarians - Those winners of the birth lottery - will argue that if you have not saved enough money by the time you retire to pay for private health insurance you deserve to die in misery and destitution. But leaving aside those psychopaths, the backlash against the Republican attempt to kill Medicare and replace it with a coupon for private insurance shows that most of the right - the ordinary citizens who vote - knows that private health insurance companies will fuck them the first chance they get. They also realize that Medicaid is on the chopping block as well and fully realize it's implications.

Jeff Liszt from the polling firm Anzalone-Liszt Research appeared on the Rachel Maddow show Friday and mentioned that the attempt to kill Medicare has a greater area of effect damage for the Republican party than just seniors. Because Everybody Knows that the demise of government run health care for seniors extends beyond Medicare. As Liszt points out:

Liszt: … They [Republicans] are just starting to realize how deep the rabbit hole goes on this one. And it's not just medicare it's medicaid and 4 out of 5 seniors in nursing homes. I mean it's the fact that if you have a man-cave downstairs all of a sudden you are going to have your mother or mother-in-law living there and it's going away.

Maddow: If they have to get out of the nursing home because of the Medicaid cuts, so it's the protect, when you're a pollster do you call that, like, the "protect the man-cave effect?" Have something creepy like that?

Liszt: It's brand new, we're still trying to brand it.

The exchange above takes place about 9 minutes into the segment:

What I find most amusing comes from the fact that the Republican Party demanded a TV station to take down a campaign, claiming it was somehow "not true" that they voted to kill Medicare. Despite her membership in the "liberal media" what Maddow said in that segment not only holds true, but the polling numbers and recent special election results we have already seen verify that most of the conservative republican rank and file understand this the same way Rachel Maddow does:

Medicare is a single-payer government health insurance program that old people get instead of having to buy private insurance. The Paul Ryan plan says you don't get that anymore, you get a coupon, go buy private insurance with your coupon grandma. You can still call your coupon medicare, you can call it "Timmy," you can call it "peas and carrots" you can call if whatever you want. It doesn't matter what you call it. If you vote to do something like that you are voting to kill Medicare. If we as a country get what you voted for what is Medicare right now goes away.

And all but the craziest are losing their shit over it.