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[politics|culture] Some more coherent thoughts on Kansas House Bill 2453

I am still wrestling with this whole Kansas anti-gay thing, their state House Bill 2453. Andrew Sullivan encapsulates a lot of what I’m thinking quite well in his comments here. But, still.

It’s like this. If a bunch of Christ-hating, liberal, atheist, Socialist, Pacific Northwest hipsters had sat down to come up with the worst example of the raging, paranoid anti-gay, Christian stereotype that drives liberals and progressives crazy, they couldn’t have done any better than good, honest religious conservatives in Kansas did all on their own in complete seriousness. It’s like one of those life-imitates-The Onion stories. That’s what I was trying to get at with my Poe’s Law comment yesterday. Heartland conservatives have managed to transcend parody, becoming cartoonish imitations of the worst version of their own public image.

This validates every liberal-progressive image of conservative Christians in America as oppressors, as persecutors, as unpatriotic and unConstitutional in their furious fixation on denying legal and civil rights to their fellow citizens. This is everything my conservative friends often take me to task for claiming to see in the American Right, everything my conservative friends label as paranoid liberal fantasies.

This is the real deal. Religious conservatives in their own words.

Nowhere in this country would you see a similar bill legalizing a wholesale denial rights to Christians. Nowhere.

Maybe I’ve missed it, but I haven’t seen any conservatives in my social media stream, or in the blogosphere, or in the media, or in politics, speaking out against the Kansas bill. A lot of silence, no one standing up for American values or the integrity of the Constitution. No conservative Christian standing up for basic Biblical principles, such as Galatians 5:14, For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Or Luke 6:31, in Christ’s own words, And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.

I have a very simple question for my religious conservative friends. Is this how you want to be known, by your own worst stereotypes, as plainly expressed in the words and deeds of your fellow religious conservatives?

Note: Yes, I’m aware that the president of the Kansas senate walked this back. But if you read her actual statement, she only walked it back a little bit on procedural and legal grounds. She neither denied the bill’s basic intentions nor its objectives, merely raised an issue about accessibility of government services. She’s asked for the bill to be redrafted and sent back, still referring to it as an honest effort to protect religious freedom. This hardly represents redemption, or even an outbreak of common sense. It’s a recognition of the legal quagmire the bill opens, little more.

[politics] The absolute privileging of ideological conviction

My online friend [info]chris_gerrib was riffing on irrational thinking, drawing an analogy between SFWA’s current issues, and the very consistent rural conservative misperception of tax burdens and budget allocations. I made this comment:

It’s a common trope among rural and exurban conservatives that the big cities are bleeding them dry with taxes. That’s flatly counterfactual, and evidence to the contrary is widely available, but the entire conservative project of the post-Nixon era can be summed up as an effort to absolutely privilege ideological conviction at the expense of evidence-based reality. Hence everything from evolution denial to birtherism. Why should awareness of the tax structure be exempt from carefully fostered wholesale willful ignorance?

This is precisely why I argue so hard and bitterly against evolution denial as a conservative social trope. To my view of recent political history, Republicans fostered that issue among southern religious conservatives to split the old Democratic coalition. One of several culture wars and race/class issues that were deliberate inflamed for reasons of GOP electoral gains as an extension of Nixon’s Southern Strategy. But in privileging evolution denial as a legitimate viewpoint subject to legal and regulatory support, conservatives opened (or more accurately, re-opened) the door to an entire culture of proudly anti-intellectual denialism.

This explicit endorsement that an individual’s beliefs, ideological conviction and personal judgment were more valuable, more truthful, more American than any objective proof to the contrary is one of the deep and abiding poisons afflicting our current society. (See, for example, the 2012 Texas Republican Party platform plank against the teaching of critical thinking in schools, because such intellectual skills can result in “challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority”.) It insulates the believer from any responsibility for trying to understand changing conditions or correct simple misapprehensions of fact. Such as, in the case under discussion on [info]chris_gerrib’s LiveJournal, tax policy in states with a deep urban/rural divide. But also everything from gay marriage to supply side economics to foreign policy.

Likewise, that explicit endorsement of ideology over objective reality insulates the believer from even having to account for contrary evidence. That’s the whole point of FOX News, which conceptually originated as a political tactic in the Nixon White House. (This has has been well documented.) Dismissing insufficiently conservative information sources as biased or distorted means never having to pay attention to the information they provide. Hence the also well-documented phenomenon of conservative epistemic closure.

As a result, we don’t have political and cultural debates on mutually understood terms about issues where progressive and conservatives rightly have different views. Things like tax policy, defense, unemployment, healthcare, where our political philosophies ought to compete on the merits of their position and the value of their goals in terms of the republic as a whole. Instead we have a progressive and centrist view that tries to articulate from an evidence-based position and seek middle ground, and we have a conservative view that demonstrably has been increasingly dominated by radical denialism and ideological insularity. So we get conservative voters who honestly believe that the duly elected president of the United States is a radical socialist working to undermine this country, and Republican congressmen who do things such as engage politely over the suggestion that the president should be executed as an enemy combatant.

This is not a basis of reasonable political disagreement. This is open lunacy. Knowingly enabled and fostered in order to keep conservative voters coming to the polls.

That politics of resentment, that divide-and-conquer strategy, has bought the GOP a lot of votes over the past decades. It stands at the core of the Republican party’s self-articulated “generate more angry white guys” strategy. But it does the country no good, and ultimately does the conservative movement no good either. We’ve allowed one political party to act upon an overt goal of making half our country ill-informed and angry in order to troll for votes.

That is uncivil in the most literal sense of the term, not to mention profoundly destructive to our national fabric and unpatriotic as hell.

[politics] The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice

I’m not convinced that the universe actually does bend towards justice, but there’s been a reasonable approximation of that here in the West since the Enlightenment. Other cultures, other paths, but that’s the one I’m familiar with.

When you look at the moral arc of the history of the United States, something almost startling very rapidly becomes clear.

When it came to slavery, conservatives were on the wrong side of history.

When it came to Jim Crow, conservatives were on the wrong side of history.

When it came to women’s suffrage, conservatives were on the wrong side of history.

When it came to child labor, conservatives were on the wrong side of history.

When it came to workplace safety, paid time off, and forty-hour work weeks, conservatives were on the wrong side of history.

When it came to the Great Depression, conservatives were on the wrong side of history.

When it came to the New Deal, conservatives were on the wrong side of history.

When it came to entering World War II to fight fascism, conservatives were on the wrong side of history.

When it came to racial integration, conservatives were on the wrong side of history.

When it came to interracial marriage, conservatives were on the wrong side of history.

When it came to the minimum wage, and every effort since to raise the minimum wage, conservatives were on the wrong side of history.

When it came to women’s economic independence and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, conservatives were on the wrong side of history.

When it came to women’s safety on issues such as marital rape, conservatives were on the wrong side of history.

When it came to making healthcare accessible to as many citizens as possible, conservatives were on the wrong side of history.

Every single one of those issues was promoted by progressive reformers. Every single one of those issues was opposed by the conservatives of the day. Viciously so in many cases. Violently so in some.

Given the track record of conservatives over the past two centuries, why should we believe them now about gay marriage? Or equal pay for equal work? Or income inequality?

Why should we believe conservatives on any issue of social justice?

They’ve been on the wrong side of history every time.

[politics] You’d better run said the man with the gun

A day or two ago, [info]kenscholes and I were enjoying a leisurely breakfast in The Bomber, in Milwaukie, OR. It’s a sleepy little diner mostly patronized by older folks in a sleepy little suburb south of Portland. In other words, about as a dangerous as your living room. Probably less so.

A very large man walked in with a pistol on his hip, open carry. I am extremely dubious that he was a peace officer off duty, based on his hair, clothes and grooming. I turned to Ken and said, “We need to leave.” We did. I didn’t follow my normal policy of dialing 911 whenever I see a weapon in public because the diner staff had taken no action.

Open carry scares the hell out of me. So does concealed carry, frankly, but concealed carry is a defensive measure, at least in theory. Open carry is a very deliberate threat. It’s a gun owner saying, if in my judgment you are dangerous, I will shoot you down.

I am far, far more frightened of someone who feels the need to walk around openly displaying a handgun than I am of any theoretical criminals that might have been menacing Milwaukie that day. The fact that this guy had that need to threaten everyone he encountered telegraphs some very negative information about both his emotional stability and situational judgement. Open carry isn’t about safety, it’s about dominance.

The weird part is how hard this is to prove. The same conservatives who loudly assure us that firearms are safe and that firearms improve public safety have for decades banned Federally funded research into precisely those questions. If guns were such an excellent safety tool, wouldn’t gun rights enthusiasts be eagerly embracing the research to underscore their point?

Quite the opposite. A firearm is a tool for killing. It serves literally no other purpose. All the collateral uses such as target shooting or hunting are simply practice for the killing. Even the gun lobby knows better, hence the research ban. They just don’t want people thinking in those terms because it’s bad P.R.

I do not want to be around another human being who feels the need to threaten to kill me for the sake of their own sense of security. It saddens me that this is legal, acceptable behavior, and people who practice open carry in normal, everyday situations scare the living hell out of me.

This is not a well-ordered militia, as the always-neglected part of the Second Amendment calls for.

30,000 people die every year in shootings in this country. It is one of the great shames of our society, and will eventually be one of history’s greatest puzzles that we as a society embraced this wholesale slaughter when every other similar industrialized society of our era managed a much more peaceful solution with much lower death rates.

Why would I want to be a part of conservative America’s rain of blood just to satisfy some guy’s paranoid ego?

If past experience proves true, I will catch a lot of flak for this post. A note to head off at least one line of criticism: I am quite comfortable with firearms, am a rather good shot, and understand range safety. In other words, I am not speaking from some thick-headed liberal ignorance. It’s precisely because I understand guns that I don’t want to be around them.

[culture|politics] Free speech and whatnot

Let me be clear. I don’t care about Phil Robertson and Duck Dynasty, or A&E. I think I saw about six minutes of that show once in a hotel lobby, so unlike most cable television products, I have a very slight clue.

Still don’t care.

It’s a free country. We have this little thing called freedom of speech. Phil Robertson surely has the right to be a wrong-headed, willfully ignorant bigot. If that weren’t true, FOX News would have six minutes of weather programming a day and otherwise be nothing but test patterns.

Thanks to corporate personhood, a doctrine generally much beloved of conservatives, A&E surely has the right to manage its image by placing behavioral requirements on its employees and contractors. If that weren’t true, FOX News wouldn’t even have six minutes of weather programming a day.

Neither Robertson nor A&E has a Constitutional guarantee of freedom of consequence from their acts. This is a point conservatives have pretended much ignorance on the past few years. A&E is free to suspend Robertson. Those who proudly support Robertson’s disgraceful racism are free to call for a boycott of A&E.

Number of shits given by me either way: zero.

However, to all those conservatives now up in arms about this alleged travesty of free speech and suppression of legitimate opinion, I have two words:

Dixie Chicks.

Y’all do not have a leg to stand on, my friends. Go find someone else to hate. It’s what conservative America does best, after all.

[politics] Obamacare and open enrollment windows

One thing I haven’t seen discussed in the enrollment figures for ACA (or if it has been, I missed it), is the ludicrous mismatch between the ACA enrollment period and the open enrollment windows in most corporate insurance plans, including COBRA participants.

I’m terminally ill with advanced metastatic colon cancer, and expect to pass away by next summer unless I get very lucky with a clinical trial. Over the past five and half years, my insurance carrier has covered over $1.3 million in medical billing, most of it at a 25% contract discount rate, to keep me alive. In other words, they’re in for close to a million bucks on my already. The rest of my life will cost somewhere between $50,000 and $250,000 more, at an educated guess.

So you can imagine my keen interest in the ACA rules, specifically the elimination of lifetime spending caps which came along just in time to keep me from having to pay for my treatments out of pocket. A spending level you may rest assured I could not possibly meet on my resources. Likewise the elimination of restrictions on pre-existing conditions, which in my situation is obviously an enormous issue as well. Other family members on my coverage have pre-existing conditions also, so this problem exists for me long after my impending death.

I’m on COBRA now, as part of my exit from the workforce on Long Term Disability. COBRA is pretty pricey for me. I was very interested in ACA plans in my home state of Oregon, through the Cover Oregon program. But in order to retain my COBRA coverage, I had to respond during an open enrollment window in early November, which just ended. Meanwhile, in Oregon the ACA plans are not fully configured or priced, so I had no way to evaluate whether my replacement coverage through Cover Oregon would meet my very substantial end-of-life healthcare needs, let alone the more ordinary needs of my dependents.

I suspect there are tens of thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands or more, people like me nationwide either trapped in expensive COBRA plans or in substandard employer-sponsored plans, who would have loved a shot at ACA enrollment. Had the law brought the enrollment window forward to Q4-2013 instead of Q1-2014, we could have done an apples-to-apples comparison and shopped accordingly, in conformance with good conservative free market principles. But the timing of the ACA means anyone with a mandatory open enrollment window in this last quarter of 2013 had to give the ACA a pass for 2014.

That right there would have made a huge difference in the Obamacare enrollment figures.

I’m pretty sure this is the kind of oversight you get when the people who write the rules never have to live by them. But it’s a very damaging one from a policy perspective, and a very annoying one from a personal perspective.

Don’t even get me started on how the disability system works, btw. It’s literally a racket, protected by law, that steals from people in their hour of greatest need.

For my own part, I’m just happy the lifetime spending caps are gone. There is no conservative plan for healthcare that involves anything for me other than “go ahead and die already”, so even though I cannot enroll in an ACA plan, I remain a strong supporter on a purely personal level as well as in line with my long held liberal-progressive principles.

[culture|politics] Solutions designed by people who never have to use them

Lisa Costello and I were talking (again) recently about the concept of solutions designed by people who never have to use them. My favorite example for elucidating this concept is what happened to me when my former Day Jobbe employer was acquired by a much larger entity about five or six years ago.

I was being oriented on the new expense reporting system. This was a Web-based Oracle application, and had all the usual features of any expense reporting system. But it also required a great deal of input for accountability. Division code, project code, etc. This without even respect to whether or not an expense was client billable. There were weird lacunae in the feature set that didn’t correspond to how anyone traveling on an expense account actually spends money. And so forth. The result was a horribly clumsy and slow expense reporting system which to my long time analyst’s eye had clearly been designed to meet the requirements of the Legal department with respect to liability and discovery defense. It was a total pain in the ass that absolutely prioritized corporate risk management above functionality.

I finally said to the trainer, “Do any of the senior executives of the company ever have to use this system?” They looked embarrassed and said, “No, they all have admins to do it for them.” My response was, “If our CEO ever has file an expense report himself, we’ll have a new system the next day.”

Life is full of systems like that. Airline check-in processes, for example, are obviously designed to optimize for cost-of-labor, explicitly at the expense of efficiency, usability or the customer experience. Likewise most call centers and help desks. And likewise the entire apparatus of disability management in this country.

I’ve said many times before that our disability system is onerous and punitive, designed with the primary assumption that anyone making a claim is attempting to defraud. It treats people accordingly, and requires all sorts of entirely pointless paperwork and compliance steps from people in their hour of deepest need and least capability. These systems were designed with profit margins, preservation of capital, and fraud management as primary priorities. They were not designed by anyone concerned with helping the poor or disabled, and they certainly were not designed by anyone who ever for a single moment thought they, themselves might fall under the rules being put in place.

So with the ACA. I’m not talking about the issues with, which are a topic of their own, but the whole clumsy mess built to accomplish a social goal which could have been accomplished much more cheaply and simply through Medicare eligibility expansion. (Among other routes.) All those hundreds of Republican amendments to the law are there to gum up the works, punish sick people for being sick, and poor people for being poor. That’s not what conservatives call it, of course — they have plenty of high minded rhetoric about resource management and audit and reducing dependency — but those are just lies Republicans tell themselves so they can sleep at night in the false belief they are doing the right thing.

But whether you’re talking about the basic Heritage Foundation template of the ACA, the framework written by the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats, or the thousand little land mines planted by the GOP, none of those pieces were designed by people who ever expected to use the system personally.

And thus we have the hot mess ACA we have today. My old employer’s corporate expense reporting mess writ large across the landscape of American society. And for the same reasons. Because the nominal purpose of the project is badly misaligned with the priorities of the people who designed it.

None of the solutions I see to the problems with the disability system or the ACA will ever come to pass. Forcing Congressional Republicans to take themselves and their families solely to public clinics for year is impossible. Privilege protects its own. And asking for empathy is a fool’s errand with modern conservatives, who seem to view empathy as weakness, even a sinful betrayal of principle. At best, a foolish form of compromise.

So, yeah. Solutions designed by people who don’t use them dominate our lives in ways small and great. Enjoy…

[politics] The shutdown, the ACA, the GOP, and you

So we apparently have a deal to defer the debt limit a month or two down the road and at least temporarily rescind the shutdown. And there was much rejoicing in the land.

I’m not sure what was accomplished here. The only thing that’s really changed is a sop to the Republicans about tighter enforcement of the ACA’s subsidy provisions. Since this represents a way of further pointlessly punishing the poor, ill and needy, it fits right in with the rest of the Republican party platform.

Meanwhile, I see absolutely no evidence that the Ted Cruz faction of the Senate GOP and the Tea Party faction in Congress aren’t going to play exactly the same hostage-taking games in the upcoming budget rounds and debt limit deadline as they just did. In fact, quite the opposite: they’re already threatening to do so.

What I’ve gleaned from the recent fracas is that there are no more ‘reasonable Republicans’. Senators McCain, Graham, etc. could have stopped Senator Cruz any time they wanted by not supporting him in procedural votes. The Tea Party caucus in the House is something like 20% of the total Republican delegation, yet the majority-within-a-majority was helpless to deter their unprecedented brinksmanship.

And these 20 percenters somehow imagine that the American people will rise up and back them, if they can only get their message out successfully. They don’t believe the polls showing Americans overwhelmingly opposing the shutdown and growing in their support of Obamacare, they don’t believe the media reports. It’s all a conspiracy to keep the truth away.

Remember how well that denial of media coverage and ‘unskewing’ of polls worked for the Romney campaign in 2012?

Neither does the House GOP.

They threw almost a million people out of work, did billions of dollars of damage to the economy, made the United States a worldwide laughingstock, all for a conservative temper tantrum about a law they don’t like, and apparently to preserve Speaker Boehner’s job.

And all of this mess for what? The successful implementation of a healthcare plan first proposed by far right think tank the Heritage Foundation? A healthcare plan first implemented by Republican governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, and widely considered highly successful? A law negotiated in the House and Senate incorporating hundreds of Republican amendments to address conservative concerns, gutting the progressive heart of the bill in favor of driving revenue to private sector health insurance carriers?

In other words, the Republicans were rising up against their own idea, implemented with their own advice and consent and thorough bipartisan negotiation, litigated before their own ideologically stacked Roberts Court, successfully implemented by a black Democrat.

Government keep yore Hands of my Medicare

Guess which part of that preceding paragraph is the real issue. As Senator McConnell flatly said in 2010, the GOP’s top legislative priority during Obama’s first term was to make him a one-term president. Not jobs. Not national security. Not the economy. No, their priority was limiting the success of a black Democrat.

Why would anyone think their priorities are different now? Allowing the ACA to succeed, no matter how deeply rooted it is in conservative ideals, brings political and historical credibility to President Obama.

And the GOP’s insistence that the shutdown was Obama’s fault because of his unreasonable refusal to negotiate doesn’t even rise to the level of the laugh test. To anyone outside the conservative epistemological bubble, the hostage taking-dynamic is overwhelmingly obvious. Your Liberal Media has seriously confused the issue by pretending that this is a both-sides-do-it issue.

The worst part is, the GOP has gone so crazy that they are imperiling the full faith and credit of the United States government in international finance. There may already be long term damage. And by the GOP’s own logic, any existing law they don’t like can be protested by the same measure. These idiots could shut down the government in an attempt to defund the Environmental Protection Agency, or dismantle Social Security. American conservatives have proven they will hold the entire country hostage over settled law. What’s to stop them from doing it again?

Bad enough that the party that wraps itself in the flag and the Constitution and angrily proclaims the supremacy of conservative patriotism destroyed our military reputation during the George W. Bush administration. Now they’re hell-bent on destroying our economic dominance of the world, with a side order of collapse of our world-leading educational and scientific establishments. Strange behavior for a party that insists on America First!

Like I said, I’ve given up on ‘reasonable Republicans.’ All the nice, humane, thoughtful conservatives I know in real life are people who vote for the party of hostage taking, of destroying the economy and America’s standing in the world, of the sheer, wall-eyed lunacy of Bachmann and Gohmert and DeMint and Cruz. Given that the crazies have taken over the party, after being invited into the tent these past years, anyone who votes Republican is part of the problem we have just seen on display.

The problem we will see come back with a vengeance in December, January and February as the new deadlines in the continuing resolution come to pass. Meanwhile, the sequester budget has become the new normal — a huge win for Republicans — while science is foundering and our international financial posture is collapsing.

All this from a bunch of patriots, who themselves are an ever-shrinking minority of American culture and politics. If the GOP can’t win, it’s clearly intent on taking the rest of us down with it.

And in a year, when the next round of Congressional elections is held, will anyone even remember this? No, most of Sarah Palin’s “real Americans” will be out voting against the party that put a black man in the White House. And given the Democrat’s temerity to win an election by the popular vote, on the merits of their positions, Obama and the rest of this country will pay and pay and pay for the angry conservative inability to accept that they have lost the culture and political wars.

Get a Brain! Morans

Photos snurched from publicly available Internet sources, copyright their respective owners.

[travel|politics] Crater Lake, Speaker Boehner and you

This weekend Lisa Costello and I took a trip to southern Oregon to celebrate her one year anniversary of moving to Portland. We planned it around a visit to Crater Lake National Park.

You can see how well that worked out:


The Federal government is shut down due to a delaying tactic by the House Republicans in a fight over something that isn’t even directly affected by the shutdown. Speaker of the House John Boehner could pass a ‘clean’ continuing resolution to restart the government any time he wished by bringing the measure to the floor of the house. Most Democrats and a fair number of Republicans would vote for it. In doing so, Congress would be doing its job, what each Representative and Senator was elected for. In doing so, Congress would be performing a legal duty that went on for decades as a trivially routine measure until conservatives politicized the process.

The reason I could not visit Crater Lake this week was the same reason that almost a million Federal workers have been furloughed, the reason education and science and health and safety services across this country have been suspended, the reason sick kids are being sent home from NIH to die. Because Speaker Boehner is afraid he’ll lose his job if he brings the continuing resolution to a floor vote. All this to try to stop a piece of settled law which was negotiated and compromised on extensively as a bill, passed on a bipartisan vote, signed by the president and litigated to the Supreme Court. All this to try to stop a social initiative which was overwhelming supported in the last election with Obama’s second term in office and the GOP losing the popular majority of votes for both the House and Senate.

In other words, by the rules of our same Constitution those conservatives so profess to love, a done deal. Legally and electorally, this question has been resolved.

One man with the power to comply with both the law and the stated will of the electorate by simply making Congress do what it should have been doing so all along will not do so, because he’s afraid to lose his job.

Speaker Boehner, why is your job worth the cost $300 million in shut down costs per day, and almost a million people out of work? You, sir, are a true profile in political courage. You, sir, are everything the modern Republican party has become on its way to being a permanent disgrace to American democracy.

Photo © 2013, Lisa Costello

Creative Commons License

This work by Lisa Costello is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

[politics] In which a presumed conservative attempts to school me on Obamacare

A couple of days ago, a gentleman on Twitter of presumably conservative disposition decided to school me on my liberal misconceptions about the Affordable Care Act. It started when I made the following tweet, mocking someone whose unfortunate personal issues are expressing themselves painfully through a political lens.

measured discourse tweet

This was about the same time I had made my post entitled “The government shutdown and the ACA and me” [ | LiveJournal ], which may influenced this gentleman’s response. He dug out an old tweet of mine from January and responded thusly:

Obamacare tweets

With a follow up mocking my own supposed irrationality:

response to measured discourse

My response was:

spending cap reply

The thing is, @AndyHDavis was and is flatly wrong on the plain face of the facts. The ACA did help me, effective about two years ago. He’s confusing the current healthcare exchange implementation process with the act as a whole.

Me, I’m wrong a lot too. Somedays I’m wrong about damned near everything. But if you’re going to argue politics with me, don’t get your talking points from FOX News. FOX News viewers are consistently the most misinformed segment of the public on damned near any topic you care to name. Most especially including Obamacare. Which is what happens when you privilege ideology over facts and data, as the entire Republican political, media and social establishment has been doing for the past two decades.

What I would say to @AndyHDavis as a followup, if I thought it would do any good at all to engage, is this:

“You were flatly wrong about the ACA and spending caps. Are you open to the possibility that you’re wrong about other aspects of the ACA?”

More generally, if you’re going to school me for being a stupid liberal moonbat, use actual facts from the real world, not noise from inside the conservative epistemological bubble.

[politics|cancer] The government shutdown and the ACA and me

When you get right down to it, I have never seen a rational basis for the conservative opposition to the Affordable Care Act. After all, the core of the ACA was a proposal originating from the Heritage Foundation, a deeply conservative think tank. The template for the ACA was a highly successful state-level implementation led by then-Republican governor and later GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The basic mechanism of the ACA is to swell the customer rolls of for-profit insurance companies competing on policy price and features, relying on the free market.

Why is this such a threat to American freedom? In all but name, the ACA is a conservative program implemented from conservative proposals rooted in conservative ideals.

And now the government shutdown. Which doesn’t even defund the ACA itself, just pretty much everything else. Are the Republicans so infuriated at the success of their own ideas that they must punish the entire country and economy. How does this make sense?

As for me personally, without the ACA I would be bankrupt or dead by now. Likely both. One of the first provisions of the ACA to come into effect was a ban on the lifetime spending caps most health insurance policies historically enforced. As a long-term cancer patient, I’m now about 25% over the spending cap my own insurance policy used to have. Without the ACA, my last year and more of treatment would have been completely uncovered. This would have required me to spend about $250,000 out of pocket, or go without treatment.

So opposition to the ACA is quite literally saying to me, “Go ahead and die already.”

As [info]ericjamesstone said to me a while back, anecdote makes bad law. (That’s not a precise quote, but I believe that’s the sense of what he told me.) My death would just be an anecdote, not a policy point. But my life is kind of important to me.

And in all the angry conservative rhetoric about the ACA, I have never seen any proposals that would keep me personally alive.

So this furious, unprecedented opposition to a piece of settled law — passed by Congress, signed by the president, litigated to the Supreme Court — that will benefit both me personally as well as tens of millions of other Americans, makes no sense to me either as a matter of policy or as a matter of my individual situation.

Does it make sense to you? Have you seen anywhere a fact-based explanation of why the ACA should be so vigorously opposed?

[politics] More on why I am not a Republican

Most of this post will be familiar to long-time readers, but every now and then I am moved to address the topic again. I occasionally see references to myself through the various blog alert services that say things like, “I stopped by Jay Lake’s blog, where I learned that as a conservative I am immoral and evil. I’m not going to read him anymore.”

Sorry to hear that, but I call them like I see them.

I lived in Texas from age 18 to age 36. The first four years of that (1982-1986) I attended the University of Texas at Austin. The Young Republicans were a huge presence on campus, happy, youthful Reaganauts everywhere. And that weird fusion between conservative politics and Evangelical Christianity was already well along in Texas in those days. So over the years I heard over and over again how liberals were immoral, Democrats couldn’t be trusted, that anybody who supported progressive policy [x] was in league with the devil. It was a comforting, self-valorizing stream of rhetoric for Texas conservatives that didn’t have much grounding in fact, and for the most part brimmed with hypocrisy. And it made me very allergic to conservatism, even when my own political opinions were still pretty fluid. Such posturing and ad hominem attacks aren’t the kind of posture someone arguing from a position of strength needs to rely on.

It’s also the case that over the years, I’ve developed a strong sense of intellectual honesty and self-reflection. This is part of my atheism, part of my empirical outlook on life. I am certain that I fail at least as often as I succeed in upholding those values, but I return to them over and over again, as my personal touchstone.

In the years of and since the Reagan ascendancy, the Republican party, and many American conservatives, have lost their capacity for either intellectual honesty or self-reflection. At this point, in the 2010s, the GOP has transcended even the parody that people like me could see of what was happening in the 1980s. The stance against teaching critical thinking, for example, because it might undermine traditional values. That literally sounds like a joke, until you realize it’s the real thing, from the Texas Republican Party platform. Or the fact that no major Republican politician will admit to knowing the true age of the Earth, or speak up for the extremely solid science behind evolution. This is basic reality. Not debatable policy points like tax structure or immigration form. Not legitimate ideological or philosophical differences. This is the world as it is. Which the GOP will not admit to, for fear of losing voters from its cherished base.

But once you allow doublethink and deliberate intellectual dishonesty into your worldview, there are no more brakes. Climate change denial is built on the same pattern as evolution denial, but driven largely by funding from major Republican donors. Like evolution denial, these are knowing, self-conscious lies, deceits and rejections of reality being pursued for short-term political gain.

Almost without exception, the conservatives and Republicans I know personally are decent, humane people who honestly believe that they’re doing the right thing with their votes and their campaign donation dollars. But when you support a party whose political fortunes are based almost entirely on counterfactuals, from evolution denial to the idea that guns make society safer to abstinence-based sex education to supply side economics — all those and many more are cherished Republican stances that don’t meet even minimal tests of provability in the real world data — you support a party that is contributing aggressively to the decline of American competence, as well as the decline of our technological and political leadership worldwide. Republicans are actively working to make our children stupider, cripple our science and destroy our economy. Anyone not committed to the ideology can easily see that. And the self-same lack of intellectual honesty and self-awareness required to be a Republican in the first place makes it overwhelmingly difficult for those decent, humane people I call friends to see what their votes and dollars are actually doing to America and the world.

Do liberal-progressives get it right all the time? Hell no. And the Democratic Party is frankly full of shit on a lot of issues. The ‘Third Way’ Democrats have been Republicans in moderate suits for years. But at least liberal-progressives have some sense of intellectual honesty and a grasp of the real workings of the world. And we’re not working to undermine science, technology, education and culture in the name of continuing to generate enough angry white guys to keep our voter base motivated.

In the end, I’m not a Republican because I have self-respect. I can’t vote for a party whose very basis is such continuous, profound and reflexive intellectual dishonesty. In a different political world, I might well be a conservative, but I can never be a Republican.