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A Rare Political Post

I was going to spend pretty much all of today’s entry going off. I don’t normally get political in this blog, because a) I would really show off how out-of-touch I am, and b) I just don’t want all that much political content here, if any. However, there’s been a development recently, especially in regard to health care reform, that bothers me too much to keep to myself. Two developments, actually: misinformation, and “shouting”.

Misinformation

“Read the bill!” people chant at town hall meetings across the country. Here’s a neat little note: there isn’t one, at least not yet. Three different bills have been circulating in committees in the Senate. They haven’t even gotten one finalized to send to the full Senate for debate. The House, I believe, has gotten one organized, but I don’t know what’s in it any more than the people screaming “Read the bill!” do.

This is where the real crux of the misinformation issue comes out. All the people that decry the bills as “socialism” or what-have-you haven’t read the bill either. If they did, they’d find that at least 2/3 of what they’ve been lead to believe about it is either intentional distortion of the contents of the various bills, or outright lies. For example, we have this guy, who claims to report (second-hand, of course) that nearly every other page of the “Obamacare” bill has some sort of freedom-murdering move toward fascism. But someone went and debunked, line by line, the whole supposed “analysis”, providing actual quotations from the bill in question, as well as proper context, rather than distortions and fear-mongering.

And then there are people that are simply wrong. Like this guy. For those not interested in clicking, here’s the gist: if Stephen Hawking, the noted wheelchair-bound astrophysicist, were subject to the UK’s version of social medicine, he’d be dead already.

Anyone spot the error there? I’ll tell you, if you’re done trying to figure it out. Stephen Hawking was born, raised, lives, and works in the UK. And he’s 67.

As a final point on the misinformation front, we have the people that are convinced that socialism is evil and inherently broken. “Canada’s health care system is broken, and so is the United Kingdom’s! They’re both broken, they’re both wrong, they’re both socialism!” These people don’t seem to realize the inherent differences in the two systems, though. Nate Silver, of fivethirtyeight.com, made a fantastically hilarious post this morning explaining the differences between the two, likely in terms that even the most apathetic health care “aficionado” can understand.

Finally, we have former Alaskan governor and former vice presidential-candidate Sarah Palin (you know, the one who quit being Alaska’s governor to keep her family out of the spotlight) using her baby Trig as a misinformation weapon against national health care. Aside from the sheer hypocrisy displayed here, Mrs. Palin has no damn clue what she’s talking about. This goes hand-in-hand with the people “looking out” for Mr. Hawking.

“Shouting”

By this time, I assume you’ve heard of the massive, organized movement against health care (or socialism, or “the government”, or whatever) that consists solely of people standing up at town hall meetings, shouting some incomprehensible dreck, and then sitting down. If not, check this out. Or watch CNN or Fox News for an hour or two. You’re sure to see an example. If your brain doesn’t start trickling out your ear first.

Anyway, this whole operation bases itself on the idea that SHOUTING MAKES ME RIGHT. I don’t need facts if I just make a scene! And if the representative wants to properly address my concern with facts? Eff that! I’ll just stand up and shout some more!

Seriously, these people need to pull their fingers out of their ears and actually have some civil discourse. If, as Rep. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) says, people have legitimate concerns, let them voice them without causing a scene, like civil human beings. Aren’t children supposedly taught that throwing a temper tantrum doesn’t get them what they want? That’s what I fear is next: some idiot is just going to fall down on the ground, kicking and screaming, until someone gives them some ice cream.

Is this America? Is this democracy in action? Have we reached the point that we have an organized temper tantrum network? Why is public discourse and respect for other human beings’ intelligence something that’s so reviled all of a sudden? It reminds me of the McCain/Obama debates, when McCain actually had the chutzpah to claim that Obama’s big, confusing words somehow made him a less worthy candidate and “out of touch” with the common Joe. I realize that our country has slowly been sliding to the point of pandering to the lowest common denominator, but any more of a slide and we’ll be back to cavorting druids, death by stoning, and dung for dinner.

Now, these two issues are pretty terrible. What could be worse? Combining the two.

Birthers

Despite a mountain of factual evidence, there are people in this country that deny that Barack Obama is a US citizen. They shout for a birth certificate, even though one has been produced and verified. They shout that there’s no outside verification besides the obviously fake birth certificate, ignoring the fact that two major Hawaiian newspapers reported the birth. The whole thing is insane. Especially when you consider that the “birther” movement is headed by Orly Taitz, who was born in Moldova (originally part of the USSR), moved to Isreal, and then immigrated to the US, where she is a lawyer, and a dentist, and a real estate agent. And claims to speak five languages, and be a black belt in tae kwon do. (Info from Wikipedia.) Seriously, watch this nutbag in action:

Scary. What’s more scary is that people think this woman is completely on the level.

Shouting, misinformation, and willful ignorance of facts. Is that where our country is going? When did respectful, civil public discourse die here?

I propose the following: people sit down, calm down, and talk to each other like rational, intelligent human beings. I’m not claiming that I know the best plan for health care, or the economy, or whatever other issues we may be facing as a people. But if we could at least agree upon proper debate and level-headed, fact-based argumentation, maybe our country would be well-informed contributors to the global community, instead of wallowing in our own petty (and downright stupid) selfishness. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but for pete’s sake, base it on some quantifiable, qualified facts, and be open to the idea that you might be wrong. Graciously apologizing for being in error is a hell of a lot more intelligent looking than screaming up and down about how the media is persecuting you, or how The Man is getting you down, or how the facts that debunk your claims aren’t actually credible facts.

All politics is spin, and that’s part of the reason I try to avoid it on this blog. Different people can interpret the same set of facts differently, and sometimes that’s a good thing. Sometimes that exposes flaws in arguments, or ensures a better law or some such. But when those interpretations are intentionally misleading or, worse, completely dismissive of the other side’s argument, then it’s no longer public discourse. Then it’s just people shouting.

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