Archive for March, 2010|Monthly archive page

Arguing With Idiots, Indeed

If I ever needed proof of how Americans – right winger ones anyhow – are being dumbed down by the media they choose to follow, I got it today in a couple of shining examples on Twitter.  Started when I discovered @Newfederalists engaged in some manner of debate with another tweeter I follow.  This dude said something pretty ridiculous, can’t remember exactly what, but I responded in a little bit of a chirpy way, as I do from time to time, “Says a man evidently chock-full of right-wing bullshit. Move along now.”

Well, obviously, he didn’t move along.  And the exchange just went from there.   And it was just pretty pathetic.  The whole thing was about the rather asinine beliefs that so many right wing nutjobs have about political ideologies.  What I have never really gotten is how these folks like to label Barack Obama as a socialist, Marxist, and Nazi all at the same time.  I frequently like to point out that contrary to the bullshit spewed by their sources, Nazism is not related to socialism at all, that it’s most closely related to fascism and is considered by virtually all scholars, theorists, historians, basically everyone of any intellectual capacity to have been a extreme right wing movement.  Like fascism, though, it is syncretic – drawing from across the spectrum.  In fact, Nazism and fascism to me are pretty good illustrations of why the simplistic ideas of a simple bi-polar linear spectrum don’t really work.

The crux of their argument is the most incredible logical fallacy I’ve ever seen.  The Nazis were actually the Nationalsozialistiche Deutsche Arbeitspartei, or the National Socialist German Workers Party.   The “proof” that their views are left wing, in the view of these uneducated fools, is that the word “socialism” exists in the title.

My favourite counter to this is to point of that by the same logic, North Korea – formally, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, MUST be a democratic republic.  It’s in the name, so it must be correct.  It’s about as logical a statement to make.

I’m not going to rewrite the history of the Nazi Party and their rise to power in Germany.  The “socialist” part of their ideology was a not socialism in the sense that most people in modern times would know – and Hitler detested the concept of it.  The infamous “Night Of The Long Knives” was actually a coup against the SA faction of the party, getting rid of the social issues interests of the party, consolidating Adolf Hitler’s power, and launching Nazism as we know it today.

Alright, alright, I said I wasn’t going to take you into the Third Reich.  Suffice it to say that any reasonable assessment would not at all conflate Nazism with socialism, much less with Marxism, an ideology intensely hated by the Nazis.  The whole discussion, ultimately, in the context of American politics, is ridiculous.  The most extreme interpretations of the platform of Barack Obama would probably fit into right edge of the social democrat/Third Way model, though I’m not totally sure about that.  I could dive into that more, but I again can’t be bothered.

What really got me as we progressed were brilliant tweets from both @Newfederalists, and then the next person to come into the mix, the similarly brilliant @mach1broker.  I couldn’t believe what I saw these people say, it’s so stunning.  It’s like they’re revelling in their own ignorance, almost like they’re bragging about their unwillingness to actually get more information, to go read, study, ask question.  It makes no sense to me.  None at all.

This is the kind of shit my American cousins are going to have to put up with for the next little while.  A pack of vile, ignorant right wingers who’ve suddenly decided to become politically aware – without actually investing any time in learning what they’re so passionate about.  It’s shocking to see this sort of thing.

And the power of this sort of ignorance and idiocy becomes pretty clear when you start to see things like what was shared with me today – about those crazy bastards in Michigan.  Apparently, one of them was primarily motivated in her hatred of President Obama based on a bullshit Facebook rumour.  You simply cannot make shit like this up.

When I read stuff like this, when I see what influences these people, the bullshit they subscribe to, I just feel a lot better that these people are the minority, and will likely never amount to anything – and the more extreme, ignorant, and stupid they sound, the more likely they’ll wind up more on the fringes.

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Back to Canadian Politics – About Guns, Eventually.

Now that health care reform is quieting down in the US, I’ve started taking a look at what’s going on more locally.  Canadian politics is an interesting beast, particularly right now.  We’ve got a Conservative Prime Minister with a fairly strong minority government.  If you’re an American, here’s a quick explanation of how our system works.  Unlike the US, we don’t have a two-party system.  Canada’s got three major national parties, and a regional party that winds up with a lot of seats, and actually has wound up the official opposition before.  We don’t have a separate executive branch, we have a fused legislative and executive function, consisting of a bicameral Parliament.  The House of Commons (think the House of Representatives) consists of 308 elected members.  Customarily, the leader of the party with the most seats in the House of Commons is invited by the Governor-General, the Head of State, to become Prime Minister, the Head of Government.  The other chamber, the Senate, is appointed.  It’s called the chamber of “sober second thought”.  Plans to reform the Senate float up, including an elected Senate, but they never really get anywhere.  The Canadian Senate’s a whole other issue I’ll maybe tackle some other time.

Anyhow, when the part with the most seats doesn’t have more than 50% of the seats in the House of Commons, the situation that exists is known as a “minority government”.  The government requires the cooperation (or at least, the abstention) of other parties’ representatives in order to pass legislation.  That’s the current situation, and it’s led to all sorts of dramatics.  While the current PM, Stephen Harper, seems to be somewhat reviled, his main contender, Michael Ignatieff, doesn’t have much support either.  When Ignatieff blusters, Harper threatens to make any measure a confidence measure, meaning that if the government is defeated it loses the confidence of the House and the government falls.  Since Ignatieff knows he cannot win an election, that’s usually enough to shut him up.

Anyhow, the latest dramatics started before the Olympics, when Prime Minister Harper trundled over to Rideau Hall, the Governor-General’s official residence, to ask the Queen’s Representative to prorogue Parliament – to shut down the government essentially, extending the Christmas break until after the Games were over.  Their claim was that they wanted to make sure they had a focus on the big show in Vancouver.  The scuttlebutt was really that the government wanted to avoid the brewing scandal over detainees in Afghanistan.  Whether that’s really the case is fodder for many many other blog posts, and beyond what I’m interested in.

I’m really circling without getting to the point I want to blog about, but the backstory is somewhat important.

Prorogation causes any pending government bills to “die on the order paper”, and quite a few did.  One that didn’t is what I wanted to write about because it’s now getting some attention.  It’s Bill C-391, which scraps the Long Gun Registry component of Canada’s gun control policy.  The LGR is probably the single most controversial aspect of the policy, one that is universally reviled by gun owners, cost far more than it was supposed to, and in my opinion, delivered absolutely nothing of value to Canadian taxpayers.

Following the Montreal Massacre, where Marc Lepine, a disturbed misogynist shot and killed fourteen women at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique, there was public demand in Canada for more effective laws to prevent gun violence.  The Firearms Act, Bill C-68, was brought into effect in 1995.  Along with reworking licensing for gun owners it required the registration of of all firearms.  Previously handguns were subject to registration, but longarms weren’t.

The registration wound up costing some $2 billion, far beyond the projected cost, and continues to cost $75 million per year, and the Auditor General found a lack of evidence that it improved public safety in Canada.  Every dime spent on its ongoing maintenance in good money being thrown after bad.  You’d think, of course, that that’s reason enough to spot pouring money down the drain, money that could be channelled into actual public safety – whether it’s more efforts at dealing with gun smuggling, keeping kids out of gangs, fighting domestic violence more effectively, whatever else might work.

But you’d be wrong.  The anti-gun lobby in Canada seems to think that it’s a worthy investment.  And it’s tragically wrong.  The Long Gun Registry has become the very model of a white elephant, a useless gift to a special interest group that consumes massive amounts of resources (to wit, cash), provides little if any value, and is basically impossible to get rid of.

I’m a gun owner.  I pared down my collection (not that it was ever large) before I moved just to make things easier, but I owe handguns and one of those “evil” semiautomatic rifles that anti-gun people hate so much without even knowing what they are – a Chinese Type 56 Carbine, the venerable SKS.  Norinco SKS clones are cheap – or rather were, and there’s so much ammo for them floating around that it’s just fun to take to the rank and blast away with.

I play by all the rules, including the registration requirements, because the dealers I buy from do.  In truth, compliance isn’t a big deal, it’s just that I begrudge the whole process since it’s so wasteful.  I don’t get what it accomplishes, though I also don’t play with the paranoia that some have that somehow the man’s going to come confiscate my hardware.  That being said, tell that to owners of Norinco Type 97s who bought them legally only to have the RCMP decide to recommend they be reclassified as prohibited.  I wonder what people who paid $3,000 each for Tavors are thinking, worried if the same will happen to them.

My actual biggest grudge with the gun laws here is the ludicrous “Authorization To Transport” process for restricted firearms.  In Ontario, as a member of a gun club, I had to apply for a Long Term ATT – which allowed me to take my restricted weapons to and from the range – any approved range in the province – but via most direct route, no stops or nothing.  If I deviated and couldn’t justify where I was when I happened to have firearms with me, I’d face prosecution.  The ATT process is particularly stupid because it’s basically a rubber stamp.  Buying a handgun for example requires a restricted PAL (firearms license) and a reason.  The reason is always target shooting, which requires membership of a club, and the club applies for your LTATT.  They are basically NEVER declined, so what the hell is the point?

When I moved here, though, for example, I had to call, talk to some pinhead at the CFO’s office, explain the move plans, give them the dates and times, and wait for the paperwork (mercifully they faxed it), then do it all again when my move dates changed.  It’s just silliness.

The thing is that the anti-gun crowd spins the whole thing as though C-391 is going to somehow open some sort of font of gun violence.  When I ask them why they think so, some of them answer as though they think that the entire license process is being scrapped (it’s not), that the changes apply to handguns (they don’t), and so on.  It’s just frustrating to try to have a discussion on an issue when those most passionate about it prove to be the most ignorant.

And of course, there’s to much static in the discussion, meaningless statistics, and claims about universality of opinion that it’s hard to really explain.  The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, a political lobby group, supports it – yet I’ve never met a cop who claimed it was of any value – and some 900 cops have told MP Garry Breitkreuz that it’s useless.  His website actually has a lof of great info on the topic, so if you’re interested, go and take a look.  It’s quite enlightening.

What really bugs me isn’t restricting firearms ownership – to me that’s a reasonable and prudent public policy, but it’s spending the money spent on the issue stupidly.  That’s what gets me, we have these sacred cow programs that really don’t do anything.  A penny spent on the LGR is money that could be (as I said above) paying more cops, or more customs officers, or after school programs, after all.  It’s instead being poured down a very large drain, and we are getting nothing for it.

One of the best examples of this is the rather ridiculous project embarked on by the Toronto Police Service.  Toronto has a gang and gun violence problem, to be sure.  So what did they do to address it?  They looked up people whose licenses had expired (and who in many cases were in the process of renewing), and seized their firearms.  But since there’s an amnesty on, and the search and seizure was legally a little sketchy, in a lot of cases they just took the firearms into storage while the paperwork is sorted out.  While this plan did get some unwanted weapons off the street, sure, it really didn’t do much at all.  Most of what was seized were old shotguns and hunting rifles, not exactly the handguns that are being brought in for gangsters.

They claimed it was some huge success, and I laughed, because it wasn’t really much of anything, other than an intrusion into private citizens’ lives more or less for a technicality.  You know it’s bad when the Toronto Star has a columnist (whose shotgun was seized) attacking them for how silly it was.

Ultimately, if the registry sticks around, whatever.  I don’t care that much about it, because the vast majority of the money is already gone and can’t be retrieved, but it’s sad that we live in a country where people who know so little about an issue make so many decisions about it.  I’ll give you a great illustration.  I mentioned the Montreal Massacre above.  The rifle that Marc Lepine used in that terrible crime was a Ruger Mini-14, a common, popular target and varmint rifle.  It’s a semi-automatic, gas operated rifle in .223 Remington calibre, fed by a detachable box magazine.  It’s called the Mini-14 because it basically scales down the US M14 rifle’s gas system.

Today, Mini-14s remain non-restricted weapons, but interestingly, AR15 type rifles are restricted by type.  AR15s, for the uninitiated, are the civilian variant of of the M16 type rifle, the C7 used in the Canadian Forces.  But if you want a technical description, well, here it is.  An AR15 is  a semi-automatic, gas operated rifle in .223 Remington calibre, fed by a detachable box magazine.  Sound familiar?  Same as a Mini-14. Why’s one restricted and the other not?  No one has ever really been able to tell me, though I’ve heard some amusing rumours, like Wendy Cukier of the Coalition for Trampling on the Rights and Freedoms of Law Abiding Citizens Gun Control looking through a Guns & Ammo annual buyers guide and picking what looked “scary”.  I don’t think it’s that simple, but it may just as well be.

The point I’ve tried to make is that while some gun laws are logical, reasonable, suitable to a civilized society, the ones we have just aren’t good, and getting rid of bad ones doesn’t mean making it a free-for-all, we just are acknowledging our failures and reallocating resources more effectively.

More local than I’ve posted before…

Now that I’m living in Nova Scotia, I’m paying a lot of attention to local politics, and there’s lots to pay attention to.  Last summer I was stunned that the New Democratic Party won the provincial election, putting a social democratic party in power here.  The Progressive Conservative Party had dominated Nova Scotia for many years, but their last Premier, Rodney MacDonald, didn’t really make much of impression, and was swept out of office and out of politics altogether.  They ran a pretty stereotypical campaign from the right, running stark ads more based on fear and negativity.  The NDP made some ridiculous promises but did win.

Anyhow, they haven’t run the place into the ground, and I’ve actually gotten the impression that they’re taking a realistic approach to dealing with the budget deficit problem, insofar as they’re consulting the electorate.  They’re trying to determine where to cut the budget, where to raise taxes, and it looks like they’ll come up with something reasonable.  I hope, anyhow.  The entire Legislature is embroiled in an expenses scandal too though, although it’s mainly the PC guys that were really up to no good it seems like.

What’s really been interesting me though is what’s been going on in Halifax lately.  Since my career is likely going to keep me here, and that’s my choice of course,  the city’s affairs are pretty interesting and there’s a lot things going on there.  Most of the controversy that’s really interesting to me involves the development of downtown Halifax.

Every city will claim that it’s unique, but among the cities I’ve been to or looked at with any interest, Halifax sort of has a valid claim.  Politically speaking, Halifax is actually a “megacity” – its run by a regional council which includes three cities (Halifax, Dartmouth, and Bedford) and a pretty large swath of rural areas including a myriad of small communities.  Halifax proper is one of the oldest cities in North America, it’s built on a peninsula which is pretty steep.  Downtown itself features a lot of older buildings (including what are called the Historic Properties) that reflect the city’s heritage, and at the top of the hill sits the Halifax Citadel, a military fortress that was part of the Halifax Defence Complex when the city was established as a Royal Navy garrison.

Economically, Halifax is a little unusual as well, it’s very much a government town.  The biggest employers in town are the provincial government in various forms, and the military, with Halifax being the home of the Atlantic Fleet of our Navy, home port of quite a few ships.  A lot of people think tourism’s a big part of the economy,but apparently it isn’t, according to at least one source I read, it was only about 4% of GDP.

Anyhow, the source of much debate right now seems to be the development of downtown, because there’s a huge battle between the Heritage Trust who seem to want to preserve the lower part of downtown exactly as it is – and those who want to see development happen.  The debate is pretty intense, and got me thinking quite a lot.  The current debate centres around a proposal to build a large convention centre, something the city doesn’t have.  The Heritage Trust types oppose it, claiming, among other things, that it will obstruct the view of the harbour from Citadel Hill.  That’s probably true, but I have to wonder how many people really take in that view, since it costs $10 to get into the Citadel.  I fail to see, beyond that, how one building can interfere with an almost 180 degree view from the ramparts of the fort.

I get the impression that the convention centre concept could draw a lot of people to the city – theoretically it could be a good draw for more businesses to come to the area.  Right now, there’s not a lot of reason to go downtown, save for bars at night.  Barrington Street, one of the “main drags” used to be full of shops and so on, and lately they’ve all closed.  A developer’s bought up tons of the properties and is apparently trying to redevelop them, put in nice apartments in them, but why would someone want to live on Barrington above empty stores.

The problems are varied.  Parking downtown sucks.  Traffic is also problematic.  Being an old city the roads are not particularly large, built on steep hills, and are somewhat complicated to navigate if you don’t know your way around.  While there’s a fairly extensive public transit system, it could be improved, though doing so isn’t easy.  Rail isn’t really an economical option due to the layout of the city (there’s enough problems with bottlenecks of rail traffic getting in and out of the container terminals, as I understand it, never mind commuter rail).

The motivation to consider this stuff is the concern of most cities – raising tax revenue to pay for decaying infrastructure.  Halifax Water just announced they want to raise their rates by 40% to cover massive projected infrastructure outlays, including as I understand it, fixing the disaster that is their sewage system.  Halifax dumps raw sewage into the harbour, which is pretty disgusting when you think about it.  A huge, fancy new sewage treatment plant was built, and Mayor Peter Kelly made a big production of swimming in the harbour to celebrate.  In no time at all, however, the plant suffered a catastrophic failure and was shut down.

So the debate becomes how to increase the tax base – or rather, to increase revenue?  The discussion seems to be rather daft.  One of the ideas floated was to have a charge to come onto the peninsula (into the city proper, that is), like the London Congestion Charge.  This is quite possibly the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard of.  It was floated in Toronto as well and I didn’t think it was a great idea there, but for Halifax it’s even sillier.  In London, it’s workable – the idea is to persuade people not to drive into the City, and it’s not terrible because there are so many public transit options.  There’s no real need to drive into the City of London.  Toronto has a decent transit system but even at that I think that a broad charge would be enough to persuade people not to bother going into the downtown area… though the cost of parking in Toronto works for that too.  Halifax, however, enjoys no such luxury.  There’s no real alternative to getting into town quickly, and there’s everything one could probably want outside of downtown in what are called “business parks” like Bayers Lake and Dartmouth Crossing.  [as an aside, Halifax is a little strange – everything is parks, except parks.  Haligonians live in Parks and play on Commons.]

The reality is that not only would such a charge impact people going into the city to dine, to shop, etc, it would also potentially lead to an exodus of businesses.  Why try to entice people to pay to commute downtown when you can locate your business outside of downtown, like several major employers seem to do.

Halifax politics seems to wrap up a lot of issues, because it includes the rural/urban debate – those who live in the far-flung rural areas that still fall under HRM understandably don’t see value in their tax dollars going to fund downtown when they want things like city water brought to them, which is an expensive proposition.  Residents of communities like Beaver Bank north of the city have seen their wells go dry from growth and now are footing bills to get their subdivisions connected to municipal services.  Imagine how this makes me, planning to build a house outside of the city, feel.

Back to the city – Halifax is, I’m worrying, going to suffer from a hollowing of its downtown if it doesn’t keep investing in reasons to be downtown.  Look at London, Ontario as an example – the downtown area is hollowed out, unattractive, and doesn’t really compel anyone to go there.  Or at least, a few years ago it didn’t, but my friends who live there seem to suggest that it’s the same way, the places people want to go are on the fringes of the city.

And the reasonings for leaving downtown alone?  Preservation of a view of the harbour?  Really?  That’s a compelling reason to let the city fade?  I’d like to have something profound to say about that, but I don’t really say as well as some do.  It was only a matter of time before someone took the oft-satired scene from the bunker in Downfall, and resubtitled it to get Hitler’s view on the Heritage Trust.  It’s actually pretty funny, but it’s got a biting point – sure the view can be preserved, but for who?  And is one building, which could quite likely draw a lot of people into downtown, really going to ruin the whole view anyhow?

But this is the kind of thing that gets debated.  They even got into a debate about whether they should continue to allow concerts on the Halifax Commons.  In recent years, they’d had Paul McCartney, Keith Urban, and KISS play open air shows right downtown.  There’s been problems about the state of the lawns afterward, but as I understand it, the most recent big show, McCartney, had convenants to cover the remediation.  The shows draw pretty huge crowds, and I can offer at least anecdotal evidence of the benefits.  Last year when McCartney was in town, I was in downtown Halifax for a wedding.  I don’t know what hotel bookings were like since I have the advantage of being able to stay on the Naval Base, but there was definitely a lot of people in town.  The morning of the show, we went to Jane’s On the Common, right by the show, and the place was packed and quite a few of the people there had come from afar for the show, including the couple beside us who were from Montreal.

That’s economic activity – that’s exactly what the city needs.  The idea of chasing concerts out of the city when Moncton is close by and draws huge crowds is just plain stupid.  I don’t see why they’d even discuss that – just because people who live close to the Commons whined to their councillor I guess.  For a few days of the year, they should just invest in earplugs – because I think they’d do better with those than seeing their taxes rise without that sort of money coming in.

No, I’m not running for city council.  I can’t anyhow, since I don’t live in HRM anyhow.  But some day, you never know…

If I were an American conservative, I’d be embarrassed…

I’ve been stunned by the Tea Party phenomenon. First, there’s the fact that’s it’s an obviously fake grassroots thing, being bankrolled by all sorts of plutocrats who are proving a pretty solid ability to manipulate the ignorant masses.

Throughout the debate over healthcare reform in the US, the right wing in the States has proven over and over again that they are unable of contribute anything of value to the discussion. Obama and the Democrats offered repeated opportunities to the GOP to contribute to the process, and they offered nothing. The Teabaggers didn’t help with perceptions, given the lies and vitriol that spewed out of that movement. Even more pathetic than that is their incredible effort to claim that it’s just liberal plants that are making them look bad. Sorry, but if you can’t offer any evidence of that, no one is going to take you seriously.

I just don’t get the attraction of embracing intellectual mediocrity. When someone tells me they have any sort of positive opinion of Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck for example, I just find that embarrassing and sad. Palin is an uneducated quitter. She has nothing of value to offer America politically, I to this day do not understand who thought it was a good idea to involve her in McCain’s presidential campaign. I don’t think it ultimately mattered much, because McCain on his own failed to inspire anyone. When your country is economically in the shitter, embroiled in two quagmire wars, and looking for something to look forward to, getting up and shilling for the status quo isn’t likely to get you anywhere – or at least it shouldn’t.

And then there’s Glenn Beck. This man I don’t understand the appeal of at all. I’m not going to disparage him for his past of substance abuse, though I sometimes wonder if there’s still something going on. I have to commend him for his ability to exploit the stupidity of Fox viewers with his idiotic populism. And I do enjoy the stories of those great battles of wits between him and the likes of Alex “FEMA Camps” Jones, one of the most disturbed individuals I’ve seen on the interwebs. I don’t get how people just listen to him make up stuff, distort history, and spin things in almost incomprehensible ways. Then I learned a little about where he got his “inspiration”. It’s a book called “The Five Thousand Year Leap” by W. Cleon Skousen, a deranged Mormon member of the John Birch Society. Now, all Mormons are deranged, but this guy was far beyond the average… You know you’re right out of Hee Haw when the Mormons think you’re giving them a bad name.

Skousen’s book is an early effort by religious wingnuts to rewrite history, particularly American history. And through a Mormon lens, no less, according to an excellent article on the guy from Salon. It’s something to read, so here’s the link. http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2009/09/16/beck_skousen/print.html You’ll be staggered that anyone gives this any credence. I recently witnessed a Twitter exchange between a couple of my favourite nutjobs about Beck, and how they think that while he’s got good ideas (really? where?!) they don’t like that he’s a Mormon instead of whatever their take on a “TRUE CHRISTIAN” is. Then they go on to talk about how great Skousen’s book is, obviously ignorant of the fact that it’s some screwy Mormon agitprop from some self-aggrandizing idiot.

What little I can tolerate of Beck shows that he’s the ringlieader of a circus of stupidity. I can’t listen to him go on long before having to shake my head at his misrepresentation of history, or his ridiculous scaremongering. It’s not like he actually has anything particularly insightful to say, it’s just some schlocky bullshit. I love his logic. “I’ll make a bullshit statement, then challenge the person I’ve smeared to call me with my prop phone and correct me”. What sort of ridiculous position is that? Not like anyone who’s actually intelligent that he’d call out would waste their time on him, anyhow.

It just trickles down to so many people. Yesterday I got introduced to the “Ron Paul Republican”. Basically, take an idiot who proves the old adage that a little knowledge is dangerous, fill their heads with some nonsense about libertarianism, make sure they have no real idea what they’re talking about, and then release them to the world with no debating skills. These people are just disgusting. I don’t understand how they think so highly of themselves, because they really don’t get anything. I could go into a whole other post about why I think people who think the gold standard is the greatest thing in the world are stupid. Maybe I will some day.

The First Steps In Reform Getting Closer!

I’ve spent probably far too long today watching the House of Representatives debate on the Senate bill.  During the last two days it seemed that the Democrats were getting closer and closer to the 216 votes that are needed to pass the bill.  I think CNN reported it fairly early today, probably before I went grocery shopping actually.  (That, incidentally, was my one “accomplishment” today), everything else was a write-off).

I find the whole Stupak/pro-life nonsense a little baffling, but that’s probably at least in part the Canadian in me that sees no point in that debate.  It’s just basically over within Canada, only the nutty extreme right wing still goes on about it, and the rest of us just see that there’s better things for our politicians to worry about.  Just listening to the baffling bullshit that is spewed by these people astounds me, but fortunately they’ve been gotten on side by the executive order promised.  I don’t see any issue with that concession either, really, as long as it doesn’t restrict access to abortion overall.  Whether it will or not isn’t something I’m in much of a position to assess, it’s not something I know much about.  Ultimately, as well, it’s a minor issue in comparison to the accomplishment of getting this bill passed.

Now it’s winding down, the Republicans are blustering away with the same bullshit ranging from innocuous whining to ridiculous blusters about “totalitarianism” and “socialism”.  I’ve got a laugh from the fact that some lobby group is running ads on CNN still that prattle about the “Deem & Pass” concept that has long since been dropped.

It’ll be interesting to see the response from the right.  It’ll be hilarious, I suspect.  They’ll whine and bitch, and before long, they’ll accept the fact that the bill makes things better – though not perfect.

More on Kent Pankow & Ridiculous Right Wing Statements

Kent Pankow’s story is really drawing a lot of attention in the US, and I found what seems to be the source of it, on popular right wing blog HotAir.com. Here’s their posting on the story.

http://hotair.com/archives/2010/03/10/another-tale-of-government-run-health-care-success/

Again, this post erects a strawman comparison of the current reform proposals in the United States, which bear no resemblance to Canada’s system, and throws around the “government takeover” lie that opponents of reform are using in their typical strategy of lying and fearmongering to block any sort of meaningful change.

Again, this blog cherrypicks the story and has no interest in looking at comparative experiences in the United States.

But that’s not the real gem. Oh no, it gets better than the tired rhetoric.

Here’s the killer:

“Some will say that the runaround happens in America, too, with private insurers. And they’d be right. [warriorbanker’s note: that’s probably the most honest thing I’ve heard a right winger say about healthcare] However, people in America have the ability to move to different insurers when they get lousy service, and still get treatment in their own country. They don’t have to flee across an international border to get medical attention.”

Really?

Really? You actually believe that?

Let me get this straight. Let’s assume I’m suffering from a pernicious cancer like glioblastoma multiforme, which has a tragically low five year survival rate and requires either surgical intervention or extremely expensive chemotherapy to treat. The usual chemo treatment is Temodar, which is not a cheap drug (though I think comparatively it’s cheaper than Avastin). Googling Temodar brought up a few sites with American cancer patients and their families discussing struggling with the cost of copayments for the drug. So it’s not as though it’s a rosy picture even without Avastin, which as I mentioned in a previous post, is a sort of “silver bullet” against cancer, it was described by one doctor as the penicillin-level discovery of our time.

Anyhow, back to this insurance claim made by hot air. Suppose I was the theoretical patient I described. My insurer goes to battle with me about the treatment options. Before they would be likely to approve Avastin I’d likely have to go on Temodar and show no progress. The FDA’s approval of Avastin to treat GBM (it’s here: http://www.fda.gov/AboutFDA/CentersOffices/CDER/ucm149364.htm ) seems to suggest that it has to be used after other treatment is not effective. I may not be reading that right, though. I’m not a doctor. I’ll get to another point about the FDA in a moment though. So suppose I conclude I’m getting “lousy service”. Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey suggests that I have the ability to move to a different insurer. If you believe that, we need to talk about some real estate opportunities I have to share with you.

Private insurance companies are in the business of making money. That’s what they do. That is their single crucial interest. They do so by trying to take on as little risk as possible, matching premiums to expected payouts, and trying to get as much information as possible about a person before they take them on. That’s why they have pre-existing condition exclusions, which me in this hypothetical state would face. No insurer would EVER take on someone who’s already got GBM or probably any cancer – at least not without excluding coverage for the treatment of that cancer – or anything that could be considered linked to it or its treatment. Like, well, just about anything. Cancer drugs have a lot of really, really nasty side effects – and even minor ones like diminished immune system resistance to simple conditions. Some cancer treatments can actually be essentially carcinogenic. A cynic I know described her chemotherapy radiation therapy as “poison that will hopefully kill my cancer before it kills me”. It’s not hard for an insurer to assess just about anything a cancer patient could claim as being related to pre-existing conditions.

So, the idea that one can shop their insurance is rather ludicrous. By the time one comes to the conclusion that their insurance is “lousy”, it’s probably far too late to shop around. Never mind that if you’re in a group plan, which is tax advantageous and helps get around eligibility rules in the United States, you’re not going to get a choice of who your insurer is – your employer will determine that. This idea of being able to shop insurance around that HotAir is suggesting is what some might call “horsefeathers”. I’m blunt, I’ll just call it bullshit.

What about fleeing across international borders? Americans don’t have to do that? Actually, that’s also not necessarily true. Medical tourism in the US is big business already, and it’s growing. Here’s some great stories:

http://www.businessweek.com/globalbiz/content/mar2008/gb20080312_835774.htm

http://www.aishealth.com/ManagedCare/BluesNews/BLU_WellPoint_Medical_Tourism.html

And there’s probably hundreds more sites – these are insurers trying to get people to use overseas services. As costs soar, people will try to keep their premiums down by electing progressively less coverage with higher deductibles/copayments, and that’s likely to push more of them to look at going to Thailand, to India, to other countries to use lower cost services. That’s what the right thinks is an okay system (while they seem to deny it actually even happens? So much for that claim, I don’t think I need to go any further.

Back to the FDA to close out my post. Remember Mr. Pankow, and how the problem is that his treatment for his GBM isn’t being covered by his provincial health insurance because it’s not an approved treatment in Canada yet? Well, it’s not like it’s a huge disparity. Avastin was only approved for treatment of gliomas in the US in May 2009. Not exactly ages ago. While I’d like to see Health Canada have a better process to use research data from the USA to expedite its own processes, there’s processes and they exist for a reason. The sad part of them is that they trap people waiting for the approvals like Mr. Pankow. That’s why I hope that there’s some retroactive coverage for him. Again, I wish him much strength and success in his challenges.

When You Have Nothing Else, Use Fallacy!

Today on Twitter I picked up quite a few new followers. One of them was a Twitter account promoting TwiceRight, a right leaning blog in the USA. Whenever I get emails about new followers, since I don’t have an unmanageably large amount, I tend to check out their recent tweets to see what they have to say. One from this account jumped out at me, linking to a blog post that claimed to “prove” the nonsensical allegation of “death panels” in systems of universal healthcare – specifically in Canada. With great interest I checked out the post.

It was a deceptive and idiotic telling of the rather sad tale of Kent Pankow, an Alberta man who suffers from what sounds like an extremely rare but pernicious form of brain cancer called glioblastoma. My knowledge of brain cancer isn’t particularly extensive, but is slightly enriched by having contributed to fundraising efforts for The James Fund For Neuroblastoma Research, in memory of James Birrell, a child from my former hometown of Peterborough, Ontario. James fought and eventually lost a battle with another form of cancer that is relatively rare, such that drug companies don’t put a lot of research into developing treatments for it. As I understand it brain tumours are difficult to deal with surgically as they spread fast and can be difficult to access.

The post tries to make much hay of the “Alberta Cancer Board”, suggesting, falsely, that “… countries with socialized health care have “boards” for different sectors of disease”. I don’t know what a sector of disease is, but that’s not the important part. I don’t know of any other disease or condition that has a similar management system in Canada, at least. And of course, as I’ve discussed before, Canada doesn’t have “socialized health care”. We have socialized health insurance. Most of our healthcare is delivered by private sector actors – our primary care physicians, our specialists, diagnostic services, etc etc are all private sector actors. The difference between us and the United States is that virtually everyone here has coverage under a universal health insurance plan. Anyhow, back to “boards” In the case of Alberta, the Alberta Cancer Board has been folded back into Alberta Health Services, but I looked at an analogue I was fairly familiar with, Cancer Care Ontario. Who are they? Well, here’s their page, I’ll let them answer. http://www.cancercare.on.ca/about/who/ They note their responsibility it to continuously improve cancer services. Given that cancer is pretty widespread – and is actually just a blanket term for more than 200 different diseases, requires intensive treatment, and has a lot of research ongoing, it makes sense that provinces have agencies that coordinate the management of care and prevention programs.

Similar programs seem to exist in other provinces, including Nova Scotia where I live. They have generally the same mandate – coordinate resources, design and improve standards of care, collate and disperse knowledge to all stakeholders. Nothing about that sounds particularly insidious, despite TwiceRight’s claims. In fact, I’m quite happy that given the toll cancer takes, our healthcare system has created such a mechanism for addressing it more effectively in every possible case. If anyone sees any reason that this is actually a bad thing, I’d love to hear it, but I can’t seem to find anyone besides TwiceRight who does, and their argument is more a case of misrepresentation and insinuation than any sort of representation of facts.

Back to Mr. Pankow. TwiceRight omits the contextual explanation for the man’s plight. They claim – and they word it such that they are making clear they have no facts, “The cost to remove Pankow’s brain tumor was too expensive, they would rather have him be on meds for a couple of weeks and die than get the surgery.” They then assert “it’s not rocket science”. I am in no position to comment on why the surgery wasn’t done in Alberta and why there was the 16 day lag that TwiceRight and other articles refer to. The difference in my case is that I won’t speculate on the reason. The fact that TwiceRight does just shows more of a lack of integrity, but you’ve probably figured that out already. In any case, as a result of this predicament he sought treatment at his own cost at the Mayo Clinic.

The bigger part of the problem involves a drug called Avastin, an incredible anti-cancer drug. I’m familiar with it because it’s the primary reason a very good friend of mine’s mother is alive today. She was diagnosed with colon cancer several years ago and told to expect the worst, until she got into a research trial group and the drug worked its magic. Avastin is approved for treatment of a few different cancers, but in Canada, not for the treatment of brain cancers – yet. In the United States, it is, and it’s part of the protocol that Mayo is coordinating with Mr. Pankow’s doctors in Canada to treat his condition. That’s the terrible, horrible grind that Mr. Pankow finds himself in – Avastin is working, but it’s also costing him $9,000 a month because it’s not approved for his condition and therefore not covered by his insurance. This is one of those terrible bureaucratic nightmares that can crop up in any sort of insurance system. Interestingly, TwiceRight’s blogger contradicts himself here, seeming to assert that Alberta Health is withholding treatment because of cost, but then noting that had he had colon, lung, or breast cancer it would have been paid for… because the approval process for those cancers is complete.

Health Canada is in the approval process, but the wait is surely agonizing. In the meantime Mr. Pankow has a complaint before the Alberta Human Rights Commission regarding what he regards as discrimination. I believe from what I read of the story that he has a good case, and that in the end he should receive a decision in his favour. His lobbying effort is to get an exception to waive the cost of his Avastin therapy until such time as a decision is rendered, and they’re frustrated that the Alberta Government hasn’t done so. I can’t disagree with that position at all, either.

The real problem with this story, or rather, with its use by TwiceRight. It’s basically a sort of straw man against health care reform, and I’ll suggest that it’s disingenuous for at least two reasons. First, look at TwiceRight’s last paragraph. “Which is why we need to address health insurance not health care in this country. (emphasis in original). Well, the only viable health care reform option in the USA right now deals almost exclusively with insurance, not the continued tired drone about “government takeover”. They then descend into the normal canards about portability which have been addressed broadly elsewhere as being likely totally ineffective in dealing with insurance costs and access.

They are correct about how a more liberal response would sound. This tactic of pointing at Canada as a great big straw man for fighting reform is getting worn out, and it’s ridiculous. In fact, that Mr. Pankow lives in Canada and has the ability to at least fight for coverage would seem to put him ahead of the game, in comparison, let’s say, to Ben Martin (http://www.bensfight.org/). Or to the various patients of the disease profiled here: http://www.yasg.com/bios002.html, and their struggles to maintain their insurance coverage and fund their treatment. What if Kent Pankow lived in the US and his relapse was treated as a pre-existing condition, leaving him with basically no recourse whatsoever? A few minutes on Google reveals that glioblastoma multiforme is a tragic disease for many people, regardless of where they live, but to read that second link and see the added stress that battling insurers causes makes you really have to rethink the argument presented.

To sum up, as I’ve gone on long enough, the case of Mr. Pankow highlights my main assertion about the Canadian healthcare system. Like most systems, it’s not perfect, but I don’t think I’d like to trade my coverage here for anything in the USA under its current system. The fact that even those with insurance face difficulties fighting their conditions shows me that universal healthcare has tremendous advantages in so many ways. I wish Mr. Pankow well in his fight, both with cancer and to improve our system, but hope I have been able to make a reasonably compelling case for why the political hay being made of him (or rather, attempting to be made) is just another fine example of the desperation of opponents of the effort to improve healthcare access in the United States – of their willingness to use fallacious arguments and deception to support their claims.

Incidentally, Mr. Pankow has a trust fund for donations to support his care in the interim while his case works itself through the system, with any surplus going to glioblastoma research, and those interested in his case can make donations by following the instructions on the site.

The Wonder Of Creationism

The people I take some of the greatest delight in seeing on Twitter are deluded creationists.  Most of them are hilariously brainwashed and incorrigible, but it gets amusing when a number of them get in on calling them out – some great minds I’ve come across tend to enjoy them too.

What’s funny is looking at the “evidence” they come up with to support their claims.  It’s usually so ridiculously full of logical fallacy that we only need debate which of its claims are most foolhardy.  Usually they revolve around a few tactics.  They’ll present some famous frauds like Piltdown Man in order to claim that they prove the entire concept false.  That is, of course, ridiculous… but they don’t seem to mind that at all.

Another one they’ll use is presentation of debunked pseudoscience.  One of these folks did that lately with a video featuring Dr. Michael Behe, the chief proponent of “irreducible complexity”, which is the “scientific” foundation for Intelligent Design, the creationist movement’s effort to gain credibility to support their “teach the controversy” strategy.  They of course hate the idea of being attacked on the basis that irreducible complexity has been debunked and is not considered to hold scientific merit.

Someone I’ve just encountered posted the Discovery Institute’s list of about 700 scientists who “reject Darwinism”.  What’s interesting is that other than the list there’s little background.  Many of these esteemed academics are in fields totally unrelated to life sciences.  And there’s 700 of them.  Out of hundreds of thousands of scientists who in fact do not find themselves disagreeing.  Or at least, who don’t actively oppose the ideas.  I’m sure many scientists question aspects of the Theory of Evolution and all related ideas, but few scientists simply reject it outright – they use the scientific method to explore their doubts.  It’s quite telling that there is to my knowledge no established, journal-published peer reviewed scientific research which refutes the theory of evolution.  If there was, well, we’d all be forced to reconsider everything with think.  Journals would all be fighting over the chance to publish such a study.

This particular person is one of the more disturbed people completely wrapped up in the fraud of creationism, and to watch her repeatedly try to defend her untenable position is a mix of humour and tragedy.  This is someone who has displayed tragic evidence of being unable to think for herself in any critical manner – but then actually states that it is us, those who reject the idea of creationism, who cannot think for ourselves.  It’s a statement so richly ridiculous I don’t even know how to answer it.

It got better after I posted this entry originally, which is why I decided to come back to it.  I sent this individual, who’s a big fan of YouTube videos, a link to one of my favourite ten minute explanations of evolution and the science that underpins the theory.  Its basic premise is an explanation of why virtually all scientists understand evolution to be true, or at least, to be the best explanation of the diversity of life.  If you’re interested, the video is here: http://bit.ly/dphBpz and I had nothing whatsoever to do with its creation.  I’m just not that smart.

Her response was absolutely brilliant.  Here goes: First she said: “he said some untruths from the beginning- that is a dead giveaway”.  I don’t know which statements she’s referring to, of course.  I pointed out that her videos all start with tremendous, ridiculous creationist bias.

So I wondered, what specific thing are you referring to?  She answered before I even asked: “Phylogenetic Tree does not have to be drawn the same way- many models- Darwinistic faith is used by Darwinists 2 fill in THEIR blank” (note, I’m copying and pasting this from Twitter, the grammar and spelling errors are hers.  Never mind the substance.)  The whole point of the video, if you haven’t watched it, is that the phylogenetic tree – the tree of life, as it were, comes out the same using a variety of methods to assess it.  That’s the wonder of evolution, you see – the evidence, gathered from different sources, in different ways, all points to the same conclusion.

This person, I’ve decided, is so lost in the delusions of her religion, that there’s no real point in trying to show her reality.  She is indeed hopelessly lost, and I may as well abandon her.  I wish it was so simple, because watching these deluded souls is like watching a terrible trainwreck.  You shouldn’t watch, you know it’s wrong, but you do anyhow.  You stare in awe at the tragic mess.  She didn’t disappoint, either.  This next quote, this one’s my favourite: she posted a link to this: “Put your affairs in order, biologists. Your time is nigh!” http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/06/put_your_affairs_in_order_biol.php

Note the author.  P.Z. Myers.  A biologist who believes like most of his peers that creationism in any form is utter bilge.  I think this woman just saw the headline, didn’t realize that the post makes fun of just how stupid creationism, especially “intelligent design”.  Myers in particular mocks the 2004 claim of the Intelligent Design set that evolution will be “dead” in five years.  That obviously has been true.  He then notes the only really truthful thing they point out – that they have no theory that holds up.  They have “intuition” (religious blindness, surely), and a couple of concepts like the totally discredited “irreducible complexity”.  They have nothing at all.  They know this, they know that since Kitzmiller vs Dover Board of Education in the USA they have very little chance of getting their drivel into classrooms, and they are scrambling to assert something, anything of scientific merit.  And they can’t.  They can make all sorts of claims about scientists dissenting, but take a look at that list.  700 or so – up to 2000 I’ve heard claimed.  Look at their fields.  Many of them are not in any field related to life sciences.  None of them that I know of has a single peer-reviewed, journal-published article that takes down evolution.  So I reiterate, they have nothing.

My friend, this evening, made one more amusing tweet on the matter.  “Purpose of science -bring all facts to light-follow evidence wherever it leads- Not so n Darwinism”.  This I think is the very summation of everything that is wrong with creationists.  They don’t follow this process.  Biologists and other scientists studying the origins of life do.  They start with hypotheses, and test them.  The tests become evidence for the theory, or, if applicable, they create gaps or problems with the theories that require further study.  They ask questions and seek answers that fill in the blanks to the best of their abilities.  Creationists seem to follow a completely different, and totally intellectually dishonest process.  They start with their outcomes defined.  They are trying to prove what Dawkins eloquently termed “the origin mythology of a certain group of Bronze Age tribesmen” – at least it was something to that effect, I don’t have the book handy for the exact wording.  They have what they assert to be the “truth” and they will thus try to shoehorn anything they can in to fit the story.   That isn’t science at all.

While we are at it, take a look some time at the story they’re trying to prove.  It’s rather ridiculous, and out of reasonable sequence, at the most basic levels.  If you want a good read, I’ll put in a plug for the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible, an interesting project.  It’s at http://www.skepticsmannotatedbible.com .  They have a tremendous amount of interesting, irreverent, and amusing commentary on the supposedly inerrant word of god.  In particular, though, look at this page – Absurdities in the Book of Genesis.  http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/gen/abs_list.html Things like the fact that plants were made before there was sun to support photosynthesis.  That light appeared on the first day, but the Sun didn’t until the fourth, and so on.  It makes absolutely no sense – and this is what these folks want to base the story of our origins on?  Ridiculous.  The whole thing is just plain ridiculous.

Something is rotten in the State of Texas

Few things in the world bother me that indoctrination and historical revisionism in schools.  Many atheists make a point of stating clearly that there is no such thing, for example, as a Catholic child, rather, just a child of Catholic parents.  It is my firm belief that religion has absolutely no place in schools.

For years, primarily in the USA, there’s been efforts by religious wingnuts to give some manner of equal footing to their batshit crazy ideas about origins – creationism and its pseudointellectual/pseudoscientific cousin, “intelligent design”.  These people are admittedly rather smart about it – their “teach the controversy” strategy.  They seem to learn from losing every time they go to court and developing disgusting new ways to push their agendas.

One of their most incredible ways of polluting the world with their ideas is their influence on school textbooks in the United States, through the Texas’ State Board Education.  A few years ago, in the 1960s as I recall (I wish I could find the link to the piece I read about it – I think it was in Slate, or maybe Mother Jones?), some fundamentalist nutjobs realized that the public could get involved in the curriculum development process.  They religious right has gotten involved wholesale in the process of shaping what Texas kids are taught about history, science, etc.

And the impact of this process is ever more alarming.  Texas represents a massive market for textbooks.  Publishers need to take Texan standards into account in order to sell their wares.  An article on the subject I read a while ago highlight the fact that Texas’ conservative bias was counterweighted by California’s more liberal tack, but as many of you will know, California’s basically broke, and buying textbooks in the near future isn’t on their agenda.  It seems that conservative nutcases have seen and are trying to seize their ultimate opportunity to rewrite history into their insane ideas.  I’m not going to get into everything they want to change, but suffice it to say that it’s just sickening.  Here’s one such link: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35839979/ns/us_news-education/ that summarizes some of their changes these people want to put into place.

In one of the many articles I’ve read in the past couple of months about this disturbing trend, it was highlighted that most of the Board members who get a vote on curriculum have basically no academic qualifications in the fields they discuss.  Some of them have only high school educations.  I think it was slate that interviewed one of their “history” experts.  What’s he look for in assessing books?  Well, he cares about the discussion of Israel, and that Ronald Reagan is exalted as the man who killed Communism, a common delusion of the right wing.  Reagan’s contribution to the end of the Soviet Union are widely varied depending on who you read, but I recently saw that Americans, in a USA today poll in the early 1990s, ascribed more of a role to Gorbachev.  Interestingly, at least one academic I read suggested that not only was Reagan’s renewed arms race (SDI etc) devastating to the US economy, it actually stalled the inevitable collapse of the USSR by giving hardliners something to rally against.  That’s sort of  a theme that’s coming out in the Iran situation – Bush’s supposedly hardline stance on Iran gave Ahmadinejad someone to point at as a greater threat, Obama’s more reasonable approach is, possibly, fuelling public protest in Iran.  Why? Because when despots have no one to point to as a common enemy, they face more of a threat from their own subjects.

I’m off on a tangent.  Back to Texas.  The fact that these right-wing nutcases are getting influence over education in a large state and trying to build in delusions like the “Christian foundations” of the United States.  They have built in some other ridiculous priorities into their plans – a strange obsession with the Second Amendment, all sorts of things that make no real sense.

It’s pretty sick, and it’s happening before peoples’ eyes.  It’s got to be stopped.

The Problem With Political Discourse

The more I watch debates unfold, listen to various pundits, and try to understand as many viewpoints as I can about the myriad of significant issues in politics these days, the more I’ve come to realize that regardless of the issues being discussed there is a real lack of debate of any value.

It doesn’t matter really what the issue is. All it takes is the cheerleaders at every pole of the issue to start pumping out rhetoric and all they have to do is find a catch that gets people to listen. Facts are completely optional.

I don’t know how many times, for example, I’ve heard the right wing in the US talk about healthcare reform being “rammed down people’s throats”. A bill being passed by the elected legislatures isn’t being “rammed”. It’s how a republic works. The US is not a direct democracy. The only country in the world remotely like one is Switzerland, and it’s somewhere that Tenthers/states’ rights advocates might find interesting to look at. I’m not going to write a dissertation on the Swiss confederal system of government but it is fascinating – virtually everything is done at cantonal level and referenda are used heavily.

I’d like to say there is a comparable example on the left side of the spectrum but there doesn’t seem to be. They have a different tactic it seems like – calling out individuals with claims (often non sequitur) that at least draw the reader/listener into the story. They tend not to trade in the fear or moral panic angles as much as they prefer to appeal to a sense of moral outrage or shared values. It works pretty well for them.

The sad reality of the modern world is that we are frequently reduced to getting our news in soundbites often easily manipulated to suit the message desired by the sender of the message. We don’t spend the time to look into veracity or depth of issues. Look at Twitter. Throw 140 characters up and unless it’s patently clear bullshit it may well be retweeted as fact. Once it’s in first-degree retweeting and gets momentum the false information gets around rapidly. With few questioning what they read it’s obvious the ramifications.

Consider, for example, that a few weeks ago a rumour started about the death of Canadian singer Gordon Lightfoot. No one really questioned the source and it went out through at least one major Canadian media outlet in no time. There was no truth to it, but plenty of people got snared by the story.

There are people who make claims relying on this unwillingness to dig deeper and it verges on the ridiculous. I actually had a guy from somewhere in the US I was discussing healthcare reform with keep claiming things were in the bill and telling me to read it. When I doubted that he himself had read it he went curiously quiet. The same applies to many issues.

I have to say that while I don’t often agree with the left they seem to come to the table armed with facts, data, references. And if they get called out they will go and get the proof. The right tend to run when outed.

I find it disappointing that this is what discourse has degenerated into – because we should be able to do better. The vast amount of information at our fingertips – such as on the iPhone on which I am composing this – should enrich discussion and debate not erode it, but it has.

What seems worse is that there are people who actually seem to revel in their ignorance. Someone actually told me something to the effect of “only lefties read newspapers”. This was a person who learned her history from the Bible and gets her news from FauxNoise and WingNutDaily. That’s pathetic. Now, this case may be an outlier. This is the same person who says she thinks I’m a victim of demonic possession, after all.

Where I’m going with this is simply to state that I miss when I was in university and surrounded constantly by people with varied political ideologies but united by a passion for discussing and debating them at length with respect. I don’t think any one ideology has all the answers and therefore we all have something to gain from trying to see all side.