Monday, July 30, 2007

Just a little bit of sharing

So, I have recently realized I have a thing for bike messengers, generally. I tend to get a little tinge of excitement when I see them in the office. Maybe it's because they are almost defiantly casual in formal business environments. Maybe it's because by virtue of their vocation they tend to be lean, fit and tan. Whatever the reason, I like 'em.

(not everything has to be so serious around here)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Why I'm Not Buying Free Health Care, Part 1.5

Thanks to North Dallas Thirty for finding this WSJ opinion piece. An Exerpt:

Democrats who run the Wisconsin Senate have dropped the Washington pretense of incremental health-care reform and moved directly to passing a plan to insure every resident under the age of 65 in the state. And, wow, is "free" health care expensive. The plan would cost an estimated $15.2 billion, or $3 billion more than the state currently collects in all income, sales and corporate income taxes. It represents an average of $510 a month in higher taxes for every Wisconsin worker.

With $510 per month can't you get damn good private health insurance?

My hope: Wisconsin passes the plan; Washngton remains a stalemate after November 2008 (Republican Pres + Democratic Congress, or vice versa); the Wisonson plan fails miserably; Washington take notice; and the big pipedream: Instead of taking over the health care industry we see some antitrust actions in the insurance industry, and if the government MUST subsidize health care, it does so at the consumer level through vouchers or Health Savings Accounts (which incidentally are BANNED under the Wisconsin Plan).

Further discussion forthcoming--but not for a week.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

It's official, young people don't think.

The prefrontal cortex is the area of the brain that is responsible for judgment and skills of comparing and understanding eventual outcomes. It does not, however, fully develop until about the age 25 (a little earlier for females). Perhaps this fact explains the following excerpts from the report Republicans Collapse Among Young Americans [PDF] (courtesy Sully):
The problems with the Republican brand among young people run deeper than Bush. Young people are often cynical about politics, but believe in government. By a 68 – 28 percent margin, voters would rather have a bigger government providing more services over a smaller government providing fewer services. Even Republican young people prefer a larger, more generous government (57 – 40 percent for bigger government with more services). [[GAG!]]

Okay, so young people are idealistic (read: naive) about the benevolence of government and have a preference for the nanny state. I suppose it's because our parents take care of us, and as we grow up we think the government should too.


The leading volunteered issue for the President and the Congress is not the war (19 percent), but the economy and economic issues (39 percent in total). A majority (58 percent) of young people say they are “one paycheck away from having to borrow money from their parents or credit cards.” Two thirds are working for an hourly wage and 60 percent worry a great deal or some about their debt load. Most do not earn a four-year university degree (just a quarter in this survey are currently in a four-year college or have graduated from one). Young people of color, women (especially unmarried women) and the less educated in particular report a real
financial struggle.

So, let me get this straight: we will give all our votes to the party that we think will expand our government and provide with more services, all the while complaining about how little we earn. In the short term that seems to make sense: we're poor, so we need more government services because we can't afford private equivalents. But where do those services come from? TAXES. Of course not our taxes; we're poor so we pay fewer of them to start, and no one will raise our taxes. Instead let's tax our rich, evil employers so they can decide to cut labor and wages (not below that minimum, though!) and either pay us less or not at all. As an added bonus we can curb incentive for investment, thus hindering the creation of new opportunities and productive capital. Yeah, that makes sense. My blood pressure goes up just thinking about it.

Sidebar: I am TIRED of the class warfare slogan "tax cuts for the rich!" First, tax cuts for the rich do not automatically mean tax increases on the poor (in the current climate, they do however mean deficit spending that leads to inflation, which affects the poor more than the rich--but that's a result of spending not tax collection). Second, rich people sign the salary checks at every job I've had, and frankly I'd like them to have more money so they can use it to pay me to do things. Third, how is it fair or moral to impose a bigger burden (via a progressive tax system) on the more productive members of society who use comparatively less of the social programs that the tax revenues pay for? Please explain this to me (and I will reject out-of-hand any argument that is premised on the canard that the rich are only rich because they "stole" from everyone else)!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Republican YouTube Debate

Allow me to jump on the bandwagon. Whether it revolutionized debate or was merely a fad ratings gimmick is not the issue. Whether the questions were softball, ridiculous, or thought provoking is not the issue either. The issue is that Republicans cannot afford to reaffirm the "old white men who are afraid of change" stereotype, and skipping or being noncommittal over participating in a new debate format will do just that.

If two or more of the top four Republican contenders don't show up it's bad news for Republicans. If only one of the top four doesn't show up, it's bad for the absentee. Just agree and get it over with, you technophobes.


A Republican YouTube plea for Republican YouTube participation. (Plus, I think he's rather cute)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Conscience of a Conservative

I have changed the Pink Elephant's Book Club Selection today, and though usually I do so without much fanfare, I have found a book that I recommend to everyone. I recommend it to liberals, so they can better understand what I mean. I ESPECIALLY recommend it to conervatives so they can remember what it means to be a conservative.

Barry Goldwater is one of my great political heroes. I might even rank him above Ronnie--I haven't decided. He wrote The Conscience of a Conservative almost 50 years ago, and while the political context may have changed, I find much of what he says very relevant to today.

Goldwater bemoans a Republican Party that in practice is almost indistinguishable from the Party it opposes. The Gentleman from Arizona warns that the cavalier disregard of the Constitution replaces the rule of laws with the rule of men. He fears the expanse of government because the natural course of government is to oppress the governed.

An excerpt:

State power, considered in the abstract need not restrict freedom, but absolute state power always does. The legitimate functions of government are actually conducive to freedom. Maintaining internal order, keeping foreign foes at bay, administering justice, removing the obstacles to the free interchange of goods--the exercise of these powers makes it possible for men to follow their chosen pursuits with the maximum of freedom. But note that the instrument by which these desirable ends are achived can be the instrument for achieving undesirable ends--that government can, instead of extending freedom, restrict freedom. And note, secondly, that this "can" quickly becomes "will" the moment the holders of government power are left to their own devices. This is because of the corrupting influence of power, the natural tendency of men who possess some power to take unto themselves more power. The tednency leads eventually to the acqusition of all power--whether in the hands of one or many makes little difference to the freedom of those left on the outside.

Such then is history's lesson . . . : release the holders of state power from any restraints other than those they wish to impose upon themselves and you swinging down the well-travelled road to [government] absolutism. (Emphasis supplied)

Allow me to help establish some cred for Barry among my gay readership. In a 1994 op-ed entitled "The Politics of Gay Bashing" or "Protecting Gays from Job Discrimination" or some variant depending upon the newspaper in which it appeared, Sen. Goldwater wrote:

Gays and lesbians are a part of every American family. They should not be shortchanged in their efforts to better their lives and serve their communities. It's time America realized that there is no gay exemption in the right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" in the Declaration of Independence. Job discrimination against gays - or anybody else - is contrary to each of these founding principles.

Some will try to paint this as a liberal or religious issue. I am a conservative Republican, but I believe in democracy and the separation of church and state. The conservative movement is founded on the simple tenet that people have the right to live as they please, as long as they don't hurt anyone else in the process. No one has ever shown me how being gay or lesbian harms anyone else.

And in case you don't just love him yet, when Jerry Falwell charged that "every good Christian should be concerned" by the nomination of Sandra Day O'Connor to the Supreme Court, Barry Goldwater responded:
"every good Christian should line up and kick Jerry Falwell's ass."

Read his book.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Minimum wage

Boy, I am posting up a storm (this will have to be the last one for today, though--WORK WORK WORK!)

Today the minimum wage increase from 5.15 to 7.25 an hour goes into effect. Workers in low skill jobs rejoice! That is until their employer realizes they are not productive enough to justify 7.25 per hour and lays them off. Or when in a year or so, the higher costs of production increases the costs of goods making the increase in wage meaningless to their standard of living.

Do people honestly believe that minmum wage increases help the poor at all? Do these "advocates" think that employers are just going to eat these increased labor costs? Isn't a low wage better than no wage? The people who time and time again come up with this stuff must have been humanities majors!

Chet Suburbanteenager working this summer at Abercrombie so he can get an iPhone will be pleased. But, is he the one we are doing this for?

Delightful frivolity

The only thing missing is a D&G ad; I think Smithers and Mr. Burns could have done that one nicely.
(Courtesy: Sully)


I never thought of my blog as highbrow--sure I have a PG-13 policy, but have you seen what passes for PG-13 these days?

Nonetheless, I appreciate the compliment from a reader, even if I don't think I really deserve it (I happen to like underwear ads too--a lot!).

Just for fun: here's Giuliani Girl v. Obama Girl. The tune is rather catchy.

My favorite lyric:" I knew Reagan and you're no Reagan." Of course Obama ain't either.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Ron Paul's lost it

I'm not talking about the race for the nomination, I mean his mind. Apparently Dr. Paul (pictured below) thinks we live in the show 24.

Too bad. I rather liked having a small government candidate.

(courtesy: Right Side of the Rainbow)

Friday, July 20, 2007

War and property rights

Andronicus pointed this out in the comments to the last post. Apparently the Bush Administration allowed issued an executive order giving them the authority to block the property interests of those it deems to commit acts of violence that undermine our efforts in Iraq. Sure, the order focuses on acts of violence, which should be punished, but the (GINORMIGANTUAN) problem is that it also gives them the authority to block the property rights of those who "materially assist" in such acts. Does that mean that those who protest the war, say we should pull out, or even vote for people who say such things materially assist (after all, they give encouragement to insurgents who commit the acts of violence undermining the peace and stability in Iraq as well as our reconstruction efforts)? How direct of causation are we talking? You can bet that the executive branch will push for as weak of causation as possible. Scary thought.

Here's something scarier: No major news source seems to have picked this up. We must be quite used to the erosion of due process and the danger to civil liberties in the name of security by now.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

War and individual rights

(Programming note: one of my primary universalized health care sparring partners emailed me to say he will be unavailable for a bit; we shall resume that debate once he returns)

One of the reasons I describe myself as a "small-L libertarian" and am still a member of the GOP (I know, but really, I DON'T think it will change if we abandon it to the fundies) is foreign policy. I don't blog about it much here, but I am pretty Hawkish. I am not out-of-hand opposed to preemptive war (I only wish we had gone after Iran instead of Iraq--just one letter's difference!), and certainly support a defensive one. I am, however, uncomfortable with Wilsonian crusades aimed only at "spreading democracy;" I would like to see a more direct national security interest behind my wars. Now this is not a post about Iraq, but rather whether these principles mesh with my claims of supporting liberty.

Randy Barnett recently published an Op-ed in the WSJ (my favorite NY newspaper!--hat tip to a reader who wishes to retain anonymity) arguing that while many libertarians opposed the war in Iraq a position favoring individual rights is not necessarily incongruent with support (at least at the outset) of the war with Iraq:

Other libertarians, however, supported the war in Iraq because they viewed it as part of a larger war of self-defense against Islamic jihadists who were organizationally independent of any government. They viewed radical Islamic fundamentalism as resulting in part from the corrupt dictatorial regimes that inhabit the Middle East, which have effectively repressed indigenous democratic reformers. Although opposed to nation building generally, these libertarians believed that a strategy of fomenting democratic regimes in the Middle East, as was done in Germany and Japan after World War II, might well be the best way to take the fight to the enemy rather than solely trying to ward off the next attack.

However, in short order Glenn Healy posted on Cato-at-Liberty (the Cato blog) has some respectful though critical words in response to Professor Barnett. Among them:

Is libertarianism really a political philosophy that tells you what to think about mandatory recycling and restrictions on the interstate shipment of wine, but has virtually nothing of interest to say about when it might be morally permissible to use daisy cutters and thermobaric bombs?

And while Healy goes to say that "libertarianism and Wilsonianism don't mix;" I'm not sure that Barnett would disagree. Indeed I agree very much with that sentiment. So how do I reconcile my hawkishness with my limited government rhetoric? Let me try.

I have a deep distrust of government; therefore, I prefer less of it in my life. That's where many of my libertarian policy positions on domestic issues originate. That said, I trust foreign governments even less than my own. My own government, at least in some small way, is marginally answerable to me. The Japanese Parliament, for instance, is not answerable to me at all. I suppose that means that with regards to international relations I am something of a realist. Given half the chance I think any state wouldn't think twice about oppressing me if it meant more security, economic or military power for them.

So I happen to think in order to preserve my right to order my daily affairs as I see fit, I need someone to protect my rights of life, liberty and property. So I am no anarchist; i am fine with a police force and court system that punishes people who infringe the rights of others (or perhaps help balance conflicting rights). I think that also includes a government that protects me from other governments that would infringe those rights. So we are still on track when it comes to defensive wars: someone attacks, they have violated the rights of life, liberty or property of citizens, so it appropriate for a government to respond.

What about preemption? Is it appropriate for us to neutralize a danger with military force before it infringes our rights? That's a tougher question. If I answer yes, how do I distinguish between a government preempting an international threat with one that say imprisons people because they look like they might commit a crime? If I answer no, then I say that I require my government to wait for death of its citizens before it protects the rest? I want to answer yes, so here is my attempt at rationalization (this is well open for discussion, I hope people will participate and even call me out if I am inconsistent!).

First, we do punish people before they commit crimes: we call them attempt crimes. Nonetheless, that is not a satisfying answer even to me. Another option is to take the morally dubious position that a government only owes any protection to its citizens. That takes my premise (a government will care about the rights of at most its own citizens) and normalizes it (a government shouldn't care about the rights of those who are not its citizens). Really it boils down to "Who cares about 'em if they ain't 'MERICAN?" I don't like that much either, and I do not people to think that I am going to that practically sociopathic extreme.

Here's what I am working with now: if the realist paradigm accurately describes the international arena, then each actor in that arena is going to try to acquire more security and power, and unlike economic arrangements those are rather zero-sum. If I am relatively more secure then someone is relatively less secure. And part of securing my rights is ensuring that my government is able to continue doing so, which means it needs to be as secure as possible from international threats and part of that is neutralizing threats before they do damage. Does that work? Really, right now I am just thinking out loud (is there an analogous expression applied to writing?), and I'd appreciate your comments.
UPDATE: Barnett responds to critics here. It must be emphasized that neither he nor I am justifying the Iraq war (I feel the time to do so credibly has slipped away forever), but that he and I are talking about libertarianism and war, using Iraq as a context for showing that libertarians can disagree about war without being intellectually dishonest. However, because none of the points to which Professor Barnett responded came up here, I am only linking it for journalistic purposes.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Back and better than ever!

Or at least just back :)

I had a great time on my trip, and it made me decide that one day I want a lake house. And a baby (there was this adorable 7 month old on my trip with me!). I will have neither any time soon.

That's the good part; now the less comfortable part. I was with some friends from college, none of whom I have told I'm gay. At one point joking around with one of my friends, I made a lewd reference. And his reaction was mock disgust, and I, playing along, asked innocently "cross a line?" I suppose just to assure me that his reaction was in jest he said "there are no lines between us." Except he's wrong. He may not know it (maybe he does--people are never very surprised when I come out to them), but I am keeping something huge from him and the others on the trip (hmm, putting it that way sounds a little risque).

It reminded me that being secretive and in the closet feels really dishonest. Of course instead of using the moment or the weekend to be honest, I chickened out and just forced myself not to think about the whole matter. I made a mental note to bring it up on the blog and otherwise just put it out of my mind. The closet makes you good at that.

It also reminded me that being out this summer is still an experiment. It's going well, but I still have a lot of work to do. That's what it feels like: work. I'm still not quite ready to roll up my sleeves.

Anyway, folks, I'm ready to discuss health care with you again. Bring it on! :)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Programming Note

Right after I wrote a long post about a controversial topic, I will be skipping town. I have been planning this trip for sometime and on Thursday I fly to the middle of nowhere without access a computer until probably Tuesday.

I'll check back and respond to comments tomorrow evening, but please don't be disappointed if this is my last actual post for about a week.

(For Tim:) I'm Not Buying Free Health Care

Looks like this election cycle, health care is going to be the primary domestic issue. It is one that gets at the very core of what is just and what is American. it is an issue that almost everyone has a strong opinion on, but (unlike say, abortion) one where there is room for dialogue. For those reasons, I am writing what may turn out to be the first in several posts that seriously contemplate the issue of universal health care. So there is no confusion: I'm against it.

Whether we have a public or a private health care system (or a mixture) is basically a question of equity versus efficiency. One can ration health care (and one must, because it is a scarce resource) any number of ways, but the two ways most prevalent are by need or by value.

Universal health care systems ostensibly are about allocating according to need. For instance, a person poor enough to be unable to afford health care may get a deadly, though curable, disease and need a doctor's attention more than a rich person who is getting surgery to correct annoying but not debilitating knee problems. Public health care systems would likely choose the more serious disease over the less serious knee trouble. It seems unfair to many if not most people that the rich person gets his knee problem fixed while the poor person dies. In a need based rationing system, the person who needs the health care most gets it, regardless of ability to pay. If you want to see this, you don't have to go to Cuba, your local emergency room is a perfect example.

Then there is rationing by value, the way a free market system works (which incidentally is not the system we currently have in health care in the United States: government regulation and what may be anti-competitive practices in the insurance industry [I don't know for sure if there are anti-competitive practices, but the current outcomes seem consistent with a lack of competition] distort the market a great deal). In a value system, the person who values the Doctor's time more, as evidenced by a willingness to forgo alternatives (i.e. pay for the health care instead of something else), gets the health care. A market is established and suddenly providers have a profit incentive to be more efficient, to provide both better and faster health care than competitors. Better health care attracts more customers, and faster health care allows providers to service more customers. This is efficiency. Don't forget rich people get cancer just like poor ones (though I do not foreclose the idea that some ailments affect poor people disproportionately, but the treatments developed for different, but perhaps similar "rich people diseases" would be useful and effective in treating "poor people diseases").

Which do we value more? I value efficiency, or more precisely I value EFFECTIVENESS; even if it means that Diamond Jim Millionaire sees the doctor before I do, I'm happy to reap the downstream effects of richer people spending on health care once I do see the doctor. However, I won't deny the sense of injustice that I (yes, even I) felt in the film John Q when that cute little boy couldn't get a heart transplant just because his father was poor. So I am keenly aware of this tension between equity and efficiency, but my argument is summed up thusly: if you focus entirely on equity you lose the great benefits of efficiency (effectiveness).

Now, you may be thinking, "That parenthetical about health care in United States not being a free market was a useful dodge," but actually it wasn't. It was an attempt to establish common ground. I know there are problems with health care; however, I don't think our problems are so much a market failure, but are instead the result of a hindered market. Nonetheless (and here's why it's not a dodge) even if out market is imperfect, it more closely matches the kind of value based health care I was talking about. You have doctors competing for customers who can pay(because they are insured) and becoming more efficient for all (even the uninsured consumers who end up in the emergency room).

Now my argument is premised on the assumption that value based health care results in more efficient health care than does need based health care. Sure I can draw all the analogies I want to justify this (computers, education, almost anything!), but in order to honestly deal with this assumption I have to look at the health care industry itself. Primarily, I will examine the quality of health care in the U.S. compared to other countries, focusing primarily on effectiveness. From this I make the inference that we have a higher quality of health care (FOR THOSE WHO GET IT) because our value based system is more efficient. If that is not rigorous enough for please tell me what would be and I will try to comply in the future.

Generally speaking the quality of health care in the untied states (FOR THOSE WHO GET IT) is respected worldwide [Right Column, Page 11] (though things can always improve!). This study suggests that in the Untied states the quality of health care exceeds that of other countries [see charts, pages 3, 4, 5, 12]. (this naturally excludes emergency rooms where the care is rationed based on need--emergency rooms are required by law to see any patient regardless of ability to pay). Americans seems satisfied with their health care: The chart on page 93 indicates that 72% of patients think hospitals are doing a good job, and 84% were satisfied with their last visit to the doctor. Notice also that the lowest area of satisfaction cited has to with insurance.

Even articles critical of the U.S. Health Care System seems to show that we have a high quality (effectiveness) even if we are dissatisfied with other aspects of out health care system:

The U.S. system ranked first on effectiveness but ranked last on other dimensions of quality (Figure ES-1). It performed particularly poorly in terms of providing care equitably, safely, efficiently, or in a patient-centered manner.

We seem to be doing pretty well on innovation too. According to this article that appeared in that not-so-fervent protector of markets, the New York Times (I had to link to a blog post to link to the text of the article--NYTimes makes you pay for certain archives):

When it comes to medical innovation, the United States is the world leader. In the last 10 years, for instance, 12 Nobel Prizes in medicine have gone to American-born scientists working in the United States, 3 have gone to foreign-born scientists working in the United States, and just 7 have gone to researchers outside the country.

Indeed almost all dissatisfaction and criticism of health care in the United States that I could find had to do with ACCESS not QUALITY. The only problem is if you just mandate access and fix prices, as in a single payer system, you reduce incentives to invest in innovation and maintain quality. we lose that edge. "But wait one second, Pinky," I hear you say in your skeptical of the market tone of voice, "isn't a lot of the fantastic medical research in the United States funded by public money such as grants?" Yes, but remember, the grant provides only the cost of research the incentive is in the patent which will bring you profit. (Sometimes just glory, but I'll bet most of the time profit is quite enough incentive!).

What about U.S. life expectancy? It seems true that the U.S. population consistently has a shorter life expectancy compared to other developed countries. If health care is all about prolonging life, then surely this fact indicts my premise that U.S. health care is more effective, right? Wrong. Sure health care quality and effectiveness will have an impact on life expectancy at the margins, but we cannot forget all the other things that contribute to a national population's average life expectancy. Perhaps things like crime, suicide, auto accidents have something to do with it. Then there's population size, geographical diversity and racial composition (yes different races have different life expectancies!). And let's not forget the big one: LIFESTYLE. The fact that our diabetes rates are rising is not because our hospitals suck, it's because we are fat and lazy. Universal health care is not going to change that.

People are so eager to get to a fairer system they forget that the quality of health care in this country is at an amazing level. It find it not only intellectually unpersuasive but also dishonest when people try to portray American health care quality as substandard (often ignoring the difference between emergency and nonemergency care--I cannot stress that point enough--or including access, a real problem, as a measure of quality) in an effort to bring us efficiency folks into the equity side. The problem is not the quality of what we get; the problem is who gets it (or more accurately who doesn't).

So what do I suggest instead? I'll probably develop this in a later post, but a deregulation of the insurance industry might be a start. Similarly, if you MUST have the government subsidize health care, you should do it in a way that keeps competition. I support school vouchers, so maybe health vouchers would be a way to go.

Look for Part 2 where I discuss the economics of 2 tiered systems (the more likely result in this country anyway), and why they are just as bad (even in France!).

Join the Club

You too can join the Anti-Universal Coverage Club. (I know you probably won't because I don't think many of my readers are actually as free market gaga as I am). Regardless, here are it's basic principles:

  1. Health policy should focus on making health care of ever-increasing quality available to an ever-increasing number of people.

  2. To achieve “universal coverage” would require either having the government provide health insurance to everyone or forcing everyone to buy it. Government provision is undesirable, because government does a poor job of improving quality or efficiency. Forcing people to get insurance would lead to a worse health-care system for everyone, because it would necessitate so much more government intervention.

  3. In a free country, people should have the right to refuse health insurance.

  4. If governments must subsidize those who cannot afford medical care, they should be free to experiment with different types of subsidies (cash, vouchers, insurance, public clinics & hospitals, uncompensated care payments, etc.) and tax exemptions, rather than be forced by a policy of “universal coverage” to subsidize people via “insurance.”

Like I told my new BFF Andrew Tobias, I don't want every trip to the doctor to be like a trip to the DMV--or the emergency room. Though I stick to my economic guns (principle number 2), an interesting and quintessentially libertarian take on this is principle number 3. (Also number 1, here, although many other good points as well). I hadn't quite considered that an actual personal liberty argument can be made. Nonetheless, the sad thing is others won't find it very compelling; I fear that the "Government has a DUTY to take care of me" mindset is alive and growing (damn you, FDR and LBJ, damn you!).

Update: Kip Esquire makes an exceptional point: why do we trust the government to be better at spending on healthcare than say, it is on antiterrorism grants? Excerpted:

So the question becomes: If the federal government can't get spending on domestic security "right" (I refuse to use the fascistic word "homeland" except as part of a proper noun), then why should the healthcare socialists expect the federal government to get spending on health care "right"?

All the same indignation would emerge under socialized medicine: "Why does cancer get more than heart disease?" "Why do New York City's research and teaching hospitals get so little?" "Why does white suburban geriatric nursing get more than black inner-city pediatric nursing?" "Why are 'homosexual diseases' covered at all?" "Why is Viagra covered but not Propecia?" "Why does my neighbor's kid get a motorized wheelchair while my kid gets crutches?" "Why is there a huge hospital at the other end of the Bridge to Nowhere?" And so on.

* * *

Socialized medicine would be a never-ending political haggle based, not on objective metrics, but on the Politics of Pull, balanced out by the Politics of the Warm Fuzzy Feeling, perhaps with some racial, gender and sexual orientation inequities tossed in for flavor.

And the worst part? People would suffer and die from it -- in needless, senseless ways that a terrorist could only dream of.

And Tim, I promise I'll add my own thoughts soon.

Monday, July 9, 2007

My new best friend Andy

I just got an email from Andrew Tobias (well, yes, it was a two line response to one I sent him, but do you have a personal letter from the treasurer of either the DNC or RNC? I didn't think so). Mr. Tobias, apart from being a mover and shaker, also wrote The Only Investment Guide You'll Ever Need, and more importantly The Best Little Boy in the World, which I found incredibly comforting as I contemplated my own coming out. For that reason, besides his political clout (but in the WRONG party!) and his financial advice, his little nod is especially meaningful to me.

Also, he seemed to think I would be more comfortable in the moderate wing of the Democratic Party. Well, no one's perfect :-)

Grassroots Mobilization

I'm up to my old tricks again, by which I mean posting about something that comes courtesy of Andrew Sullivan (who in turn got it courtesy the Political Science Weblog): It seems that grassroots mobilization campaigns increased voter turnout by 7%. I find this encouraging, even if the study specifically found that and other lefty-loons to be effective.

First, I haven't had time to read the entire article, but I would guess that they do not provide data suggesting how that extra 7% voted. Although, the article did mention that both parties exceeded their voter turnout goals. Meaning, part of that 7% may well be folks who saw MoveOn doing its thing and though "uh oh, those hippy liberal pansies are mobilizing. I'd better get out and vote too!" (Please note that "hippy liberal pansies" were their words not mine. You don't believe me; I can tell). Similarly, some may have been folks who listened to people more of like mind with me and thought "uh oh, those gun nuts are coming out in full force, I'd better go vote!"

Second, I like to see grassroots work effective; it captures democracy to my mind. We have groups educating constituents about issues, and encouraging those constituents to vote, and they do! What is most exciting, is that grassroots seems to work even in high-stakes elections, where voter turnout would be higher anyway.

Finally this is encouraging because we "the little people" can have more of an impact at the grassroots level than anywhere else. I don't have enough money to hire a lobbyist to go to Congress and persuade Representatives to vote against gun control, for example. Even by joining the NRA and paying my dues, I am only barely participating. But I can spend a weekend or two as part of a grassroots campaign talking to "Ordinary People" about the value of self protection and encourage them to vote! Sure maybe the two or three people I get to vote may not have a substantially or statistically bigger impact than my $35 NRA membership dues, but it allows me to to control the message that I am sending. I'm not sure I know or would even agree with all the things said on behalf of my membership dues, but I do know what comes out of my mouth. Besides that, it allows me to participate actively in the political process, and encourage others to do the same.

I used the example of gun rights, but really I have another cause in mind. It shows me that I can tell people "Hey not all Republicans are homophobes" and "Hey, not all gays are liberals," and maybe, just maybe, they'll listen.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

The Third Thing

Traditionally there are three topics that one doesn't talk about in polite company: sex, politics, and money. I'm pretty candid about politics. A coming out blog involves sexuality, even if I am less forthright about actual sex. But I don't talk much about money (apart from public economics), and I've never brought up personal finances before. I have recently set a few financial goals, and I believe that sharing goals is the first step in achieving them.

  1. Upon starting my actual job (should be a little more than a year from now, scary!) I will contribute the maximum to my 401(k). I mix my 401(k) with a U.S. market index fund and an international index fund. Since I am young, I am going to push my risk threshold and also include a growth fund.
  2. Furthermore I am going to have a portion of each paycheck automatically deposited into a short term savings vehicle like a money market fund. Why?
  3. Within 30 months of starting my job, I want to own my house. The automatic savings will be for my down payment.
  4. Although I want to get out from under my student loans, I am not going to stress about them: just make the minimum payments, maybe more. The thing is educational debt usually has the lowest interest rate going, so while I don't want to get behind, I don't have an urgent need to pay it off ASAP.
  5. Then presto chango, 30-40 years later I want to be financially secure. By this I mean able to retire and maintain my standard of living. It would be nice to be Bill Gates, but I'll be content just being comfortable. Maybe.
The good news: I am a student and my lifestyle is not exactly enviable. I consider this the "paying my dues" phase of my life. I have a tendency towards thriftiness and although every so often I engage in a little retail therapy, I live like a student. I drive a sensible car (used from my parents); I am an experienced bargain shopper; and I have no dependents other than my dog. Most importantly, I am confident that I can live within my means, and for a few years well below it.

The bad news: My student loans comprise the entirety of my credit history. Speaking of student loans, I have a lot of them. I'm actually afraid to know how much. I have never balanced a checkbook (though to my credit, I have never overdrawn!). Though I living like a student means I live fairly cheaply, it also means I rent and have no assets other than consumer goods.

I think my most ambitious goal is number 3. Thinking about it, I realized I need to improve my credit rating now. I figured the way to do that is to build a positive credit history, so I opened a Banana Republic Card (do you want to save 15% of your purchase today?). I made some purchases and am paying them off in a timely manner (which to me means before the crushing interest rate kicks in). I like Banana, so I'll probably make a few more purchases. Then in a few months, I'll trade up to an actual, can-use-everywhere card. This is scary to me. I grew up listening to Dave Ramsey in the car on the way back from school, so for years I feared credit cards, and only use debit type CheckCards. Or rather I feared how easy it is to abuse credit and create a financial nightmare. Nonetheless, it'll be tough to reach goals 3 and 5 without building a more positive credit history. I'm pretty sure that I can be disciplined enough to use my cards wisely, but they make me nervous nonetheless

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Prince of India

So having just engaged in a discussion about how sad it is that we in this country care more about celebrities than actual issues, I went over to check out Perez Hilton. We all have our vices (besides I am in the midst of an US Weekly Pool Supplemental Draft--I need ideas!).

However, something of relative import showed up there: The only son of the King and Queen of India is gay, and was disowned by his family when he came out a year ago. (Please note: I linked the source article instead of Perez Hilton's post. It is more illuminating):

Homosexuality is against the law in India, and can be penalized with ten years to life in jail. Singh Gohil has become both the voice and face of those persecuted for their sexual orientation. Not only has the Prince publicly fallen from grace, but his mother has publicly disowned him, and his place as the next King of Rajpipla was in jeopardy.

* * *
Though his coming out was met with disappointment and outrage, Singh Gohil has adopted a noble cause, educating people about homosexuality and HIV/AIDS prevention.
"I came out in the newspapers openly that I'm gay and basically [because] I wanted to show to the world that even a prince can be gay," he said. "I wanted people to discuss homosexuality, which was always considered a taboo and a stigma… it's been existing in India but no one talked about it."
* * *
"There is a lack of awareness," Manvendra [Singh Gohil] explained. "The purpose of my coming out openly is for a cause, for a good cause, for the control of HIV/AIDS."
Anyway, for those of you who may have followed my politics v. policy discussion on DtB, I assure you that I consider opening minds in a homophobic culture and educating people about HIV and AIDS to be very legitimate foci of public discourse--Prince Singh Gohil's efforts have the potential for positively affecting many and hopefully those effects will outlast him, me and you.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

the Fourth

Today is the most important day of all; within and without our movement.

Because to any true American, there is no more important declaration, I reproduce here the tear jerking words of Thomas Jefferson.

I do love America, and I especially love our Freedom. "Mr. Gorbechev, tear down this wall," still brings me chills. Regardless of what the gay orthodoxy says, Ronnie will remain in my heart as a hero. It is that freedom that will eventually give use equal rights with others.

Nothing can ever compare, but nonetheless, we have this awesome example.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

John Hancock

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The other side of the coin

Smoking bans in bars have a cost that often get ignored by the Mommy crusaders: Smokers stop going to bars, and the entrepreneurs suffer.

Before you say " no one cares about them anyway, those filthy cancer-spewing polluters," think about this: you are going to a bar to drink a poisonous mind-altering substance, and, if you are lucky, to have the shot at contracting a sexually transmitted disease, but you still want to be free from second-hand smoke? Protect those lungs from cancer, never mind the liver and genitals!

As for the "overall results positive" section of the linked article, I don't buy it because it is speculative and vague. Furthermore, even if it turns out to be a good thing for businesses (doubtful), there is no need to use the power of government to help out the bars. I thought lefties were against corporate welfare.

Scooter Libby

I suppose I should say a few words. So here they are: hinkle finkle dinkle do.

I really don't care enough about this situation to form an opinion.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Pride and Shame

June was Pride Month for GLBT folks (July is Pride month for all Americans!), and as I mentioned before, this year marked my first attendance at Pride Events as an openly gay person. I had been to a couple pride events in years past, but in my own mind, I attended as an anthropologist ("isn't it odd how even the fat ones take of their shirts?") not a participant.

I must say, that despite my concern that the Mardi Gras atmosphere may be counterproductive (and indeed leading to my inability to settle on whether Pride in ti's current form is good for us a "community" or not), I had a darn good time. After all, I am young; I like parties. Sure I may worry what the Fundies think of the bronzed and toned boys dancing on floats in their underwear, but in the meantime, I like looking at them. And talking to them!

It was refreshing to be around so many other gay people and supporters. Even when I was behind the table at the Log Cabin Booth, the vast majority of people who came up were very respectful, and many said something like "I'm a registered Democrat, but I still admire your courage in both the gay community and the Republican party." The whole weekend I got my taste of the relief of being out of the closet. It encouraged me to continue on this path.

But then my parents visited. Right back into the closet I went, almost subconsciously. I won't say that I am a huge projector of my sexuality (my voice is an anchorman's articulate baritone, not a femme's high-pitched lisp), but I do have a few stereotypical "tells" (crossing my legs at the knee, my choice of music), which I downplay around my parents. I didn't talk about any of my non-work friends, and even implied that I hadn't made any. The entire time they visited I could feel my face wanting to scowl, which was as much to hide any expression that may seem gay as it was a response to my discomfort.

That said, I do love my parents, and honestly I think I was more annoyed at myself than at them. Everyone who has taken the plunge tells me that it is much better on the other side of the mountain. Pride gave me my first real taste of that. Now I know more that than intellectually, I have experienced the relief of not hiding part of who I am. Nonetheless, my shame about being gay to my parents doesn't seem like it is dissipating. I found myself wondering if it was possible to be out where ever I end up and not ever affirmatively telling my parents (I determined that at some point my parents would realize that a lawyer doesn't need a "roommate," and my mother, as is her head-on way, would ask me directly). I have decided that this past visit is not the kind of relationship I want with my parents. Coming out to them is now all but inevitable. I just need to summon the strength.

Anyway, I want to thank everyone who has encouraged me so far; particularly my online friends Matt, Phil, and Jason, and my in-person friends Nick, Karen, Sean, Marcia, Alan and Allison. Hopefully I'll finish what I've started here.