Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Dubya Fever

Is it just me, or do the primaries seem more intense than a normal presidential election? I feel like we should be getting ready for the inauguration soon. Are we that tired of Dubya? I think maybe we are.

Why do you guys think this particular primary is more amp'd-up than in any primary EVER? (Besides having the first Black and Woman candidates, which is huge. But besides that... or is it just that? Not trying to belittle the HUGENESS of that, but could it be other things? Educate me.) Why is this election so important? I really, really, really don't know who to vote for. I've seen the footage. I've seen the debates. The only dude that makes sense right now to me is Ron Paul and he doesn't stand an ice sickle's chance in the Devil's crack of winning.

So here is what is important to me and you tell me who you think I should vote for.

1. Bring our boys home to their wives and children and let the Arabs kill each other till they're done. (That sounded horrible. But honest. Yikes.) OR, send a few hundred thousand over, along with any and everything else needed to finish the job. Time to drop waste or get off the pot there, if you ask me.

2. Stop spending a Trillion Dollars a second on other countries while people are losing their jobs and homes here, and while half our kids are uninsured.

3. Better Public Schools that can compete with the fancy private schools. That means pay teachers more, and offer school vouchers, that is, if the kid can make the grades. If he can't, then too bad. (I was too lazy to get into the advanced classes in middle school until my freshman year when all the pretty girls went to advanced class and I was stuck with belching bubba and his croonies. It took me one semester to raise my standards and it was off the A.P. courses I went.)

4. Do something about health care. It is unbelievable. Inconceivable. Retardamundo. Blasphemous. Sickening. and Crappy doo too.

5. Find an alternative to oil. Offer a national prize or something to the science stud who comes up with the energy solution. Shoot, make him president next time. Time to get off the oil teat folks.

6. I don't know... maybe catch... oh, let me see... OSAMA BIN LADEN??????? Don't you think it's about time for him to retire???

... those are the things that are off-the-top-of-my-head important to me right now. As for Abortion and the other issues, the Supreme Court will be taking care of that. Bush's legacy might be saved by the Justices he put there.

So what am I missing? Help me out. You won't offend me in the least.


Super Churchlady said...

In my humble opinion - it has less to do with Dubya and more to do with the fact that for the first time in a long, long time -- it's a wide open race on both sides. There is no incumbent candidate this election, so the primaries really count this year. So...when you go to the polls and vote - you are actually participating in narrowing down the choices from a lot of candidates to one Democrat or one Republican. The fact that there is a viable woman candidate and a viable black candidate is most assuredly adding to the hype. You're also probably noticing these things more than 8 years ago (when you were still a wee lad!)

Seth Ward said...

"You're also probably noticing these things more than 8 years ago (when you were still a wee lad!)"

I only wish I was a wee lad back then. Younger, and healthier? Yes. Wee? No.

Those are good explanations, but what about issues? Who the heck should I vote for? Come on ya chickens. Give me your opinion...

Even if you do it anonymously. Type in some made-up name. Have fun with it. Let's here it!

majorsteve said...

Seth, I love your pragmatism. Your cerebral and spiritual blend of empathy, compassion, creativity and reality have not gone unnoticed. It is obvious that you are a synthesist who has the rare ability of seeing both sides of almost every issue.

Do you ever find yourself thinking "every citizen(or perhaps not a citizen) has the right to bear as many children as she wants, or that otherwise becomes lodged in her womb." Now, absent any personal accountability on her part, am I then equally obligated, as a citizen, to provide for all of their physical and social needs?" If so, then why couldn't I, as a male animal, and absent any personal accountability, find significant biological logic in going out and finding hot young fertile females with which to spread my own DNA far and wide? So what if I did? Someone, not me, would have to provide for their physical and social needs.

Seth Ward said...

Majorsteve, thank you!

Attention everyone, this is what I am looking for. Majorsteve's comment made me think and laugh simultaneously. That was hard for my nervous system to handle and I nearly blew a fuse but he changed my mind a little. For that, I am thankful.

To answer your question: No, nope. No Dr. Strangelove here. And no, I don't really want to pay for Jose's love-children's healthcare. I do not think it is fair to simultaneously pay for my grandmother, who has worked like a dog to raise 9 great american teachers, and also pay for Juanita who crawled over the fence and started popping out babies so she could eagerly await her check in the mail every month and whatever new love-triangle that check will buy her way into.

I suppose it leaves me with a little problem in the end... those poor, cute, innocent, little bastardos, (affectionately said.) It's not their fault that mommy and daddy follow the "Essential Rabbit's Handbook and Guide to Safe Sex." To bare my honest feelings here, (for all eternity to be used someday against me,) I really think they should be sterilized by the third illegit. Sort of a "three home runs you're out" treatment to the problem.

So what about those little tanned buggers, those little Oliver Manuels saying "Please senior, can I have some more?" I think I can spare a few bucks for them until they are old enough to be sterilized themselves.

Chaotic Hammer said...

Seth, Seth, Seth.

I wish I had more time for this stuff, I really do. I used to love to sit around and debate politics ad nauseam. I used to be active in several on-line political forums, and knew every intimate detail and statistic about every issue.

But I don't have time right this minute, or today, to write out a long spiel about the issues you bring up. I do think they're important. And I do think there's a better way, within our own system of government, to do things.

Ron Paul is the candidate closest to representing my personal view of what the role of government should be in our lives. But apparently, a person who actually reads and understands the Constitution and wants to implement change based on libertarian principles is considered a complete loon, living on the fringe of reality.

Don't believe me? Look at his numbers in the primaries. Look at how much contrast there was between his positions and those of the other candidates during the debates. After about half the things he said in the debates, everyone else there was looking at him like he had grown another limb out of the side of his head, or was speaking Martian, or something. He made perfect sense, but was saying things that are in stark contrast to what you have to say to get elected now.

Which is really sad, to be honest -- and I don't think we'll ever swing back in the right direction, either. Socialism creeps, and once you grant the populace unlimited expectations of government sugar-daddyness, build political platforms on promises of unachievable Utopian goals, and build corrupting influences directly into the main power base of the political system, there's really no incentive to turn back.

Boy, do I sound cantankerous or what?

Seth Ward said...


So do a lot more people, apparently.

I think if everyone below 40 got out and voted, we could put Ron Paul in the White House.

Btw, I really don't want to argue with anyone. I just want to know what the candidates stand for.

Right now, Ron's the only one that seems to be saying what he really thinks, more importantly, he's the only one who is making a lick of sense.

Anyone else?

Seth Ward said...

I mean, does anyone else know of anyone else who is making some sense?

Bill Hensley said...

Ok, I'll take you up on it. This is gonna be a drive-by, because like C. Hammer I don't have time to go back and forth in a nice debate. So here are my thoughts on the issues you raised:

1. Isolationism has a nice populist appeal, but it's not a realistic foreign policy for the U.S. in this day and age. We are far, far too dependent on foreign trade, foreign investment and foreign oil to bring everybody home and build a wall around our country. The only responsible approach is to be engaged diplomatically and militarily, when necessary, to protect our national interests abroad.

2. Non-military foreign aid is a miniscule fraction of the budget - perhaps $20 billion or so. By far the largest amount of money the federal government spends goes to entitlement programs: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Those three programs add up to literally more than a trillion dollars a year, easily double the total defense budget.

3. The problem with public schools is not money. It's the social chaos created by two generations of disintegrating families, entitlement attitudes, failed discipline and misguided attempts to use public schools for social engineering.

4. What's wrong with our health care? We have the best healh care in the world. It's also the most expensive. Do you think that's a coincidence?

5. Finding an alternative to oil is a great idea, but don't expect any quick answers or silver bullets. There will be a mix of energy sources and technologies over the next few decades, and oil will continue to be one of them. I'm of the opinion that the mix will also have to include a significant nuclear component if we want to drastic reduce our fossil fuel consumption.

6. Well, if you're going to bring our military home I'm pretty sure you'd just be giving Osama a "Get Out of Jail Free" card. Of course, you could always send more soldiers to Afghanistan and Pakistan... :-)

Seth Ward said...

Excellent thoughts Bill! I'll be thinking on those tonight... good to hear the flip-side. Thanks for taking the time to share all that...

I'm not kidding about listening here for the sake of understanding and knowing who to vote for. I really don't want to argue either, just want to hear the issues, and what you guys think about them.

I've been hole'd up here for past 2 years between my dissertation and novel and I am a tad behind on who stands for what and what the heck is going on.

I am not a man who says he knows what he doesn't, and I don't talk about things if I don't know anything about it- a fool's practice.

So keep teaching me folks. So far you all have done much better than Dobson. He thinks McCain is a cussin' baby-killer. That kind of rhetoric makes me want to barf, and makes me want to steer clear of any and all of the candidates that he endorses. (And I like Dobson for the most part.)

Kelly said...

Again, great thoughts Seth!

Bill, I do have to disagree about our health care system because as in most things in life, we have ways to go. How about Germany's healthcare system or the European Model in general?

Bill Hensley said...

Kelly, I was being a bit sarcastic to make the point that I don't think most people are analyzing the health care situation very well. Seth didn't actually say what he thought was wrong with it. Of course we can find many things to criticize, but the criticisms most commonly heard are that it is too expensive and not everyone has access to it. I would quibble a bit and say that everyone in this country has equal access to health care, they just don't have equal ability to pay. So what it boils down to is that people feel health care is too expensive. What I want to ask then is, why? Popular opinion tends to blame corporate greed, but this is, at most, a minor contributor.

Let's take pharmaceutical companies, for instance. How can they possibly justify charging as much as $200 a dose for some new drugs? Surely it is due to rapacious profits! It turns out that's not the main driver. There's no doubt that the pharmaceutical industry has much higher profit margins than many other industries. Over the last few years they have averaged a net profit margin of about 25%. That's pretty high. Many other industries average well under 10%.

Profits tend to be higher in industries that are driven by technological innovation. Companies can charge more for products that are new, unique, and dramatically better than what was available previously. In contrast, profits are low in industries that produce commodities. In a commodity market companies can only compete on price and service because the products they sell are no different than their competitors. In the modern world health care is definitely a high tech industry.

Now let's suppose the pharmaceutical companies decided to operate as non-profits. What would that do to drug prices? The price of that $200 drug might decline by 25%, but I think we would all agree that $150 a dose is still extremely expensive. So where is all the money going? It turns out that new drugs are exceedingly expensive to develop and bring to market. These companies spend billions on R&D, and many of the drugs they develop never even make it to market because they fail to meet the FDA's safety and efficacy standards.

Now let's take a step back and try to look at the big picture. The bottom line is that everybody wants the best possible health care they can get. There's no such thing as "good enough" when it comes to me or my loved ones. This understandable desire has driven astonishing advances in medicine over the past few decades, and nowhere is that more true than in the United States. As a people we have gotten wealthier and healthier. There are so many more treatments available now than there were, say, when our grandparents were children. And many of those treatments involve sophisticated, high tech equipment or drugs that cost billions to develop. So if you look at the really, really big picture the reason health care costs so much more than it used to is that there is so much more of it. If everything your doctor could do to help you still fit in a little black bag he brought to your house, I can assure you there would be no crisis in health care costs.

The dilemma we face is that the total societal cost of providing the best available health care to all our citizens is growing at a pace that outstrips even the increase in our societal wealth. Health care accounts for a large and ever growing percentage of our GDP. At some point that trend is unsustainable. It doesn't matter how we structure the system, our society will simply not be able to afford to pay for the best available health care for everyone. You and Seth are probably thinking some form of government administered universal health care is the "answer". That will redistribute the cost, but it doesn't change the cost. Taxes (or insurance premiums) will need to rise dramatically to cover all the people who are not currently getting the best available treatment. And they will have to continue rising as the state of the art in health care advances.

Another alternative is to ration health care. This is effectively what other countries do with their universal health care systems. I am not familiar with Germany's system, but I have talked to friends who are from Canada and the U.K. What they describe are ever lengthening waiting lists for non-emergency surgery and ever tightening requirements to qualify for expensive treatments. Some very expensive treatments are effectively unavailable in these countries.

I know this sounds really depressing. I have thought about this a lot and personally I don't think there are any easy answers. There are some things we can do to help the situation, perhaps, but nothing that will satisfy everybody. I think the politicians are being egregiously deceptive on this topic. The easy sound bites are nothing more than lies.

We should definitely try to improve the efficiency of the system, of course. Some things that come to mind are streamlining the health insurance system, instituting tort reform, and figuring out how to incentivize the industry to focus more R&D on developing cheaper, as opposed to better, treatments. One thing I would definitely NOT do is give the government a bigger role. That's the last thing you should do if efficiency is your goal.

MamasBoy said...

1b and 2 seem incompatible, unless you assume that we are helping stabilize oil prices by having a foothold in the middle east. Do you view them as incompatible?

3) Isn't this impossible for a president to do? Teachers don't strike nationally, so breaking up their union would be darn near impossible. While I see your point on pay (I'd be a teacher if it private schools payed as well as engineering), public school teachers already make more than private school teachers (plus they get decent benefits)... and public school administrators often make far more than the average engineer. My brother-in-law is a teacher by profession, turned vice-principal. I've never made as much as him, and he is (IQ-wise) an idiot relative to the average engineer. That says something, given that I have a masters degree working for a R&D heavy company and am better-compensated myself than the average engineer. One thing, I might try implementing, if I had the chance was cutting administrator salaries and giving a boost to new teachers. In many (all?) school districts, the gap between what a new teacher makes and what the principal at his/her school makes is scandalous, especially at the high school level. It is far greater than the gap between what I made right out of school and what the CEO of my company made... and unlike most school principals, he is a friggin genius.

My point, the public school system is a darn near hopeless mess, and I'm not convinced that any president can fix it. In my mind, GW has had the best effort of any president in recent memory. Despite all of No Child Left Behind's faults, it has highlighted the incredible shortcomings of public schools and held them accountable in a way that has never been done before. Perhaps it was a very poor fix, but it's implementation has refused to allow us to just talk about the problem while ignoring it with our actions and continuing with on business as usual. That's more than can be said of any prior president's education initiatives that I can think of.

4) How does a better health care system help a nation that can't get off its ass and exercise, but instead prefers to eat out all the time. We are a nation that abuses our bodies and then complains that the government doesn't pay for us to get them fixed. Honestly, I'm not opposed in principal to nationalized healthcare, but I'm a bit jaded about implementing it in this fast food nation. Chicken fried bacon, anyone?

5) The hunt for an alternative to oil has to be driven by economics and sound, consistent energy policy. At the same time, as soon as we decrease demand with alternatives, the price will drop and the oil cartels will be forced to increase volume to keep their profits up, further decreasing the price. This will make it very hard to keep the momentum going from any advances in alternative energy sources and makes it really tough to maintain a small car market in a power hungry country. Americans don't like gutless cars when there are cheap alternatives. I'm a huge fan of nuclear energy, due to the potential to move us to clean, affordable individual transportation. Such initiatives, though, will require much more than any single president can give. It requires a change in the national concensus regarding how we produce and consume energy.

6) One thought on Osama bin Laden.

We've got so many of his cronies, perhaps there is a reason that we haven't got him. Maybe he's more useful intelligence-wise alive than dead. The intelligence world is a weird one, and it wouldn't surprise me if this is the case.

I hadn't thought about that, until a friend of mine mentioned it. Whether or not its true, I don't know. What I do know is that I really don't care if Osama is dead or alive, as long as we don't get hit again. Given the open nature of our society and my own perceived ability to blow up a building or commit other equivalent acts of terror if I wanted to, I'm impressed we've been as successful as we have been at preventing attacks.

I will say I'm a bit surprised that what made your list compared to what didn't make your list of things that are important to you. Assuming you agree that a new human life begins at fertilization, about the same number of lives are being taken every single day in America as we've lost in Iraq since the beginning of the war... and that takes into account the lowest abortion rates that we've seen in well over a decade. The best part about it is, you get far more deaths per taxpayer dollar with abortion than with war.

All said, I'm certainly not going to tell you who to vote for. I will, however, question whether the criteria you are using to make your decision could use some refinement?

Who I see meeting your criteria as written
1a) Obama (until genocide breaks out)
1b) McCain (but can he do it with this congress)

2) Ignoring the war: McCain
Taking into account the war: Obama
Conceiving the inconceivable: Ron Paul

3) Not sure how they stand on vouchers, the only chance to give most kids a premier education. Who I think is the better candidate among many non-ideal ones, the candidate the NEA is not supporting.

4) Obama/Clinton

5) McCain

6) McCain


Seth Ward said...

Wow! What a post!

Great stuff to think about. I in NO way was I insinuating that abortion is not important. However, if my calculations are correct, there won't be another Justice retiring for another 8 years or so. Unless someone unexpectedly croaks. Bush did his best work with appointing justices that might someday overturn Roe V Wade.

Interesting thoughts on the rest. Lots to think about. Like I said, my brain has only so many available compartments and lately, its bee a tad too full to think politics. But hey! That's why I asked for help, and that's exactly what you gave me. So thanx!

MamasBoy said...

I see now where you are coming from on abortion. Just speaking for myself, given taxpayer funding issues and the conjoinment of abortion and foreign aid under the last Clinton administration, I'm personally concerned beyond supreme court justices.

Glad you took my comments well. I love to talk politics and religion, but it takes a special person to discuss those topics without getting emotional about it... especially with someone like me who can be a poor communicator in general.


Bill Hensley said...

Following up on some of what we were discussing,I finally took the time to develop my comments further on the education situation and have posted them on Believer's Brain, for those who might be interested.