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Steve Likes to Curse
Writing, comics and random thoughts from really a rather vulgar man
There are many good reasons to listen to For Good Reason 
Tuesday, July 6th, 2010 | 11:13 pm [politics, science]
Steve's New Userpic
If you aren’t already a regular listener to For Good Reason, the interview podcast produced in association with the James Randi Educational Foundation, you owe it to yourself to become one. Hosted by JREF President and former Point of Inquiry host D.J. Grothe, For Good Reason is devoted to discussions of science, reason and skepticism, and why they are superior to blind faith and superstition. The most recent show (the last before a hiatus, recorded May 30) features a conversation with Massimo Pigliucci, who discusses the difficulties involved in separating science and non-science, among other things.
archives, featuring links to every edition of For Good Reason since its debut in January, are a treasure, featuring guests like scientific paranormal investigator Ben Radford, comedian/filmmaker Paul Provenza, author of the excellent Big Bang and other books Simon Singh, and all around bad motherfucker and Master of Science Richard Dawkins.
Of the past shows, I most highly recommend this episode featuring Daniel Loxton, author of the children’s book, Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be. Why is it evolution is so rarely taught to young children? There are no good reasons, and a few very popular bad ones.
Incidentally, Massimo Pigliucci writes a blog of his own,
Rationally Speaking. Today he published an article examining the divided reaction to the debate and eventual passage of health care reform earlier this year, which saw Republicans and conservatives attack President Obama for “ramming this down our throats,” while Democrats and liberals complained that the president was being too deferential to Republicans in soliciting and including their proposals in the reform legislation. It’s a good read, and Pigliucci — a master at parsing important details that are often overlooked in the crude approximation of debate practiced by the likes of Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck — gets it, and the larger question of how open political debate ought to be in a democracy, just right, I think. Read it here.
Wednesday, July 7th, 2010 | 03:34 pm (UTC)
"it’s just that sometimes lawmakers need to get on with their job, and leave debate to the public."

How very backward. So, lawmakers are supposed to discuss things amongst themselves, go with what they think is good for us, then let us argue about the details after the fact? Only until after a law has been passed, after we've suffered the consequences of the lawmakers experiments, our voices matter at the voting booths?

Remember, "We have to pass the bill to find out what's in it"?

Nothing about that statement from Pelosi makes me think "Obama and the democratic lawmakers went to every length imaginable to ensure their ideas, their legislation, was sound."

The fact that the healthcare bill debate went on for over a year in no way assures me that arguments against it were given the weight they deserved. And many of those arguments came directly from the people. And certain Democratic lawmakers demonized/belittled those same people for trying to enter the debate. Also, if debate over healthcare has been going on for decades, how exactly does the fact that a long drawn out argument over the subject prove reform is necessary? Or that the ones arguing for reform have got all the right answers? If a debate has been going on for a long time, I'd say its more of an indicator that its a controversial subject with a lot of unknowns and possibly a lot of unintended consequences. A decades long debate indicates that it is an important one, one in which lawmakers would be wise to listen to the public majority. And very unwise to get on with their jobs by passing a bill so large, so complex, no one can explain to the general public what's in store.
Wednesday, July 7th, 2010 | 06:14 pm (UTC) - Faulty Thinking
"So, lawmakers are supposed to discuss things amongst themselves, go with what they think is good for us, then let us argue about the details after the fact?" That's the whole point of a Republic, or of a representative democracy. The elected representatives are supposed to be smarter and better educated (and perhaps more traveled) than most of us, and have the time and energy to research, discuss, debate, and think about what is "best for us" in the bigger picture. And then there's the whole "tyranny of the majority" thing ... In the words of Madison, "A pure democracy can admit no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will be felt by a majority, and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party. Hence it is, that democracies have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have, in general, been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths." "Nothing about that statement from Pelosi makes me think 'Obama and the democratic lawmakers went to every length imaginable to ensure their ideas, their legislation, was sound.' ... The fact that the healthcare bill debate went on for over a year in no way assures me that arguments against it were given the weight they deserved." And just what would make you think it? What would assure you? I suspect the answer is, "Nothing." But please, do tell. "And many of those arguments came directly from the people." So what? Is that supposed to trump everything else in your mind? It doesn't. See above for why. "Also, if debate over healthcare has been going on for decades, how exactly does the fact that a long drawn out argument over the subject prove reform is necessary?" It doesn't. What makes you think that length of debate has any relation whatsoever to necessity of reform? The two have no causal relationship. None. According to your logic here, the longer an issue is debated, the longer more time we must spend debating said issue. This is a self-perpetuating cycle that -- by your definition -- can NEVER end. How's that productive (unless you're a Republican interested only in stalling progress)?
Wednesday, July 7th, 2010 | 11:28 pm (UTC) - Re: Faulty Thinking
I know what a representative democracy is, thanks. Ours includes "majority rule, minority rights."

Personally, when I vote for a representative the last thing I'm concerned with is where he or she went to school or where they've traveled. My ideal representative has a history of voting the same way I would on issues that are important to me. That's why I vote for who I vote for, because I think they would represent me the best, not because I think they're smarter than me, better educated, or know what's best for me.

What would assure me that arguments against the healthcare bill were given the weight they deserved? Lawmakers having read the bill. That's a good start.

I don't think the length of the debate has any relation to the necessity of reform. That's what Pigliucci said one could argue, not me. "One could even argue that the debate over health care reform has been actually ongoing for decades, making passage of reform (assuming it is of quality) all the more necessary."
Wednesday, July 7th, 2010 | 07:14 pm (UTC)
So long as the debate among lawmakers is conducted in public (which, despite whining from the right about sinister "back room deals" that went into the healthcare reform bill, they are), discussing things among themselves and doing what they think is best is precisely what the legislature ought to be doing. I'm no fonder of massive omnibus bills and lines like that one from Pelosi than you are, but they don't sour me on the whole idea of representative democracy.

The length and ferocity of the debate doesn't prove anything, and as I've written here a few times before, I'm not thrilled by the finished product. I don't think the president and the Democrats in Congress came up with all the right answers, but I probably think that for the exact opposite reason that you do. You seem to feel the reforms go too far and are an imposition, whereas I find them puny and inadequate, especially given how hard-fought this debate was.

That is Pigliucci's point. Left to our own devices, you and I could probably argue this issue for years with one never persuading the other. But that's not what we elect people to Congress, or our state legislatures, for. That's why they propose bills, debate for a limited time, and vote, rather than argue indefinitely.

Edited at 2010-07-07 07:15 pm (UTC)
Wednesday, July 7th, 2010 | 09:24 pm (UTC)
What's the point of lawmakers debating or doing their job in public if my or your opinions do not matter until after a law is passed?

Pelosi's statement didn't sour me on representative democracy either, but it did make me wonder if she had the people she represents in mind when she said it.

I think Pigliucci was searching for excuses for the democrats tactics on this one. Sure debate had to end at some point, but that doesn't excuse not listening to opposing views by representatives or a large majority (yes, majority) of the public, especially when you consider that few representatives even understood what was in the bill on either side. How could the time for debate be over if no one took the time to read it? How could the democrats be so very sure they had won the debate if they only had a vague sense of what they were voting for? How do you even start a debate, let alone call one ended, if you nor your opponent has a concrete idea of what the argument is over?
Wednesday, July 7th, 2010 | 10:51 pm (UTC)
Also, we may not be as far apart on healthcare as it appears on the surface. I want affordable healthcare for everyone, too (particularly, I would like it for myself.) I don't trust health insurance companies anymore than I trust the government to insure I get quality care for my dollar. If the government can do it better, I'm skeptical, but not entirely opposed to the idea. I would have questions though, like, how are we going to pay for all this, especially in a weak economy? And I would expect real answers. I think its a common misconception that all republicans, or anyone who was opposed to the bill, wanted no reform at all. That's not true, and its a shame the national debate turned out the way it did.
Thursday, July 8th, 2010 | 02:04 am (UTC)
This will sound simplistic (necessarily, I'm afraid, since I lack a sophisticated understanding of the relevant issues), but how do we pay for anything else that we (or our representatives) decide is important? We raise taxes, invent new taxes and fines and other charges to increase revenue to the government. We borrow great truckloads of money from our very good friends the Chinese. We always seem to find the money.

You and I will probably both agree that the national debt was already horrifyingly large twenty years ago and has only grown since, and that borrowing money in such large amounts from anyone, particularly a nation whose goals and philosophy are so often opposed to our own, isn't such a great idea. I don't know how you feel about taxes, but I know I have no problem in raising them on those who can afford to pay them. The wealthiest Americans paid far higher taxes during the romanticized and whitewashed Reagan years than they do now, and higher still throughout the '60s and '70s, yet people still acquired and kept vast fortunes somehow or another.

When we decide that real healthcare reform — universal healthcare, freely available to everyone in the United States — is something that we cannot afford not to do, then we'll find the money. We always seem to find it somewhere, and for things far less important than this.
Thursday, July 8th, 2010 | 01:44 am (UTC)
I think you're equating critics of the bill not getting everything they wanted with not listening to opposing views. I think the reforms passed were not nearly strong enough. President Obama and the Democrats in Congress caving to pressure to eliminate the public option is by far my biggest disappointment in the Obama presidency to this point.

The bill that was eventually passed included numerous proposals that had either originated from or garnered the support of Republicans. That, along with the capitulation on the public option, makes the "the Democrats shoved this down our throats and didn't listen to the opposition" claim ring false to me.

As for the legislators not reading the bills they are voting on, you're absolutely right. It seems like bare minimum, to me, that congresspeople and senators read the bills. I've never understood why that — which legislators from both parties openly admit to — is tolerated by the electorate.
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