Random thoughts, 16 June 2009

2009/06/16

Okay, so I had planned on doing a lighter post today, but there are a few issues out there demanding my attention, so that idea is out the window. Maybe tomorrow.

First, there are the disputed results of the Iranian presidential elections, which have sparked numerous protests over the past few days, not to mention calls that the results were rigged. [1] Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing another revolution taking place there, particularly if it leads to a more moderate, non-theocratic government; such is not likely to happen, of course. While Moussavi, Ahmadinejad’s primary challenger, is sometimes described as a reformer, one must keep in mind that this is a relative term; non-Iranian analysts still categorize him as a hard-liner, just not quite as hard-line as Ahmadinejad. Having the former in power might lead to less tense relations between Iran and our Republic, I suspect that this will not be the case, either. Unless Moussavi is willing to unseat the ruling religious clerics, who are the real political authorities in Iran, he will have very little ability to soften Iran’s official perspective of our Republic. Keep in mind, as well, that Ahmadinejad may very well have won the election legitimately; while the landslide results may have been skewed somewhat, he was popular enough to have been elected the first time around. Though his popularity may have waned over the course of his term, remember that Bush II won re-election (by a slim margin), even though he was not especially popular at the time, either. [2]

Meanwhile, the CBO has published some sobering preliminary results for a proposal for mandated health care coverage, authored by Senator Edward Kennedy. [3][4] Note that the CBO freely admits that its analysis is incomplete and preliminary, and that their analysis is based on a cursory review of the draft language of the proposal, and not of the final proposal, which is still under debate in the Senate. These clarifications aside, it is, as mentioned, quite a sobering picture: a full cost estimated at one trillion USD over 10 years, with a net increase of only 16 million additional insured individuals out of a current total of 46 million uninsured. While the President and his minions have been quick to distance themselves from this particular plan, [4] the President’s “alternative” thus far is a set of “principles,” and not a detailed plan for how to accomplish his lofty goals. This, in many ways, substantially undercuts the argument that his plan will be different – to what “plan” does he refer? Where are the details? What are the key differences between his “plan” and Sen. Kennedy’s plan? As I have mentioned before, it is not the role of the President to craft and approve legislation, he does have the ability to provide proposals for consideration by Congress; why has he not done so, particularly when this is a key domestic issue for his agenda? Could it be that he does not want to be tied down to a specific plan, if it turns out to be as problematic as Sen. Kennedy’s proposal has proven? [5]

Meanwhile, Jack Cafferty at CNN has posted a thought-provoking question regarding government involvement in our private lives. [6] Cafferty himself does not provide a personal assessment of the situation, but in this case, it is not entirely necessary. What is important here is that we must all, as individuals, make our own assessment regarding this issue, specifically, how much of a role you want Fedgov to play in your day-to-day affairs. Those who have read any of my previous politically-themed posts here should already be well aware of my stance on the issue; regardless of your take on the issue, we should all have some idea of where we stand. Otherwise, your opinion will be decided for you.

Finally, for today’s WTF?!? moment, a minor firestorm appears to be brewing in Tennessee over a “racist” depiction of the President. [7] As with the Letterman comment regarding Governor Palin’s daughter, this is something that was clearly in bad taste, but why does it seem like the standard response these days is to 1) declare that the opinion of a single individual represents an entire group of people, 2) call for said individual to be fired, and 3) demand apologies from the entire group that said individual supposedly represents? That the email was sent during work hours is worth the reprimand the employee received, but summary dismissal for this single incident, after a long history of good service? Does this not seem just a little hyper-sensitive on the part of those calling for such action? Of course, these individuals are entitled to their opinions as well, but such punishment seems just a bit disproportionate to the “crime.” Need I also mention the dangers of prescribing punishment based on personal opinions? I suppose I should stop writing such insensitive comments, however; I would most certainly not enjoy being sent to Room 101 by the censors. [8]

Notes:

[1]: CNN article, 16 June 2009.

[2]: See here for a summary of Bush II’s approval ratings over the course of his two terms, from the CBS News website. Note that his approval rating around the election of 2004 had dropped to roughly 50%; not necessarily a bad rating, but certainly lower than his all-time high of 90% in the days immediately following 9/11. His approval rating was also steadily declining for most of the years between 9/11 and his re-election in 2004.

[3]: ABC News blog, 16 June 2009.

[4]: Full text of the CBO summary analysis available here, from the CBO website (PDF warning).

[4]: Full transcript of the White House Press Briefing for 16 June available here, from the White House website. The comments are roughly 2/3rds of the way through Gibbs’ typically long-winded remarks.

[5]: Nah, that can’t be the reason. There must be a good explanation. Perhaps, his perpetual campaign schedule does not leave him enough time to create detailed proposals?

[6]: Jack Cafferty’s blog at CNN, 16 June 2009.

[7]: CNN article, 16 June 2009.

[8]: For those of you who don’t know (or don’t remember it from the story), Room 101 was the most feared room within MiniLove (the Ministry of Love) in George Orwell’s novel, 1984. It is where the minions of Big Brother send intractable social deviants, and confront the latter with their worst fears therein. Such treatment was intended to break the spirit of said deviant, such that they would willingly accept the authority of Big Brother, rather than face the torment threatened in Room 101.

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