Sunday, September 13, 2009

Don't trust his virtue

"If someone uses [the false choice ], and seems to do it deliberately, don't trust his virtue. He's not interested in a reasonable argument."
- Jay Heinrichs

"And I will not accept the status quo as a solution."
- President Barack Obama

So there we have it: the choice we have before us is to either forumulate and accept sweeping change, or keep the status quo. Incremental steps that introduce positive change, and that allow us to learn from and adjust as we go, are not an option. A plan that would allow us to gradually shift the responsibility of insuring from the employer to the person is not to be put forth. No, the President only gives us the choice between doing nothing and extreme reform.

I call that a false choice.

Few people object to health care portability-- that health care shouldn't be dependent on your job. To the contrary, most people believe that this arrangement has provided the misaligned incentives that have produced the miserable state of affairs we find ourselves in today.

Why not work on incrementally undoing the damage that our government has already caused in our health care system before turning them lose on their next best guess on what to do? The government has already proven that it can not create and maintain efficient and effective regulatory systems in banking, social insurance, limited health care (VA, medicare, medicaid), aviation (FAA), and, I argue, law. Why is the choice being limited to either doing nothing or letting the government birth another inefficient and ineffective system?

Give us more choices. Give us real choices. Give us smaller choices and you'll also be more likely to find more compromise and broader support.

Imagine if every time you had to buy shoes, you could only chose between $5 Velcro sneakers or $500 hand-made Ferragamos. It's not unreasonable that many would chose the $5 option. Likewise, it is not unreasonable that, given the choice the President is laying down before us, the status quo appears to be the better option.

In this case, the President's rhetorical False Choice may actually be working against him.

* quotes taken from Heinrichs, Jay. 2007. Thank You For Arguing. p. 178, and the President's speech before congress on September 10th, 2009.

Monday, September 7, 2009

A bridge into the unknown?

Remember when "journalism" meant objective, fact-based reporting? Yeah, me neither.

This is a slightly mean spirited post, and I'm not real proud of that, but this AP "article" is a great example of why my respect for the press is in a state of accelerating decline. Not only is it just "not news", it's crappy journalism, written in a style that suggests the author spends a lot of her free time working on a really bad novel. Some of my favorite (in a "least" sort of way) quotes:
"he (Obama) is seen as a bridge that leads toward the country's next era — a guide into the new unknown."
Well, at least we finally got rid of the old unknown. The new unknown is way better. Who the hell builds a bridge into the unknown?

And check out this remarkably continuous block of twaddle (that's my new favorite adjective):
"Why the middle ground, then? Does it hint at a new flexibility? Or is it quintessential American optimism, tempered by the pragmatism of a country growing up? Are the nation's problems subverting knee-jerk politics?

Or perhaps this is a reflection of Obama himself as he straddles issue after issue with a management style that's both pragmatic and idealistic, but also leaves him open to criticism that he's failing to lead.

Also perhaps this: Facing the possibility of American decline, people may simply be at a loss for what to do — and looking, as so often before, to their president to guide them."

Why all the questions? Do they hint at a lack of content? Or is it quintessential journalist trying to meet the editor's line count quota? Are the author's politics subverting her ability to do her job?

Or perhaps this is reflective of a journalist who tries to straddle issue after issue with a writing style that's both pseudo-objective and faux-insightful, but still leaves her open to criticism that she's failing in her role as a journalist.

And also perhaps this: Facing the possibility of American journalism decline, many people may be at a loss for who to read -- and looking, as so often before, to the AP to the guide them.

Yeah, I just did that.

The piece could be equally at home in either The Onion or in Time Magazine, but has no business coming through the AP wire as "news".

I still can't believe she opened a "news article" paragraph with "And also perhaps this:". Why not just say, "Oh, and here is some more crap I just thought up". Here is a tip to any journalists out there: "perhaps" is a flag word that says "I'm about to throw objectivity out the window and inject my own opinion, err, I mean, analysis".

The funny thing is, a quick search about the author, Liz Sidoti, reveals that those on the left and the right both despise her. Apparently, she bought Senator McCain some donuts when he was running for President.

I'm not mad at her, though. I am mad at her editor, and whoever hired her editor. They are the real problem. Writers write; it someone else's job to decide what actually gets published. Those are the people that are really destroying their industry.

Both Republicans and Democrats (not to mention us "Old Whigs") deserve better "journalism". Then again, perhaps a people gets the press corps it deserves...