Saturday, August 15, 2009

One more dip into Mundaneland...

Once more, I find myself having to address the fevered dreams and machinations of our esteemed President Nitwit. Specifically, the matter of alleged "health care reform."

I'm looking at this more from the stance of not really considering the idea of universal health care particularly bad or evil (the inclination to want to cover everyone is natural), and not even from the stance that we simply can't afford it (we can't, by any stretch of the imagination, but that's another discussion).

No, I'm looking at this from the view that, as an Air Force veteran and staunch conservative, I DON'T TRUST THE U.S. GOVERNMENT TO RUN A LEMONADE STAND, NEVER MIND ONE EIGHTH OF THE NATION'S ECONOMY! The Federal government is, on fairly complicated matters like these, fundamentally incompetent, and this is partially by design (to force us to fend for ourselves rather than waiting on some government bureaucrat to give us our daily bread), and partially just the nature of government bureaucracies (if these clowns were any good at running things, they wouldn't be in government).

I'll take it as a given, if only for the sake of argument, that the Canadian system isn't as bad as has been alleged by some folks on my side of the aisle, that the decisions really are made by doctors and not pencil pushing morons a thousand miles away.

Do you really trust Washington to do that? To keep their grubby little fingers out of the pie? Especially since we have TEN TIMES Canada's population, which really throws the economics of this thing into the blender.

I also don't like the idea of trying to ram something this big through the Congress before anyone has a realistic chance to read it. That just smells of a major power grab on somebody's part.

Truth be told, most of the problems in the health care system were cause by government intervention in the first place. You wanna fix the thing, get Washington out of the bloody way and put 'em back in a watchdog capacity to prevent abuses, but for the love of all that's holy, don't actually put them in charge of anything!

Unless you'd like to recreate the joy a trip to the DMV the next time you visit the doctor.

There's also a real fundamental issue here besides how well or badly the government can run anything.

Simply put, we're Americans. This nation was founded following a revolution from what was then the mightiest nation on Earth at the time. Distrust of the government is one of the primal underpinnings of our whole society. And considering some of the horrific abuses that seem to come with strong, centralized governments, that mistrust is pretty well founded.

There are ways to get health insurance rates down to affordable levels that don't involve having the government take direct control, like letting insurance companies cross state lines to broaden the pool of policy holders, which spreads the costs and lowers the rates. There's tort reform, to reduce the ridiculous number of frivolous lawsuits (simply passing a "loser pays court costs" law would go a long ways towards that goal). We could also allow for medical savings accounts, allowing people to control their own medical expenditures, along with introducing some much needed market competition into the process, which would also reduce costs.

However, let the government control the process (which is the dictionary definition of "socialism," direct government control over the means of production), and you effectively cede control over how you live your life to a laundry list of government restrictions and guidelines. With a nation this big, they'll have no choice but to ration care, because everyone and their uncle will be beating down the hospital doors to take advantage of the suddenly free health care. Just take a look at the "cash for clunkers" debacle. A program that was supposed to last three months nearly crashes and burns after a couple of weeks, simply because the government bureaucrats haven't got a clue about the concept of supply and demand.

The ultimate conclusion of this nightmare scenario is some government board somewhere deciding the criteria on who gets priority on certain life saving or life sustaining treatments and procedures.

In other words, Governor Palin's "death panels" aren't so far fetched, although I'm sure they'll be given names far more comforting and family friendly.

Bottom line, if you want to everyone to have affordable health care, you need a system in place that keeps costs in line naturally.

If you want universal health coverage, which is not the same thing, you will wind up condemning this country to nothing less than servitude and slavery. Because, just out of necessity, care will be determined based upon your behavior (do you smoke? take drugs? engage in risky behavior?) and whether or not you're worth saving (under 40? Sure. Over 60 with a heart condition? Don't hold your breath). How you live your life will be controlled by the government, and while it may be relatively warm and fuzzy, it's still slavery.

"But, Bob," the earnest universal health care supporter says, "people are being denied care now, by heartless insurance companies."

1) never said it wasn't, 2) it's bad no matter who's doing it, and 3) do you think some government bureaucrat, without even a profit motive to encourage giving the customer, a.k.a, the patient, what he wants or needs, is going to be any more compassionate than the guy at the insurance company? You're basically screwed either way, but at least you can kind of understand the slightly twisted reasoning of the insurance company.

The only thing the current proposal does is take all the problems of our current system and put them on a massive dose of steroids by federalizing the whole mess. And since, as a wise man once said, the closest thing in this world to eternal life is a government program, it'll be next to impossible to get rid of once implemented.

Think about it for a second. If we're right, and this is the equivalent of treating athlete's foot with a shotgun, and we let this plan pass, then we will have done grievous harm to our nation, all under the argument of "well, we need to do SOMETHING!" Not when that "something" is worse than doing nothing.

Let's step back a step and really take a look at where we really are, not where the pundits SAY we are. That's the only way to fix the problems that do exist without destroying a system that, while byzantine in structure and baffling more often that not, does work for the most part.

As it stands now, nobody is being denied treatment in ER's, patients are being treated, even if it takes screaming at administrators and threats of lawsuits, there are programs in place to take care of the truly destitute, and the quality of available care is, for the most part, the envy of the world.

Let's fix what's actually broke, not what works.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Star Trek: Moral Compass Or Dog & Pony Show In Space?

Recently, the topic came up on TrekBBS, "Star Trek was my moral compass growing up- was it yours?" The responses were rather fascinating. Some agreed wholeheartedly with the statement, others were dismayed at the very concept of a cheesy sci-fi show being anybody's moral compass.

Apparently, a lot of how you answer this question depends on when you first saw TOS and how old you were at the time. If you were an adolescent when the show ran on NBC, you were already well on the road to being the curmudgeons you are now and probably fall into the group that views Star Trek as a better-than-average bit of entertainment, but not much more.

I, on the other hand, was 2 1/2 when the show premiered and not quite 5 when it was cancelled. When my dad watched it on NBC, I was little more than a toddler, and while I do have some memories from those years, watching Star Trek on NBC is not among them. Yet, I knew of the show and knew I liked it. When I watched the animated show in '73, even then I knew it wasn't my first exposure to this stuff. It wasn't until the show hit strip syndication in '74 that I was able to sit down and really watch it and understand it.

Now, think for a moment about what the world was like in 1974. The Vietnam War isn't quite completely over, Watergate is just starting to boil over, the Soviet Union is as big a threat as ever, racial issues are still in the forefront, and since this is now after the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, things are even more tense than during Star Trek's original run, there are still protests in the streets and hippies running around (I remember many a fire drill at school because some idiot called in a bomb threat), and the space program is still chugging along, even though the momentum is starting to slow down. In other words, not all that different from 1966-69, better in some ways, worse in others.

Factor in the home situation, Dad's at work, sometimes on a business trip somewhere, Mom's working and won't be back for another hour or so by the time I hit the door just before 4, so guess what the only influence in the house is for little ol' ten year old me? A certain starship captain and his half-Vulcan science officer.

In a time where the world is still making noises about going off the deep end, at an age where you're still trying to figure out just what the hell is going on anyway, Star Trek had a profound influence on those of us in that age group. The quaint morality plays weren't yet considered all that quaint at that point in history, at least not by all the eager ten-year olds watching at the time. The messages of racial and sexual equality, of avoiding violence whenever possible, the commentaries on issues that were still as current in '74 as they were in '67, this was pretty heavy stuff, and a helluva lot more engaging than the typical Sunday School lesson (certainly more fun to memorize).

By the time TNG came along, most of the heavy cultural lifting had already been done, the heavy moral issues of TOS were pretty much taken for granted, so it's not really a surprise that those who grew up with Picard and Co. look back at TOS and wonder what all the fuss was about.

Doesn't make me any less likely to smack 'em with a cane and tell 'em to get the hell off my lawn, but it's not surprising.