Sunday, March 16, 2008

'That is not a mole in my yard. That is not a mole in my yard. That...'

Or maybe I should call this one, "Joel vs. Mole."

Spent some moments this morning listening to Joel Osteen, celebrant of the Gospel According to Ralph Lauren, as he delivered his weekly dose of inspiration to his ever-hopeful, No. 1 Nielsen-rated flock.

Here's what I took away:

1. You can overcome a negative belief, and even a negative reality, by flipping it over to a positive one. God wants you to do that.
So: "I am a loser" becomes "I am a winner." "I am failing at school" becomes "I am an A student." We'll see this outlook again, in spades, when we get to Byron Katie—which, believe it or not, we actually will do. Please bear with me. Katie is a topic where I want my post to be a genuine work of journalism: serious journalism, not just a cursory, snarky rant.

2. We are all thoroughbreds who can easily be standing in life's winner's circle. There are no losers.
Now let me get this straight, Joel: If two employees who formerly thought they had no shot at a certain promotion suddenly start believing in themselves—that they're destined to get that job—what happens then? Do several identical jobs suddenly become available? How's that work, exactly? And how does God decide whom he roots for, in this era of corporate downsizing?

3. None of us is just average. (I am paraphrasing, but that's what the good Reverend said.) In fact, we are all "clay on the outside, but made of gold on the inside." Every one of us.
Look, I'm not out to be a hard-ass here; I get what he means, metaphorically. But let's take him literally, because—well, as I've asked before, of what use is a positive-thinking program if you can't apply it? And how can you apply something if you can't take it literally? Ergo, Osteen is saying that even in a system where everyone is exactly the same, no one is average. That is, by definition, absurd. In the system he proposes, for example, being "made of gold" becomes average. (And if I really wanted to be annoying, I'd also point out that if we were all made of gold, then gold would have very little value. But I don't want to be annoying, so I won't point that out.)


Then, during and after breakfast, I had to have an hour-long argument with the wife over all this. The wife, you see, is the one who found Joel Osteen's show and delightedly let the remote linger upon it. She is very drawn to Osteen and his message, and grows angry at the mere notion that someone, especially her breakfast companion, could nitpick such a "refreshing" and "uplifting" outlook. I tried to explain myself, framing my counterarguments simply as a defense of reason and a healthy commitment to skepticism. No dice.

"People need to think that way, Stephen," she tells me. "Nobody could face life if they looked at it the way you seem to want them to. Why is it so important to you to take away hope?"

So I sigh and give up. No wonder SHAM never quite rose to the heights I'd hoped. How could I have expected to successfully make my case to the culture-at-large when I can't even be taken seriously at my own breakfast table?

(P.S. The mole is still in my yard. I just checked.)


ourfriendben said...

Well, with gold at over $1,000 an ounce, if we were all gold on the inside, our lives would be in danger!

And just to prove there *is* a silver lining, that mole in your yard is busy eating all the Japanese beetle grubs that are lurking under your turf. He may be clay on the outside (literally, if those muddy paws are any indication), but he's gold on the inside as far as your yard is concerned...

Steve Salerno said...

Actually, Ben, I beg to differ. If we were all gold on the inside, gold wouldn't be worth $1000 an ounce. The exterior clay might even be worth more.

As to the mole, yes, I know the trade-offs here. And part of me is really rooting for the little guy to succeed. Though I must tell you (with some misgivings), the poison peanuts are already, alas, in his burrows...

Elizabeth said...

Steve, you ask: "How could I have expected to successfully make my case to the culture-at-large when I can't even be taken seriously at my own breakfast table?"

My as always level-headed response to your question is: You spoiled Sunday breakfast over what?! Shame on you, Steve.;)
And my condolences to Kathy. Let her linger with that remote over Osteen as long as she pleases -- you can always vent your discontent here. Osteen goes well with eggs and ham (especially when followed by a decent cup of bitter coffee).

Seriously, she has a point (and you know it!), though logically speaking, you are right (but don't push it over Sunday breakfast, for eggs' sake!)

The mole is adorable, even though a pest. Take those poisoned peanuts out of his burrows ASAP. Catch the guy and transport him out of your yard (yes, it is possible).

Steve Salerno said...

If I take the poisoned peanuts out of his burrow, do I have everyone's buy-in on sending them to Osteen?

Elizabeth said...

Now, now, Steve... It's Sunday. Show *some* compassion to your fellow creatures, Osteen included.

(On the second thought: How much will you need?)

sassy sasha said...

i actually like osteen, i think he's cool and to be honest i would do him. ;-) i like the mole too, please dont kill it!

Elizabeth said...

P.S. If that's any consolation, Steve, remember that the greatest prophets have always the hardest time finding appreciation at home. ;)

Steve Salerno said...

Sasha: And here, I can only fall back on the wit and wisdom of Blazing Saddles, specifically, the line from the Howard Johnson character, following the Gabby character's immortal speech in church: "Now who can argue with that..?"

Elizabeth: So perhaps both the mole and I are destined to achieve our greatest acclaim posthumously.

Elizabeth said...

Why so pessimistic? Not necessarily posthumously, but perhaps in a different setting. I hope.

Steve Salerno said...

Elizabeth: Though they may not come across as such, many of my comments are intended to be read as facetiae or benign self-derision.

Sasha: Now behave!

Elizabeth said...

Steve, and in that very spirit was my last response! :) (Save my hope for the poor mole, which was deadly [no pun] serious.)

Elizabeth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elizabeth said...

OK, Steve, just so there are no misgivings here: My comment (on the future acclaim for both you and the mole in different settings) was meant as a humorous nudge-nudge and not a serious attempt at uplifting you (yikes, how could you even suspect me of such a thing?;).
I thought I was more transparent... Sigh.

Now that we've done our compulsory Sunday morn 'splaining, how 'bout going back to eggs and ham (or whatever we're having for brunch)? (Hold the peanuts, though.)

Elizabeth said...

Now, Sassy Sasha, you did not say what I think you did... Did you?

Wow, that's a level of sass that's tough to match! ;)

Elizabeth said...

Sometimes we joke here, right? And I'm as guilty of it as the next guy. But there are times when we are serious, and for me now is one of those times.

Steve, participation in your blog proves fruitful for me and humanity (yes, I've always been so modest). So I have decided to unveil my own self-improvement/enlightenment program, as my contribution to development of human race, you know. The program is called... it's called... fine, never mind what it's called (in truth, I have not come up yet with an appropriately grandiose term; give me time, please).

But it has 4 steps (thank you, Byron Katie), and although they seem easy to follow, they will require dedication and advanced training, for which you'll have to sign up, and then purchase CDs, DVDs and workbooks (all in due time, be patient). Because I value Steve's blog so much, I have decided to premiere my program right here (I know how lucky you are, you don't have to remind me). Ready? Here it is.

Elizabeth's four absolutely guaranteed steps to happiness and life satisfaction are the following:
1. Keep your nose clean.
2. Stay out of trouble.
3. Try to be useful.
4. Try to be a little kinder.

And when I say absolutely guaranteed, I mean it. If you follow these steps every day of your life, I promise you a life rich in satisfaction and perhaps even happiness here and there. And if for whatever unbelievable reason you'll end up unsatisfied and unhappy at the end of your life, contact me and I will commiserate with you, either here or on the other side.* I'm certain, however, that it won't be necessary.

Now I need to focus on the marketing campaign or whatever they call that thing where you need to come up with ridiculously disingenuous phrases to push useless junk on unsuspecting people in order to separate them from their money. If you have any suggestions, do not hesitate to share them. Thank you.

*I should probably disclose that I do not believe in the other side.

P.S. When you eventually get to Byron Katie, Steve, do not skimp on snarky rant (in addition to serious journalism, of course). We love your snarky rant and I, personally, look forward to it.

OK, time to get on with life (in 4 easy steps, no less...)

The Crack Emcee said...

Several things:

First, the line "God wants you to do that" in #1 cracked me up. So did the word "absurd" in your comments on #3. I can't really say why though; they just did.

Second, all this emotion over the mole reminds me of being in France and witnessing their laughter at Americans for their over-concern for animals. "Who killed Bambi?" they would say, and laugh like there's no tomorrow. As you know, I have no love for the French, but, in this one instance, I think they have a point: the middle class does get too crazy about these things. That said, I think you ought to catch the mole and give it a new home, because (let's be honest) the real problem is he doesn't know he's in yours.

Last but not least - and, as a divorced guy, I hate dealing with "happily" married people's issues now'a'days - one of the last things I said to my ex face-to-face, desperately trying to save my marriage, went something like this:

"Baby, I 'get' it: You're a god, I'm a god, we're all gods. I listen to the Wu-Tang Clan, remember? "Yo, God?" "What's happenin', God?" But don't you see that, if we're all gods, then our 'godliness' cancels each other's out? Can't you see we're all just human?"

Yea, it was one of the more bizarre moments in my existence. But, if you add an 'l' to the word "God", you can (hopefully) see why I'd be hesitant to say anything about your situation.

That line from your wife ("People need to think that way, Stephen. Nobody could face life if they looked at it the way you seem to want them to. Why is it so important to you to take away hope?") scared me. Somebody (I can't remember who, maybe Hitchens) said, "Friends who give us false hope aren't our friends", a position I wholeheartedly endorse because I've paid the price. I've found such NewAge thinking, as Osteen's, to mostly be corrosive.

In my opinion, Osteen is not your wife's, or your marriage's, friend.

Anonymous said...

Steve, I spent about 15 years buying into -- or wanting to buy into -- "positive thinking". Slowly but surely I began to wake up from my new age trance. I have you and others like you to thank for helping me wake up. I don't think I could have done it without y'all.


Steven Sashen said...

I think you missed his 4th point:

4) God wants you to help spread messages #1-3... and the best way to do this is by getting your credit card and calling 1-800...

(Oh, and if you don't think you have enough money to help, then use your money to help! Because the only reason you don't have the money, and aren't living #1-3, is that you haven't done what God wants by pulling out your credit card and calling 1-800... )

Steve Salerno said...

Eliz, I think you have a best-seller there, on the order of Everything I Know I Learned in Kindergarten, though I'm sure you'd write it on a somewhat more exalted level. ("Everything I Know I Learned From Marty Seligman"?)

Steve Salerno said...

Steven, I know you say that as a joke, but honest to, well, God, he actually ends his program that way! I can't quote him directly because by the time he was wrapping things up this morning, I was already embroiled in the beginnings of the breakfast argument. But he has a very clever way of phrasing it: something along the lines of acknowledging "those viewers who feel the need to manifest the joy of God's love," or some such. I'll listen more carefully next time and quote it verbatim.

It's classic. I'm sure it was heavily brainstormed with the marketing people.

Anonymous said...

I just read your essay "Journalist-Bites-Reality" and wanted to find more of your work. Overall, I'm pretty disappointed with an entry like this. You're a thinker and a good writer. Why would you water down your work this way? Aren't enough people engaged in this foolishness online already?

Steve Salerno said...

I'm not quite sure what you mean by this criticism, Anon. And I certainly invite you to be more specific.

I should probably point out that critiquing the self-help movement (an inherently frothy, frilly milieu) was, in fact, the founding premise of this blog--and the blog is an outgrowth of my book on self-help, which occupies itself entirely with that topic (and was quite well reviewed, I might add). There are a number of major, deeply relevant philosophical issues at the core of all this "foolishness."

Speaking of which, my crusade is actually against foolishness--of the sort that generates annual revenues in the $12 billion range (and that's just tracking the activity of the major self-help players. It has long been my theory that there's an underground SHAM economy that equals what we track officially). Stick around awhile; it may grow on you. Or, again, feel free to amplify on your criticism, if you think it's worth the time.

Anonymous said...

Just listening to Dawkins "The God Delusion" on CD, its good, its Dawkins and his wife reading the text, its well done. (except for the audio levels!! what's with these guys who mix this stuff, are they deaf?)

But since when CAN religion and serious rationality mix? People can pretend that it can mix, but if a person holds fundamentalist, or any type of non-metaphotical religious belief as "true" doesn't that pretty much wipe out science based rationality?

Dawkins put the Christian story in words that an anthropologist might describe it, its pretty absurd.

That being said, I can't stand Olsteen personally. I tried to read his book, its just empty and shallow. That's why its a big seller!!

Anonymous said...

How many posts can you write on this guy? You need to watch a new preacher, because you keep repeating yourself about this one. The time you waste on Goofy Olesteen could be spent on a good post about Byron Katie or the 4-Hour Work Week.

Anonymous said...

this "flip a thought into its positive opposite thought", is not helpful, it can be very harmful.
Taken to the extreme, it can create Delusion. Its a form of absolutism.

but even taken moderately, it creates unhappiness, and frustration. Why? Because if your expectations are out of whack with reality, that is going to create problems for you. If a person expects everything to be easy, then the smallest adversity is going to frustrate the hell out of them, and then they will quit.

Its overgeneralized black and white thinking to flip thoughts around like that, they are both inaccurate.

So why be a negative thinker, or a positive thinker? Why not strive to be as accurate thinker as possible, and use scientific methods of evidence gathering?

Edward O Wilson described this in his wonderful book CONSILIENCE. We can never know anything with 100% accuracy, but we asymptotically approach accuracy as close as possible with careful analysis, this makes us the most effective.

Combine that with a tiny shot of Optimism, then that seems to be the best bet.

But this "flip the thought around", where does it get you? Why not learn how to think more flexibly and accurately, and thus be more effective and happy in life?

That type of knee-jerk superficial false-optimism is just as bad as its opposite, over-generalized negative thinking.

Racism actually stems from the same "black and white" overgeneralized oversimplified thinking processes.

Cal said...

Isn't basically what he is espousing a form of socialism?

If there is a God and we are all created equal, would anyone be born with birth defects? Wouldn't everyone have the same height, intelligence, all the women would be beautiful, etc.? There would be no need for competition or jealousy because no one would have an advantage.

But, sadly, I think in this current economic, political and foreign policy climate, Mr. Osteen and others like him, i.e., Dr. Phil, Oprah, T.D. Jakes (or as I like to call him J.D. Takes) should see their followers skyrocket. I think people flock to those types during bad times. In fact, I recall that I started seeing Tony Robbins' informercials in the early 90s when the economy was also weak. I admit I was even tempted to buy his book.

ourfriendben said...

Believe it or not, I just read on a garden blog that the dirt from mole hills is frequently used as a potting soil for seed-starting. (I should have checked to see where the blog originated; I can't really imagine this happening in America! But now that I think of it, the dirt from anthills would have a good texture for potting soil...) So now you have *no* excuse: quit griping and start planting!

Steve Salerno said...

To address these last few comments in bulk:

I think this is my third post on Osteen, and the first that addresses elements of his liturgy specifically. In three years' time, I don't think that's unreasonable. Besides, I've found that in revealing these people (and these creeds) for what they really are, repetition is often helpful--as is holding their own words up to the light of day and examining them, first and foremost, for self-consistency.
I already explained about Katie, or tried to. Believe me, I will get to her.

Cal, he's not preaching socialism per se. He's preaching delusion. He's holding out the promise of some kind of mass Nirvana (not the garage band, but probably just as hypnotic to many people) wherein we're ALL the wealthiest guy/gal we know, and we're ALL married to the most beautiful/handsome person in America. And can all achieve this state of euphoria without trampling on anyone else's toes. I repeat: it's absurd.

As to the mole: I see no sign of him this morning. I'll keep you posted.

Anonymous said...

hey, I want to be the richest and most beautiful person too...

where can I guy that book...


that would sell.

ourfriendben said...

Steve, you forgot to note that the blog's readership is always in flux, so a new reader wouldn't have had an opportunity to learn your views of Osteen. (In fact, a friend suggested--jokingly, of course--that I should do a "Best of Ben" summer reruns series on my own blog!) But, what's this about a four-hour work week?! Unless your name is Kristen, I'd say that would be pretty hard to pull off. But if anybody knows that particular "secret," please share it with our friend Ben!

Anonymous said...

I think, somewhere in his book, Rational Mysticisim, journalist John Horgan refers to 'The Enlightement Industry.'

It is an apt term. It is entertainment, it is driven by fads, celebrity, money and has its A-list, B-list and C-list.

Magazines, websites and TV shows are part of it---and it does overlap with the entertainment industry.

Steve Salerno said...

Anon--but don't you see? That already IS the title of every self-help book. At least in effect.

Steve Salerno said...

Speaking of Ben, I think I became hooked last night on HBO's new miniseries, John Adams, which I heartily recommend. Once you get past the oddities of speech, and learn to simply "go with it," it is mesmerizing stuff. Quite a sense of (pointed; relevant; sagacious) humor, our friend Ben had.

mikecane2008 said...

Olsteen succeeds on TV because he looks like a wide-eyed eejit child. The kind most people look at and go, "Aw...!". (The Little Baby LeRoy who W.C. Fields rightly booted in the butt!)

60 Minutes has several vids about him online (possible a story they did just chopped into bite-size bits for better online use):

Apparently people *don't like* being told they're sinners. I guess that's because the rotten bastards just refuse to repent or even *try* to modify their behavior.

From what I can see of Olsteen's schtick -- and it is that -- he's the biggest sinner of the lot. He denies the God he claims to speak about/for.

The genealogy:

Norman Vincent Peale begat Robert Schuller begat Joel Olsteen (and Olsteen got there only because Schuller's son is about as anti-charismatic as Al Gore!!).

The Crack Emcee said...

Whew - "nice crowd tonight" - I've got to keep these short:

Anon #1: Congratulations! I, for one, am extremely happy for you. You're like the third release this week. (I know James Randi got a nice letter last week. The other escapes me.) See, Steve? I told you: It takes time.

Steven Sashen,

Man, you crack me up!

Anon #2,

"Aren't enough people engaged in this foolishness online already?"

Nope. Challenging this type of thinking is the work of our time. Steve's ahead of the curve.

Anon #3,

Your post reminds me of a recent conversation I was having, where I had to explain to someone that, in order to understand, explain, and critique spirituality, you practically have to enter Alice's Wonderland yourself, using rationality as the bread crumbs to find your way back out again. Most people can't because they ain't got enough bread.

And I agree with you: Osteen's smarmy, like a grown up Eddie Haskell.

Anon #4,

"We can never know anything with 100% accuracy,..."

I keep hearing people say that: It's just not so. This whole system of computers, etc., that we're using to speak with is understood very well, along with a whole range of other things. Facts are cumulative, they build on each other, so we know many things 100% and anyone who says otherwise is a liar.


You got it. I'm not surprised there are calls for "socialized medicine" now, or that NewAge Hillary is leading the fight. There are also ties between NewAge thinking and fascism (click on the "adolph hitler" link in that post for more) - lots of them - as well as ties between traditional religious teachings with violence and racism. These are really nasty concoctions that many people are much too quick to drink.


"From what I can see of Olsteen's schtick -- and it is that -- he's the biggest sinner of the lot. He denies the God he claims to speak about/for."

Of course he does: He's a NewAger, nothing more, and NewAge's roots are in paganism - overturning Christianity - with many doing it (sometimes unwittingly) from inside the church. "There's no conflict between (whatever belief one has) and this" they say, all the while protesting that such-and-such in organized religion must change. Osteen's bit - getting rid of the fire and brimstone (the right and wrong judgmental stuff) and adding the dollar signs - is almost pure NewAge.

roger o'keeffe from nyc said...

Steve, as I have a few minutes left to myself after another working lunch at my desk, I did want to say something that's long overdue. Even if I don't always agree with you, and I don't, I think Shamblog is one of the best collections of random observations about the American scene, under one roof, anywhere. It's just a marvelous forum for serious as well as non-serious thought, and though I know your readership is growing, I still think you deserve to be one of the top-10 blogs. You'll probably never get there because you're so damned determined to be contrarian about everything, but maybe Elizabeth will be right, and recognition will find you in time for it *not* to be posthumous!

sassy sasha said...

elizabeth yes i did say that and you didnt even see what i said next b/c steve censored it. so i get off on older guys, what can i say? ;->
apparently certain gov'ners dont mind having us around either!

Elizabeth said...

Totally agree with you, Roger, on SHAMblog being at the top of the blogosphere's best. The Guardian (if I remember correctly now) has a list of Top 50 Blogs -- and I was *astounded* that SHAMblog has not made that list. This situation needs to be rectified ASAP IMHO (LOL:). Seriously.

Steve, don't change a thing. I love what you're doing and how you're doing it. I also agree with Roger's observation on you being so damn contrarian all the time, but I see it as your strength (as far as your blog is concerned; though I suspect this may not translate well into peaceful Sunday breakfasts, your wife should know :).

roger o'keefe said...

Hey Steve, you've motivated me to start my own. I don't know that I'll actually have time to write anything, but it makes commenting that much easier.

Elizabeth said...

Sassy Sasha... I'm speechless. Older guys?! Osteen is, what, 30??

Well, glad you're doing such a good job at censoring, Steve, otherwise there is no telling what these young and impressionable people would take away from SHAMblog. ;)

And CMC, I luv socialized medicine (gasp all you want; it really is funny how that S word gives so many people in the US spasms of anxiety... your propaganda has conditioned you well, what can I say:). Speaking of which, perhaps next time we can talk about conservative/classist/elitist media bias, shall we? (Hold the gasps.) You know, biases are in the eye of the beholder, in more than one way. They are like the air you breathe -- you do not even realize that they have filled up your lungs (and other body organs).

I'm all for socialized medicine. I've benefited enormously from growing up in a country with socialized medicine and I can see thousands of people in this country who would too. And I'm nowhere near NewAge (though we've established I am left of you).

Elizabeth said...

Mike, I think you're right that part of Osteen's success is his pleasant appearance. And the hot wife does not hurt either. And neither do tons of money he's made.

People want to identify with him and imagine that if they do what he tells them to do (and not necessarily what he has actually done himself), they too can achieve all that, in addition to eternal salvation and glory. It's a nice package all around -- and the art of packaging is what SHAM business is all about, since there is no substance under the shiny wrappings.

Steve Salerno said...

Elizabeth, basically everyone is left of CMC. I used to think I leaned more to the right, until I encountered our pal Crack. But that's perfectly fine, of course. We welcome everyone with a point of view here. And CMC's ever-engaging commentary gives the rest of a clear reference point for defining ourselves in the vast and murky chasm that is U.S. politics nowadays.

Elizabeth said...

No argument, Steve. (And why am I even saying that? Sheesh... :) But I still chuckle reading that "basically everyone is left of CMC."

Elizabeth said...

To Anon at 11:35 pm, who said, "But since when CAN religion and serious rationality mix? People can pretend that it can mix, but if a person holds fundamentalist, or any type of non-metaphotical religious belief as "true" doesn't that pretty much wipe out science based rationality?"

Anon, I do agree with you in principle, but (being somewhat contrarian myself), I'd like to point out that there is such a thing as fundamentalist rationality -- i.e. uber-rationality that derides everyone who does not buy into its belief (yes) of the absolute truth and primacy of the tangible.

The uber-rationalists sometimes appear, to me at least, equally deluded and arrogant (even perhaps more so with the latter trait) as the religious/spiritual nuts.

The Crack Emcee said...

"basically everyone is left of CMC."

Well, finally, I win at something. ("I am the winner!" - Aunt Lottie in Stranger Than Paradise, great movie)


I've lived under socialized medicine too - hated it: the taxes were too high (so nobody wanted to work) the people became hypocondriacs (so nobody wanted to work) and the care wasn't as good as ours (so nobody could work) it's not just propaganda with me. And, please, don't charge me with that, it seriously hurts my feelings. (!) So many people think you watch FOX News and it has this cult-like pull over people, like conservatives can't actually have a (profound) difference of opinion. I've probably seen less FOX News than most liberals, considering how much they talk about it. And, I know, you didn't mention it but, I'm just sayin', that's where most people think conservatives get their views from and it's just not so:

Growing up in South Central (where I could see ideas play out into life or death situations) had much more to do with my outlook than any organ of political thought that's popular today.

mikecane2008 said...

Elizabeth: He's 45!

Like I said, he has that Aw... naif look.


Elizabeth said...

CMC, did not mean to hurt your feelings at all, just pointing out that biases work in funny ways (i.e. what we hold as the cherished truth is biased in eyes of someone with a different experience and POV. I know I'm stating the obvious here, but it seems this particular obvious needs to be re-stated every time we set out to discuss what we perceive as somebody else's biases.)

I get your points on the downsides of socialized medicine, but its upsides, imo, override those. And socialized shmocialized anyway. We are talking universal and affordable, for those who freak out when hearing the S word.

Speaking of hurt feelings, though:
So you can dish it out, but cannot take it, eh? I knew it, under all that macho posturing there is just one big softie.;) (Ha, and of course you too are rooting [no pun] for the mole. LOL.)

Elizabeth said...

Damn it, how does he do it? 45 with that baby face? Must be all those God's blessings... (Plus the best cosmetic care money can buy.)

Anonymous said...

Are you sure you have a mole and not a gofer? I got them confused once. I don't think moles come out, but gofers do.

Well, talking about Osteen is just like Osteen. Osteen does pretty much the same sermon week after week. God has a plan.... yada, yada, yada. We are all special...yada, yada, yada. After a while, it's all just white noise.

I do feel bad for Obama getting so much slack for his minister's nutty rantings though. Who remembers what their priest, minister, or rabbi said? I could barely hear my priest one Sunday, because he was so marble mouthed. I never remember what he says anyway. I’m sure it has something to do with God though.

Elizabeth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elizabeth said...

CMC, on a more serious note re: propaganda -- I did not suspect you of worshiping FOX. My comment on "conditioning" had to do with what I see as the conservative, or even more accurately, money-ed/power-ed bias of the American mainstream media.

It is common to hear complaints about the "liberal" bias, but, from my POV, the elitist (and not necessarily liberal) bias of the media has more to do with championing and protecting the interests of the rich and powerful than anything else. I see this particular type of propaganda as pervasive and insidious (in the US), more so than any biases that may involve race and gender and "soft" political issues on both so-called liberal and conservative sides.

Anonymous said...

That’s the whole thing about biases; we hopefully should strive to get beyond them. I am going to use Hillary Clinton as my example. I am not a big fan of hers, because politically she is too involved in the numbers. I have also looked at her work in the Senate and am not too impressed. Now my mother feels I should ignore her record, because she is a woman and I should want to see this historic achievement. Since I am a woman, my mother feels I should see it the same way. I do not. Am I going against my “sister,” because I did not choose Hillary? There are many women who feel I have. I understand the argument, but do not agree with it.

I went to very expensive all girl schools for my entire youth up until college. I am very grateful for my education, because I do see that I am better educated than many in some fundamental ways. I heard a lot about women sticking together during my formative years, but I never saw and I do not quite understand it. I do not see many “sisters” sticking up for Ann Coulter. I may not always agree with Coulter, but she has the right to say what she wants to. I am unbiased enough to listen too.

Now I have been treated unfairly due to my gender, but that has more to do with personal bias than gender bias. A man might have had problems with a woman who resembled me and I might just get the fall out. From this one experience, I could right off all men and say they are misogynistic, but that would be unfair. I have to be able to see where biases and I meet so that I can make an accurate assessment of the situation. In the end, you cannot make everyone happy. You just have to know that your intent was honorable and you strived to be fair.

Steve Salerno said...

That is a very elegant/eloquent argument, Anon. My bottom line has always been this: You do not eliminate prejudice by instituting (or tolerating) reverse-prejudice (which, despite the "reverse," is still prejudice). Or as I put it in an essay I'm crafting at the moment: Pride is prejudice.

The Crack Emcee said...


First, I just turned 47 but people tell me (often) I look like I'm in my 30's. And, Lord knows, I don't work at it - quite the opposite. Genetics, kids, it's all about genetics.

And, please, tell me what the upsides to "universal healthcare" are. I agree with my favorite writing doctor (who, BTW, just declared my blog "the best" he's in touch with): who's going to work to give all this "free" healthcare? It's got to come from somewhere? And, when more people are added, what makes anyone think care will improve if they're already dissatisfied now?

And - hey - watch it with that "you can dish it out" stuff: I called a truce with you right from Jump Street (probably because of that fetching photo) but I still got claws - and feelings - for, like, moles and everything. In other words, watch it, girly. (LOL)

Oh, about my biases: I don't think I've changed so much from my liberal days. I thought most of my compatriots were wimps, back then, as well. (I've always been considered hard-core.) I'd be doing drugs in nightclubs and hideouts, but I'd always have 5 or 6 newspapers with me, which would make everyone wonder what my problem was. I always thought they were losers but I just didn't know what I was. It took the war, and the president (I must admit) to clarify things for me. Once I compared the liberal charges against the evidence, I felt betrayed by the Left, and there was no turning back after that. But there was no real epiphany. It felt like a smooth transition. The hardest thing was actually switching parties: I had to think about that for what seemed like forever. My loyalty was so strong. It seemed tragic. But now it's great.

I actually feel more in line with Anon's comment about Ann Coulter: When you spot people who can't listen to all sides - or especially those that want to shut down free speech, etc. - they're the hypocrites. I take wisdom from wherever I can get it. Cartoons, politics, wherever. Let a Liberal say something intelligent and I'm there (Good luck - LOL). In person, I get described most often as intense - never extreme. The guy women ask to walk them out to their car in bad neighborhoods. As a matter of fact, an actual female friend from my old school days just found my blog (to ask for advice) and left a comment, which should back up what I'm saying, a little, which is (some) people - even girls/women - like me. I just got standards I'm not lowering for anybody.

Your PR Guy said...

Wow! 54 comments! I don't have any inclination to read them all. And to be honest, I just skimmed your post. The jest I got because I watched the same program.

You should try Mike Murdoch around 1 p.m. That's more entertainment and fodder for SHAMblog. I suspect you might want to hide the checkbook too if you watch good ol' Dr. Mike.

Anonymous said...

yo al....

we literally cannot know ANYTHING with 100% accuracy.

Even gravity is not 100%.
Computers run by the laws of Nature and the laws of science, and none of those are 100%.

There has never been an exception shown to them, but that does not mean there could not be one.

Richard Feynman, The Character of Physical Law is a good book about that.

its impossible for anything to be known 100%.

Anonymous said...

CMC how do you explain the Federal Reserve bank bailing out investment banks? How do you explain the corporate and security bond fiasco? That is a form of socialism when the government does not allow the markets to correct themselves. If anyone really believed in free markets and not just gave them lip service, the Fed would stay out. Why is it alright to do that, but not spend the tax dollars on healthcare? Why is it alright to bail out people who made stupid business decisions with their shareholders money? Don’t tell me jobs, because those are already gone due to mergers. I must say CMC, the more I read your views, the more I am reminded of China’s view of the world.

Elizabeth said...

Oh, what the heck, let's make it 56.

First things first. CMC: Truce is good (I noticed, yes -- and I appreciate it). But, sigh, I thought that was because of my convincingly well-reasoned and witty arguments here, not to mention being disarmingly nice (ahem). Alas, you say it's the photo... Thank you (I think:).

Now to other matters (and please remember that you asked -- you'll probably get more info here than you wanted): The main upsides of universal and affordable (not free -- it's never free) healthcare are the following:

1. Joe and Jane Decent, gainfully self-employed like the husband and myself, can take their kids (and themselves) to the doctor (and even buy medicine, wow) without worrying about losing their house.

2. My mother, who is 72, can quit working her hell of a job in a meat-packing factory, where she stands at a rapidly moving conveyor belt for 8 hours in temperatures below 40 degrees, which with her severe arthritis and other health issues is not really good for her; but if she quit, she and my dad would not be able to pay for their medications. And yes, they are both American citizens and they do have Medicare.

3. See no. 1 and 2.
4. See no. 1 and 2 again.
5. See no. 1 and 2 again, and this time extrapolate on thousands, nah, millions of families around the country.

I personally am willing to pay higher taxes for these reasons. We already work hard -- and harder every year -- and have less to show for it every year. We buy our own, ridiculously expensive, health insurance that pays catastrophic expenses only (and every year raises its premiums and adds "uncoverable conditions" to an already long list. This is a major and "reputable" insurance company, btw, and not a back-of-the-woods/do-it-yourself type.) We postpone going to the doctor until we can postpone no longer (not a good strategy, as you can imagine). And as we are getting older, our health is going to decline, whether we like it or not. But with every passing year, we are able to afford healthcare even less.

We hear constantly that the US has the best medical care -- well, yeah, for those lucky ones who can afford it. I believe we can (and honestly, we have to) widen the access without seriously compromising the quality.

That superb quality itself is questionable, though: When I reflect on my experiences in the healthcare system here, both as a patient and provider, I'm inclined to think that these glowing claims are (often grossly) inflated. Yes, I do have stories to tell, most recent and traumatic ones related to my own surgery a couple of years ago -- btw, still paying the bills and will be so in the foreseeable future -- and my father's stroke in 2003; the latter a case example of horrifically negligent care, outrageously priced -- and that last comment is not even necessary to add.

Let's not kid ourselves: We are paying for our woefully inadequate healthcare through our noses already, in obvious and less so ways. I bet that those who do not see it, or deny it, have a very good coverage themselves, either through their jobs (an increasingly disappearing option) or because they are wealthy enough to afford it on their own without a dent in their budget.

I'm not an economist, so I may be wrong on this, but it seems to me that the problem is not the "real" cost of healthcare, which appears manageable in other countries that have solved the issue in more humane ways, but the for-profit set-up of the whole enterprise here, which is spiraling out of control. And of course, when it comes to medical care, one can find things to complain about in all of those countries, just like here. No system is perfect. But I, for one, am not looking for perfection, only affordable access (which, btw, I consider a human right and not a privilege for the wealthy only).

Off that soapbox now (you asked!).

As for the whole left/right issue and your transformation: I actually think I can understand that process (though I may be wrong). In fact, I have been experiencing something similar myself (if I understand you correctly), but I've contributed it to getting old(er) and more tolerant (ha... or so I like to delude myself). For example, I was recently able to read a whole Coulter column without grunting even once! (LOL.)

RevRon's Rants said...

Elizabeth, I think you make some very good points. However, I think the real controversy isn't about the *cost* of universal healthcare, but rather about the *idea* of consciously paying for someone else's care.

If the real issue were total cost to taxpayers, universal healthcare would win hands down. It's a well-documented fact that preventative medicine is less costly than is treatment for disorders left to progress without treatment. Prenatal care, for example, is a pipe-dream to a vast percentage of the populace, and is typically forgone by anyone who lacks *good* coverage or a fat portfolio. Yet the treatment of a critical disorder which could be easily averted via adequate prenatal care is profoundly expensive - and ultimately paid for by taxpayers when a parent brings their seriously ill child to the emergency room. Sadly, too many such infants do not respond well to such 11th-hour treatment, resulting in our country having a higher infant mortality rate than any number of countries who make no claims to having "the best healthcare system in the world," as some in this country are quick to declare.

To borrow a phrase from the compassionate conservatives who fight so hard against the concept of universal healthcare, "what would Jesus do?" Strive to provide care for even those who could not afford it, or adopt the attitude that if they can't afford it, they deserve to be sick.

As to the left wing / right wing arguments, the plain truth is that under our system of government, the country - like a bird - simply couldn't fly without both "wings." The "argument" is perpetuated by the extreme factions on both sides, who realize that so long as the populace is caught up in the finger-pointing game, the abuses of power so important to those respective factions will go unnoticed. Once we stop demonizing the "other side," we'd begin to seek actual solutions to problems, rather than sound bytes. And that would spell doom to those whose priorities are centered upon their own well-being, rather than the well-being of the country. Radicalism is only effective as an offset to radicalism. Progress is a result of the objective quest for balance.

Keep the soapbox handy. There's a dearth of common sense in politics nowadays, and no shortage of people who would attempt to shout down a voice of reason.

RevRon's Rants said...

Steve, I'm not as offended by Osteen's message as you seem to be, probably because I take it with a grain of salt. Not everybody can realistically achieve superstardom, but I think the idea that one can aspire to something beyond their known limitations is essential to anything resembling growth. It's the old "shoot for the stars" mentality. We might not actually get to those stars, but we might go farther than we would, had we limited our dreams to that which we had already achieved (or believed ourselves capable of achieving).

Sure, there are those who will tell themselves that they can become wealthy and powerful beyond any realistic expectations, but such people are unlikely to achieve much beyond a charade, anyway. And for every one of them, I'd be willing to bet that there are a hundred who are willing to work hard and improve their lives, and are inspired to do so, thanks to the hope borne of the "positive thinking" proponents such as Osteen.

It's understandable (and quite acceptable) to snicker at the apparent unreality of his message, but let's not overlook the good that some people realize as a result of the encouragement they receive from it.

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth, the U.S. is not number one in healthcare. Go to the World Health Organization to see how bad healthcare in the U.S. is. Also check out the Centers for Decease Control (CDC) for even more findings. Harvard, Yale, and host of other universities have done studies on the United States failed healthcare system. The alleged “richest” country in the world is anything but when it comes to the health of its citizens.

When it comes to taxes, how come no one is upset with where our tax dollars go now? We pay for lack of healthcare every day in some way. That’s why states and cities are making mandatory universal healthcare, it’s cheaper! Of course, that bit of information gets side tracked with “higher taxes.”

News flash folks-higher taxes are coming anyway! The U.S. is owned by foreign investors who are pissed and don’t believe in the U.S. anymore. Many economists, both conservative and liberal, hold the view the EURO will replace the dollar by 2010 as the world currency. That is why the EURO was created. China will switch from the dollar to the EURO as will our oil “friends.” Of course, no one wants to hear that though. Everyone wants to live in a dream.

As far as Ann Coulter goes, I don’t believe Ann Coulter believes what she is saying anymore. When she first rose in public view, she raised some interesting issues. Now she is all about selling books and causing publicity for herself. She is a great example of how a person becomes white noise when they continually say the same things and stay in the same grooves. The audience goes away.

Elizabeth said...

Anon (11:20pm), very good points ("Why is it alright to do that, but not spend the tax dollars on healthcare?").

Indeed. I cannot imagine that even an increase in taxes designed to cover universal healthcare would exceed what we (i.e. my family) are paying now in insurance premiums and out-of-pocket medical expenses for all the things that our insurance does not cover (which is almost everything).

Btw, how many of our tax dollars we have spent so far on the Iraq misadventure...? We can afford that humongous waste of money (not to mention lives and other resources), but not healthcare? To quote Gob from "Arrested Development," C'MON!. (Our priorities -- and values -- painfully show, don't they?)

And, further, let's open our eyes and see who is the most opposed to a healthcare reform and using all the propaganda means (including the always scary specter of "socialism," wooo...) to derail its possibility. (Hint: It is not the majority of American people.)

Elizabeth said...

Anon at 11:28am, yes, I know the woeful healthcare statistics for the US. That's why that myth on the "best healthcare in the world" bothers me so (that, plus my own experiences on both sides of the business). That myth, btw, is perpetuated by the same interest groups that oppose the healthcare reform -- and, as always, it is mindlessly repeated by the SHAM susceptible individuals.

RevRon (welcome back, btw! hope Connie is not far behind), yes, another good point(s) on the idea of paying "for someone else' healthcare." I meant to go into a rant on it as well, but decided not to inflict it on SHAMbloggers at the last minute. (This whole topic -- healthcare in the US -- makes me irate like no other.) Oh, I do have thoughts on this particular issue as well, as you can imagine. Again, this goes back to the specter of "socialism" and how it is used to scare Americans into thinking that their self-interest is undermined if they contribute to the welfare of others (while in fact the opposite is true, as you hint in your post as well).

And yes, I totally agree with you on this right/left finger-pointing. What a nice diversion it is for the powers-that-be while they go about their business of increasing their riches and power while we are otherwise occupied...

Steve Salerno said...

Let's take a moment to pause and reflect, shall we? What a wondrous thing, this blogging: 63 comments thus far, ranging from moles to healthcare to politics to religion, and everything in between. A town hall in microcosm--except that the reach takes us from coast to coast and even over the Big Pond(s). Simply amazing.

And now, after that (non)commercial message, we return you to your regularly scheduled program...

Steve Salerno said...

Let's take a moment to pause and reflect, shall we? What a wondrous thing, this blogging: 63 comments thus far, ranging from moles to healthcare to politics to religion, and everything in between. A town hall in microcosm--except that the reach takes us from coast to coast and even over the Big Pond(s). Simply amazing.

And now, after that (non)commercial message, we return you to your regularly scheduled program...

Elizabeth said...

RevRon, one(?:) more point, if you can stand it, to add to your argument.

You say, "Yet the treatment of a critical disorder which could be easily averted via adequate prenatal care is profoundly expensive - and ultimately paid for by taxpayers when a parent brings their seriously ill child to the emergency room."

Yes, of course -- and it goes beyond it. The kids who do survive suffer from a variety of long-term problems, including physical illnesses, and psychological and learning disabilities. Treatment of those is also very costly and their effects spread well beyond the healthcare domain into education, social behaviors, employment, you name it.

Steve's (and not only Steve's, of course) one pet peeve is the sorry state of the US education (those miserable tests scores, teenage clerks unable to calculate the appropriate change, etc.) I'd say next time we are confronted with a kid who does not learn (to count his pennies or anything else), let's remember that he may actually be a (unintended?) victim of our inadequate health system. More likely than not, this is a kid with learning problems, which, btw, are real (as well as frequently preventable and treatable, should we be willing to invest in either opportunity -- but, alas, we are not, since we are led to believe that this is not in our best "self-interest." Well, ladies and gentlemen, open your eyes to the reality around you and think again.)

OK, this is completely off topic, but the verification word is nowyqbmk. "Nowy" means "new" in the Polish. And qbmk is, well, qbmk. :)
I like these verf words (perhaps too much).

The Crack Emcee said...

Anon #1,

Fine. How about 99%? 90%? When is anyone going to concede that we do know things? I mean, how does anything get done if we don't know anything? It seems to be a conscience desire to hoodwink people to keep insisting on that. Are there things we don't know? Sure. But so much is known to keep suggesting otherwise is just seems wrong.

Anon #2,

There are larger issues at work - an *enormous* number of lives are affected - or does our economy, or even an industry, crumbling interest you? I sometimes think, like people studying "the end times", Liberals have an American death wish. And only so they can feel justified. They care so much for individual families (as I do, BTW) or even the fate of those outside of our borders, but where is your love of country?

Healthcare is each individual's responsibility. It's funny we've always got enough money for iPods, video games, rims for our cars, etc., but think something as important as healthcare - actually caring for yourself - should be dolled out for free. That disconnect, alone, is an incredible notion for me to contemplate. When is the idea that our priorities are wrong going to be given serious consideration? Which brings me to:


Yea - sorry - you do talk good too. No doubt. It's still a nice photo.

We do have the best healthcare - I've no doubt about that, either, Anon #3 - but, as I said about individuals - we don't have our priorities straight in the medical field either: We treat every idiot that walks in with a minor, or bogus, complaint like it's a major medical emergency. Everybody gets the works. Not too long ago I went in for what I knew was a bruised disc in my neck but the doctor, still, wanted to eliminate all the other possible causes of my distress - costing me a lot more than it should have - but he wanted to be thorough. Panda Bear MD talks about this a lot: the amount of money we just throw away on nonsense. That's a huge part of our problem. Add in families who have a dying loved one - someone who doesn't stand a chance or is so out of it it isn't worth the cost of maintaining their life - and the family still insists the doctors do "whatever it takes" because, more than likely, it's going to happen on someone else's dime. These are the kinds of things I think we should be discussing before we tax ourselves silly as Europe does. I mean, life can be hard, but I don't think making me have carry an extra $100.00 to pay the road taxes for a 700 mile drive (as I did in France, along with a TV tax, etc.) is anything we want to bring here. That's what kills economies.

I'll have to write more later: It's a super duper work day. I'll see you tonight.


Iraq was no "misadventure". No time to explain it but it wasn't - not by a long shot. I think I'll ponder it at work and do a post on it soon: It's definitely one of the current, and really nasty, self-defeating, beliefs out there.

Anon #3,

You're tripping too hard for me: "The U.S. is owned by foreign investors who are pissed and don’t believe in the U.S. anymore." Do you seriously think anyone outside of our borders - I'm talking "real politik" here - actually "believed" in America or were they always - ALWAYS - playing the angles as they saw them? The current wave of anti-Americanism is just more of the same, and the longer that Americans buy into their narrative the worst things are going to get. I say forget them - let's write our own story - because we can't expect them to tell our story. They know nothing about us, for starters. I know I don't fit their image of a patriotic American - seen the confusion on their faces with their own eyes - so how can they imagine to determine who we are when blacks, who they think are all terribly oppressed (yea, right) have always been part of the American story? The French constantly insulted me with that refrain that Native Americans and blacks are the "only real Americans", leaving out all the rest of you fine folks - because you're white - like we aren't a country at all. It's all so much BS. Don't buy it:

It's just not true.

Elizabeth said...

Yeah, really, Steve, ain't your blog somethin'? :)

It is my guilty pleasure; guilty not because of anything SHAMblog related, but because of the amount of time I've been spending here lately. I have to try to remind myself that I still have a job, as well as other responsibilities. Darn it.

Off to acknowledge reality now. Yuck.

P.S. Steve, we still expect updates on the mole, y'know. ;) Don't think you're off the hook on it, especially since you have not mentioned whether you removed those peanuts (and I'm afraid to ask, so I won't).

Steve Salerno said...

Elizabeth? Now listen to me carefully: Step away from the blog. Pack up all sharp instruments. Have your significant other lock away the heavy-duty meds. Anybody who's getting all that caught up in the verification words is in waaaay too deep....


Steve Salerno said...

Crack: White? Who's white?!

Elizabeth said...

Steve, LOL. And then LOL some more.

Too late (for them's heavy meds n' all). My significant other(s) also gave up, poor things -- long time ago. I am word crazy, have always been, and it's not curable. And it's fine (with me, dunno 'bout the signif others).

Had an argument in the house a while back on whether a 1000 monkeys randomly typing on keyboards could come up with a Shakespearean play. Signif others said yes, I said no way. (Signif others are the uber-rational types, I should add.)

But as I marvel at those verf words, I'm thinking I may have been wrong. There is a certain kind of poetry involved here. (Pass the meds now, please. ;)

Anonymous said...

I guess me and Alan Greenspan are "tripping to hard." China owns the most debt of the U.S. and their economy is dwarfing the U.S. economy. We are China's "bitch" to quote a fellow economist.

Anonymous said...

Yo CMC, I think we are probably on the same page, actually.

The laws of Nature are above 99.9%, or whatever, as they have never been falsified.

So I am with it that there is such a thing as Knowledge, but based on science and proper evidence.

Steve Salerno said...

Just to weigh in on this briefly, I don't doubt that an objective knowledge base exists--I just question whether it's knowable to us. If you look at human history, and even the relatively recent history of science, one finds so many cases where we thought we had it all figured out...only to realize that we got it very much wrong. And that's in dealing with physical elements and realms. So how can we have such a sense of certitude about philosophical, political and emotional "belief systems"?

The Crack Emcee said...


"China owns the most debt of the U.S. and their economy is dwarfing the U.S. economy. We are China's "bitch" to quote a fellow economist."

That's silly. We can't be the "bitch" of a heavily-structured country where most of the population is still in the rice fields pushing oxen. It's impossible.

China needs us just like we need them. If they bail on us, their expansion and growth comes to a halt as well. They idea they don't know that, and act against their own interest, isn't realistic.

I hear all the same stuff you do - I turn on NPR occasionally - but there are more rational (unbiased, or - heavens - even pro-American) sources out there to compare that information with. You should check some of them out:

They don't bite.

Anonymous said...

In the "hard sciences" knowledge is much more secure, but never 100%, as mentioned.

But in "philosophical, political and emotional belief systems", its very low.

Maybe at best 50% in social sciences?
Maybe 10% certitude? Less?

This is why the book by Olsteen seemed completely useless to me. Bascially he says whatever he wants, and then says its true cuz its in the bible. (his bible, that is).

So the "knowledge" he is giving might be at best 10% accurate due to collective Folk Wisdom, or maybe totally wrong, like the age of the earth, etc.

So its amusing when people take collective folk wisdom encoded in mythology, (bible) which might have less than a 10% chance of being at all correct, and say its 100% Certitude for eternity.
Its kinda amusing.

Its bizarre how people can see their own bible as being Absolute Truth. (your bible is totally wrong of course, only mine is correct...)


Elizabeth said...

Ahem, yes. Steve, you say, "What a wondrous thing, this blogging: 63 comments thus far, ranging from moles to healthcare to politics to religion, and everything in between."

Yep, indeed. But I see that you conspicuously omitted sleeping with older men (aka four hour work week), gardening, varieties of mental illness, and Ann Coulter. Your bloggers, self included, have amazingly diverse interests.

For some reason (Sassy Sasha) I feel I should point it out. ;)

Elizabeth said...

Steve (and, in a way, Anon) you ask, "So how can we have such a sense of certitude about philosophical, political and emotional "belief systems"?

Actually, we can, to a larger degree than we are willing to admit. There are certain universal and reliable constants in human lives/behavior that cut across cultures -- and those have to do (surprisingly to some, no doubt) with our emotions and by extension (though less so) with our social behaviors governed by emotions. For example, we know for certain what happens when an infant does not receive emotional nurturing, despite all the intellectual stimulation s/he may get. We know, for certain, what will happen when we steal another's mate. We know, for certain, what happens when we invade someone else's home (country). We know for certain what reactions we evoke in others by our display of superiority or whatever trait we choose (or are compelled) to accentuate. Etc.

See, we know these things -- or at least we should, if we were not so emotionally illiterate. That ignorance in the matters of emotions, which are absolutely essential to our social and intellectual functioning, is a result of fear and/or cultivated denigration of this side of life (it's the emotional illiteracy's vicious cycle). We dismiss what we fear and/or don't understand. And sometimes we willfully pretend it does not matter, especially when we have our agenda, be it intellectual or political or what have you, at stake. For example, we set out to invade a sovereign country and try to delude ourselves that the country's populace will welcome our arrival with flowers... I mean, how stupid is that? No, really?

Or we say something offensive to somebody else and act (or are) surprised by their reaction of hurt and/or anger. Stupid, eh? And easy to see when you stop to think about it. We trample on other's rights and/or dignity and act with impatience and/or superior indignation when they demand apology, retribution and justice. Short-sighted, to say the least.

Individually and collectively, we will not make any progress in our lives if we continue to cultivate our emotional ignorance. The good thing is that it is well within our capacity to change this sorry status quo -- not immediately, mind you, but little by little, we can.

Elizabeth said...

This is in jest, for a change (and yes, I'm being cheeky, admittedly), but I've been thinking that when we reach The Magic Number 80, then perhaps we can...

Elizabeth said...

...have a blog party? :)

roger o'keefe said...

I'm obviously very late to this thread, but I feel it's important to point out that you can't have it both ways in a free-market society. The point of a free-market society is that it encourages initiative and allows people unconstrained success. The flip side of that is that you're going to have some people who fail, and fail utterly. Once you start monkeying around with the essence of the free market, trying to jury-rig an outcome where you can have spectacular success--but no real failure--then you end up making changes that, in time, confound the spectacular success as well. That's my problem with the broad-brush approaches to "solving" the supposed health-care nightmare.

It sounds heartless to say, but do we want a free-market society or not? Decide and let me know.

Anonymous said...

What did happen to the mole anyway?

Steve Salerno said...

Alas, I have not seen it, or any evidence of its activity, since the evening of the day I put out the "seasoned" peanuts.

I have to say...I sorta miss the little critter.

I also think Roger raises a valid issue. Any takers?

Elizabeth said...

What to choose, free market or human life... Hmm...

Steve Salerno said...

Hmmm. Elizabeth, I know you just mean this ("market vs. life") as a winning riposte, but it seems a bit broad and non-specific for you; I must say that I am somewhat reminded of those arguments that used to begin, "Any country that can put a man on the moon...", and then you'd fill in the ellipses with whatever cause you thought you should be easily achievable. Not that I'm expecting you or even encouraging you to write a 1000-word counterargument, but I do think that Roger's point deserves a bit more than a bumper-sticker putdown. It's not that simple. Because as you know, if we're choosing "life" as the be-all-and-end-all, that imperative would also change our stance on many things: abortion, war, the death penalty, etc. In fact, if the mere sustenance of "life" were the No. 1 priority, there would be no America in the first place: The fathers of the revolution would've had a slogan more like, "Give me liberty or--nah, on the other hand, if you don't really want to give me liberty, that's OK, too, as long as I can go on living..."

To use a very basic microcosm/analogy, it's like those games they play on the schoolyard. It used to be that somebody was actually allowed to win. But if there's a winner, of course, that presupposes losers--so ultimately the gurus of self-esteem decided that there couldn't be competitive games in school, because they didn't want there to be losers. Which, in turn, means there can't be winners, either. Is that what we want? (It's not a rhetorical question; like Roger, I'm asking.) In our haste to rule out losers, are we willing also to rule out winners? Is the importance of championing a certain basic level of [fill in the blank] for some worth ending up with a system that promises mediocrity to all?

And eventually, perhaps, you end up with no games at all. (I know: Life isn't a game. Nor is health care. But I'm not sure the principle is unrelated.)

Elizabeth said...

My comment was not at all meant as a winning riposte, Steve. I hesitated to send it, knowing that it may be perceived as glib and knee-jerked, but, honestly, it isn't.

To me, it really comes down to this very choice. Mind you, I am naive (and I don't say this coyly, but in earnest). I do not understand all that much in life, but one thing I do understand is suffering (again, subtract any appearances of coyness and corny-ness from this statement). This is my frame of reference and this is what informs my choices and decisions. So, for me, it is what it is in the previous comment.

And that's also why it's going to be my last post on this topic. I'll leave the nuances of the economic discussion to those who know the subject better, since I simply have nothing more to say.

Anonymous said...

Roger, free-markets work with markets not people. Free markets work with goods and services, but human life is another matter. For example, prostitution and human trafficking would be allowable in a "free-market" society by your definition of it. I do believe adult prostitution should be legalized, but I do not believe a child pornographer should be able to profit. There is a demand for child pornography and in a totally free market society that demand should be met. In a totally "free market" society, both those "markets" would be allowed.

Also you fail to mention the economic costs of having uninsured people. It actually costs more to keep people uninsured. If a person has preventative healthcare, he or she is less likely to drain resources with an acute and undiagnosed condition thereby allowing that person to work and contribute to the economy. China does agree with that policy though and demands payment upon entry into a hospital for care. I guess we can always do away with the doctor's ethical codes and Hippocratic oath though. A lot of managed healthcare already has anyway.

China does not give medical assistance to anyone who cannot afford it. Is your solution to have people just die? There are many who would agree with that idea, because it is already happening daily in the U.S.

Anonymous said...

I see that "The Anti Guru Blog" author Steven Sashen posts comments here and gets kudos from your readers. Seeing as you actually seem to respect him (or, at least you don't bash him), I hope that, when you finally get around to that article, you will interview and quote him on the subject of Byron Katie's "the work," since, according to his web sites, he teaches it.

Anonymous said...

That is why I love economics, it’s about what we value. It’s not just the Fed lowering interest rates; it’s about what we care about. Do we care about the shiny new car more than a person’s life? As far as property goes, you are now seeing that’s pretty worthless too.

As per usual, the answer lies between free-markets and ethics. Do we value being in debt and living on credit to keep our economy going? I think that is horrible, but it is the American reality. Someone is going to have to pay the piper and who will that be? Will it be our children, our grandchildren, or our great-grandchildren? Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think Hamilton, Jefferson, Franklin, or Washington saw the country quite that way.

Anonymous said...

I forgot to mention Dr. Jan Adams in regard to doctors and free-markets. He and Anna Nicole Smith’s doctors are perfect examples of doctors and economics. Kanye West's mother was denied plastic surgery by another surgeon due to her heart condition. It is a free market, and she found a doctor, Dr. Adams (not trained in plastic surgery BTW), who would do her surgery. Dr. Adams too knew of her heart condition, but felt it was “her decision” and went ahead. I believe Kanye West wishes his mother had listened to the first plastic surgeon.

The Crack Emcee said...

"If a person has preventative healthcare, he or she is less likely to drain resources with an acute and undiagnosed condition thereby allowing that person to work and contribute to the economy."

This made me think of living in France, where people have all the free healthcare they want, but they're also the "worried well" who, mostly, live on the dole (or do make-work) because there's no real jobs and - because of the high taxes to pay for the healthcare - no incentive to do anything.

Free-market: It's potentially brutal, but the best way to go for the largest number of people. And, if we can't have everything, isn't that what we want?

Anonymous said...

CMC you hate France. We got it already.