An Honest Conservative

It is refreshing to see such honesty from a conservative. While conservatives often mislead people about their position by claiming to be supporters of freedom and limited government, Think Progress quotes Michelle Malkin as providing an honest view of where she stands. “So you’re behind this Passengers’ Bill of Rights move. I have to tell you, in general, I’m skeptical of anything that has Bill of Rights tacked on to it.”

I’m sure that she is speaking for her fellow conservatives, and this extends to the original Bill of Rights. Think Progress proves the value of pictures as they show that this represents her previoiusy expressed viewpoints.

If anyone doubts that this represents the conservative view on the Bill of Rights (beyond the right to bear arms), just check out the comments on the ACLU at virtually any conservative publication or blog.

Update: Obviously posts on this statement are basically snark having fun with Malkin’s statement (especially as there is a grain of truth when compared with her authoritarian political positions). While we’ve had some fun with this, a lone comment like this out of context isn’t intended to be a serious comment on her views. Many conservative blogs are protesting how her words are being misused here. I find this ironic considering that they are generally the same ones which habitually misquote Democrats and try to use these misquotations in serious attacks. For example, these are the same people who took Kerry’s joke about Bush getting us stuck in Iraq out of context to falsely claim he was attacking the troops.

Bill Maher Returns Tonight with Guest John Edwards

Bill Maher’s show returns on HBO tonight. Maher was interviewed by Salon where he criticized both the surge and the response by the Democrats:

The politics of the surge is something I wanted to ask you about.

Yes, that did anger me terribly. Whenever I get that anger, that feeling in my gut, I do wish I was on the air, I do wish I had a platform to vent. And it made me very angry that this man, this president of ours, knows better than the whole goddamned world what to do. The ego of that.

The ego of saying I’m going to send in 21,000 troops — or however many, we don’t even know.

The people in Iraq don’t want this. The people in America don’t want this. The Iraq Study Group doesn’t recommend it. The Democrats are against it. Most of the people in his own party are against it, even though many of them wouldn’t say so out loud. But George Bush, he knows better. That is a kind of arrogance that is very hard to swallow at this point, especially when it’s costing this many lives. Even the pope — remember he said something bad about the Muslims a few months ago? The infallible pope came out and said, “Geez, my bad. That came out wrong. I didn’t mean that.” Yeah, the pope can say he’s sorry, but this recovering alcoholic from Midland, Texas, he can’t even say he’s wrong.

How do you size up the way the Democrats have handled the maneuvering around how to block the surge?

It looks gutless from the outside. I’m not a parliamentarian, so I don’t know the ins and outs of how that kind of business is conducted in Washington. I’m sure there are difficulties I don’t know about. But just as a citizen who watches the news every night, when he hears seven more U.S. troops were killed today… “Goddamn!” — it looks like all that hopefulness we felt in the fall, with the election and the Iraq Study Group, was for naught. And I’m on the page with — I guess it’s Edwards who’s most vocal about saying — use the power that you have in the Constitution.

Which is, cut the money.

And the reason why the Democrats won’t cut the money is that they’re always afraid how something will look. In my view, the fatal flaw of the Democrats is not having confidence in their own ability to make a case, to say, “We’re not against the troops when we’re cutting the money. Of course we’re not going to abandon them on the battlefield with no money and no weapons.” It’s not that hard a case to make, to decouple the idea of cutting funding from the idea of abandoning the troops.

Maher will have John Edwards on, and he has a far better opinion of Maher than of Hillary Clinton:

John Edwards, he’s been on the show a number of times, and he’s the real deal. Anyone who does our show, I think it means they’re not afraid to be challenged and to have to think on their feet and to be nudged out of their comfort zone. There are an awful lot of politicians who only go on places where they know they’re going to get the softball treatment. But if you do our show, if you do Chris Matthews’ show, to me, it says something about the confidence you have to make your case. And again, that’s what the Democrats need, I think more than anything: the confidence to make the case, to say, “If I disagree with your policy, it doesn’t mean I oppose the troops.” If you have an exterminator come over, and he starts hitting the vermin with a hammer, individually, and you say, “I don’t think this is the way we should go about this” — you’re not for the rats.

[Laughs] Right. Do you think we’ll see Hillary Clinton on your show this season.

I think if they’ve resisted me this long, I’m not going to hold my breath.

SciFi Friday: Battlestar Galactica and 24

The top news of the week was predicted. Battlestar Galactica has been renewed for a fourth season. As discussed in this report from the Los Angeles Times, the Sci FI Channel is not likely to cancel the show regardless of ratings:

But “Battlestar Galactica” stands as one of the most critically acclaimed series on television. It also won the prestigious Peabody Award and was counted among the American Film Institute’s top 10 outstanding TV programs two years in a row. Critics often describe the show in lofty terms, referring to it as a multilayered allegory for a post-9/11 world that raises questions about the ethics and politics of war.

The Sci Fi Channel cites the series’ strong buzz and critical praise — a halo effect that can’t be quantified in ratings points or ad dollars — as the reason for its renewal.

” ‘Battlestar’ is a cachet show. It gives us a lot of credibility with the creative community,” said Mark Stern, head of programming for the cable network. “It’s the kind of series we want to continue producing in the future.”

Although Battlestar Galactica is Sci Fi Channel’s most expensive original series, part of the cost is also offset by DVD sales. While I doubt it brings in much money, the show is also currently rerun in high definition on Universal HD. I would assume that the show will be able to bring in money in the future in reruns on larger channels.

The article also notes what has been rumored elsewhere. “Moore and Eick recently confirmed rampant online speculation that by the end of the season, one of the main characters would be revealed as a Cylon, the robotic race set on wiping out its human counterparts.” I wonder if the character is someone who has realized they were a Cylon or if it is someone who has believed they were human such as with Sharon. If a main character (other than Baltar) turns out to knowingly have been a traitor I hope this is something which has been planned and will fit in with previous episodes. I hope they don’t make the mistake that 24 made when they decided late in the first season to make Nina Myers a traitor, or to suddenly change President Logan from a weakling to a traitor involved with the terrorist plots. When watching 24 viewers primarily are following the action and don’t pay as much attention to the continuity as science fiction fans typically do with a show like Battlestar Galactica.

While viewers of 24 might give artistic license to the plot details, they cannot help but note the frequent use of torture. As David Danzig, director of the Prime Time Torture Project for Human Rights First, said, “It’s unthinkable that Capt. Kirk would torture someone.” Discussion of the politics of 24 has increased since The New Yorker exposed the show’s creator, Joel Surnow, as a conservative:

Surnow’s rightward turn was encouraged by one of his best friends, Cyrus Nowrasteh, a hard-core conservative who, in 2006, wrote and produced “The Path to 9/11,” a controversial ABC miniseries that presented President Clinton as having largely ignored the threat posed by Al Qaeda. (The show was denounced as defamatory by Democrats and by members of the 9/11 Commission; their complaints led ABC to call the program a “dramatization,” not a “documentary.”) Surnow and Nowrasteh met in 1985, when they worked together on “The Equalizer.” Nowrasteh, the son of a deposed adviser to the Shah of Iran, grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, where, like Surnow, he was alienated by the radicalism around him. He told me that he and Surnow, in addition to sharing an admiration for Reagan, found “L.A. a stultifying, stifling place because everyone thinks alike.” Nowrasteh said that he and Surnow regard “24” as a kind of wish fulfillment for America. “Every American wishes we had someone out there quietly taking care of business,” he said. “It’s a deep, dark ugly world out there. Maybe this is what Ollie North was trying to do. It would be nice to have a secret government that can get the answers and take care of business—even kill people. Jack Bauer fulfills that fantasy.”

In recent years, Surnow and Nowrasteh have participated in the Liberty Film Festival, a group dedicated to promoting conservatism through mass entertainment. Surnow told me that he would like to counter the prevailing image of Senator Joseph McCarthy as a demagogue and a liar. Surnow and his friend Ann Coulter—the conservative pundit, and author of the pro-McCarthy book “Treason”—talked about creating a conservative response to George Clooney’s recent film “Good Night, and Good Luck.” Surnow said, “I thought it would really provoke people to do a movie that depicted Joe McCarthy as an American hero or, maybe, someone with a good cause who maybe went too far.” He likened the Communist sympathizers of the nineteen-fifties to terrorists: “The State Department in the fifties was infiltrated by people who were like Al Qaeda.” But, he said, he shelved the project. “The blacklist is Hollywood’s orthodoxy,” he said. “It’s not a movie I could get done now.”

A year and a half ago, Surnow and Manny Coto, a “24” writer with similar political views, talked about starting a conservative television network. “There’s a gay network, a black network—there should be a conservative network,” Surnow told me. But as he and Coto explored the idea they realized that “we weren’t distribution guys—we were content guys.” Instead, the men developed “The Half Hour News Hour,” the conservative satire show. “ ‘The Daily Show’ tips left,” Surnow said. “So we thought, Let’s do one that tips right.” Jon Stewart’s program appears on Comedy Central, an entertainment channel. But, after Surnow got Rush Limbaugh to introduce him to Roger Ailes, Fox News agreed to air two episodes. The program, which will follow the fake-news format popularized by “Saturday Night Live,” will be written by conservative humorists, including Sandy Frank and Ned Rice. Surnow said of the show, “There are so many targets, from global warming to banning tag on the playground. There’s a lot of low-hanging fruit.”

We’ve subsequently seen the failure in making a conservative version of The Daily Show. The effects of 24 in promoting conservative ideas have been mixed as other ideas have been brought into the show in order to attract a larger audience (previously discussed here). There has been considerable criticism of the unrealistic manner in which torture is portrayed. On 24 torture works within minutes to fit into the format of the show, while in reality it might take weeks to break a person, and even then it is questionable how reliable their information will be. On 24 torture is performed during ticking bomb scenarios in which it is hard to object to doing anything possible, but such scenarios do not represent the situation at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. The situations on 24 also make viewers more accepting of torture as in many cases we have already seen evidence that the victim is hiding information which could lead to the deaths of a large number of people. In real life we do not have such confirmation of either the guilt of the victim or that they are hiding useful information. The producers have more recently announced plans to tone down the torture while denying this is in response to the objections raised.

SciFi Friday is a weekly feature of Liberal Values. This week’s edition is once again a featured post at Memeorandum.

Moonbats on Evolution Part II: It is All a Jewish Plot

Today must be the day for moonbat attacks on evolution. Following Deepak Chopra’s post (discussed below) I came across this attack on evolution which goes a step further. Not only does it oppose the teaching of evolution in the schools, it bases this on the argument that evolution is all just a Jewish plot. This off the wall theory is even being distributed by a Republican legislator:

The Anti-Defamation League is calling on state Rep. Ben Bridges to apologize for a memo distributed under his name that says the teaching of evolution should be banned in public schools because it is a religious deception stemming from an ancient Jewish sect.

Bridges (R-Cleveland) denies having anything to do with the memo. But one of his constituents said he wrote the memo with Bridges’ approval before it was recently distributed to lawmakers in several states, including Texas, California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

“Indisputable evidence — long hidden but now available to everyone — demonstrates conclusively that so-called ‘secular evolution science’ is the Big-Bang 15-billion-year alternate ‘creation scenario’ of the Pharisee Religion,” the memo says. “This scenario is derived concept-for-concept from Rabbinic writings in the mystic ‘holy book’ Kabbala dating back at least two millennia.”

The memo calls on lawmakers to introduce legislation that would end the teaching of evolution in public schools because it is “a deception that is causing incalculable harm to every student and every truth-loving citizen.”

It also directs readers to a Web site, which includes model legislation that calls the Kabbala “a mystic, anti-Christ ‘holy book’ of the Pharisee Sect of Judaism.” The Web site also declares “the earth is not rotating … nor is it going around the sun.”

I’ve sometimes compared creationists (or in this case cretins) to flat earthers. That comparison seems less of an exaggeration after reading this belief that the earth is not rotating or going around the sun.

As for evolution being the work of a mystical Jewish group, they got the details a bit wrong. Evolution comes from a group which is mysterious and unknown to these people. That group is known as “scientists” and while this group contains many Jews it is also open to all other religions.

Deepak Chopra Embraces the Bogus

New Age opponent of science Deepak Chopra is at it again. (Previous posts on Chopra here.) The latest installment is Why Evolutionary Biology Embraces the Bogus (Part 1). There is little point in commenting on the bulk of this as one of those commenting at Huffington Post sums up the problem with, “a New Age charlatan is not my first choice to speak with authority on evolutionary biology.” In his previous posts on evolution Chopra has repeated the same objections raised by creationist organizations such as the Discovery Institute, and displayed no more understanding of the science than we see from the religious right. This is only part one, and apparently we must wait until part two to see how he attempts to throw this into something sounding like a coherent answer before he can be completely refuted.

The main reason I am not waiting until his argument is completed to comment is the absurdity of one of his examples:

Now let’s say that a man loses his job, becomes depressed, and wants a prescription for Prozac. What made him depressed isn’t the imbalance of serotonin in his brain but the loss of his job. Yet science continues to offer this kind of wrong explanation all the time. It mistakes agency for cause.

Chopra is mistaking the meaning of depression as used by the general public with the clinical definition. Depression in the sense used by the lay public to describe a person who has lost their job is totally different from clinical depression, which is caused by chemical imbalances within the brain and is a far more serious and disabling problem. Medications such as Prozac might be prescribed at the urging of the man who lost their job, but most physicians would recognize that this is not true depression even if giving in to the demands of the patient. True depression is a serious problem, and whether it is properly treated with medications and other modalities can determine if a person is able to enjoy life and function in the world. Stresses such as loss of a job might worsen the symptoms of someone already suffering from depression, but those with imbalances in neurotransmitters such as serotonin typically feel depressed even without any outside causes.

I suppose Chopra feels closer to the views of Tom Cruise on psyciatric treatment than he does to established medicine. He gives further insight into his views of science and medicine later in the article:

When a devout Christian asks God to heal her instead of going to the doctor, rationalists feel frustrated because in their eyes she is stubbornly relying on the wrong order of explanation (i.e., attributing disease to sin and cures to God’s mercy), but they rarely see the same flaw in themselves.

Apparently Chopra sees no distinction between biological explanations of disease and those who attribute disease to sin or acts of God. Chopra has come from echoing the arguments of creationists when discussing evolution to echoing religious fanatics in discussing medicine. Few express bogus ideas more regularly than Deepak Chopra.

Update: Response to Part 2 of Chopra’s post
Chopra Embraces Bogus Arguments Evolution

Related Stories:

Deepak Chopra’s False Alternative of Random Chance
Deepak Chopra and Considerations of Us vs. Them

Chopra Finds Proof of God in Yellow Flowers
Chopra: We Are In God As A Fish Is In Water

Chopra: If The Universe Didn’t Have Imagination, Neither Would We

Chopra Concludes, Responding to Criticism

One Less Moonbat in Existence

Moonbats on Evolution Part II: It is All a Jewish Plot

And even one post on an article where Chopra makes sense:

Analyzing George Bush

Support Grows For Gore

In 2000 Gore lost his home state, but now a Tennessee television station is saying he might be the state’s most popular politician. More importantly, they quote a national poll showing increased support:

Tennessee’s most popular politician may not be sitting in any elected office.

According to a new USA Today Gallup Poll released Wednesday morning, support is growing for former Vice President Al Gore in the 2008 presidential race.

Supporters said “the time is right” for a man who made-over his image.

These days, it seems former Tennessee Senator, Vice President, and presidential candidate Al Gore is everywhere these days.  Since leaving public office, Gore has made it his mission to educate the world about global warming.

Gore could win an Oscar for his documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” and could also win a Noble Prize.  Many of his supporters also believe he could win the White House.

Some Gore fans have launched the Web site, to try and lure the 2000 democratic nominee into the race.  Gore, however, has insisted he has no plans to run.

In Wednesday’s poll, Gore came in third among possible democratic contenders with14% support, up 3% from last month.

Senator Hillary Clinton led the way with 40% support and Illinois Senator Barack Obama had 21% of the support.

On Wednesday, Vanderbilt Political Science Professor John Geier spoke with News 2 about the poll and the support for Gore.  He also discussed what Gore’s chances if he decides to jump into the presidential race.

Click HERE for complete interview with Geier.

I bet that if he gets into the race he’ll do far better than third.

Hit By An Insurance Scam

Thanks to Paul Krugman I got evidence of what I suspected. I’m probably the victim of a scam.

A few months ago I got a new patient from out of state with insurance through United Health. My office contacted the insurance company before we saw her to determine if she would be covered. In situations such as this it isn’t always clear whether we’d be considered a participating provider for the plan since, not being a local plan, we do not have a contract with them. Many health plans have arrangements for situations such as this and we did receive a fax back stating they considered us a participating provider and outlined coverage for her office calls. After we saw the patient, United Health failed to pay on the claim. They stated that we are not a participating provider and that the office calls would be the patient’s responsibility. When we call they claim that they agree we are a provider and she will be covered, but they continue to deny the claims.

Previously there was the question of whether this is just an error which will be fixed or an intentional scheme to avoid payment. Paul Krugman’s column shows a pattern of such behavior:

Is the health insurance business a racket? Yes, literally — or so say two New York hospitals, which have filed a racketeering lawsuit against UnitedHealth Group and several of its affiliates.

I don’t know how the case will turn out. But whatever happens in court, the lawsuit illustrates perfectly the dysfunctional nature of our health insurance system, a system in which resources that could have been used to pay for medical care are instead wasted in a zero-sum struggle over who ends up with the bill.

The two hospitals accuse UnitedHealth of operating a “rogue business plan” designed to avoid paying clients’ medical bills. For example, the suit alleges that patients were falsely told that Flushing Hospital was “not a network provider” so UnitedHealth did not pay the full network rate. UnitedHealth has already settled charges of misleading clients about providers’ status brought by New York’s attorney general: the company paid restitution to plan members, while attributing the problem to computer errors.

The legal outcome will presumably turn on whether there was deception as well as denial — on whether it can be proved that UnitedHealth deliberately misled plan members. But it’s a fact that insurers spend a lot of money looking for ways to reject insurance claims. And health care providers, in turn, spend billions on “denial management,” employing specialist firms — including Ingenix, a subsidiary of, yes, UnitedHealth — to fight the insurers.

Republicans tell me I should fear “socialized medicine.” Of course they aren’t the ones who deal with our current mess of a health care payment system. I’ve never had problems like this with Medicare. Even when there are problems there are fair ways to fix them. Several years ago Medicare conducted an audit and claimed that around $13,000 paid wasn’t for valid services. Naturally I disagreed. I took my arguments to an administrative law judge (part of a documented appeals process available). The administrative law judge agreed with me and Medicare returned my money. The evidence in my favor was so strong I didn’t even bother using an attorney in this fight. Getting money out of United Health won’t be so easy.

Krugman goes on to discuss the entire health care system. This denial management, along with everything else the insurance companies do, costs money.

McKinsey & Company, the consulting firm, recently released an important report dissecting the reasons America spends so much more on health care than other wealthy nations. One major factor is that we spend $98 billion a year in excess administrative costs, with more than half of the total accounted for by marketing and underwriting — costs that don’t exist in single-payer systems…

To put these numbers in perspective: McKinsey estimates the cost of providing full medical care to all of America’s uninsured at $77 billion a year. Either eliminating the excess administrative costs of private health insurers, or paying what the rest of the world pays for drugs and medical devices, would by itself more or less pay the cost of covering all the uninsured. And that doesn’t count the many other costs imposed by the fragmentation of our health care system.