Friday, June 29, 2012

Quick and Dirty Thoughts on Obamacare

"The Constitution is not a suicide pact."  That's what big-shot government types used to say when they didn't want to follow it.  Now they say: "It's not our job to protect people from their political choices." But it means the same thing.

Behold the prescient genius of the Framers, who wrote the Bill of Rights in disappearing ink.
The progressives won their victory on Obamacare.  Repeal would be simple, but I doubt it ever happens.  Neither party’s partisans will be able to help themselves--there’s too much merry mischief to be made with a thousand-page statute.  Why would they ever give that up?  People who value principles over practicalities don’t rise to high office, certainly not in the Coke and Pepsi parties of American politics today. 

So they’ll dicker and bargain and bribe each other, writing their own little pet projects into any repeal.  They'll mess with a few big things and leave the devlish details behind.  And so the apparatus of the state rachets just a bit tighter.  As it does.

But really, today’s ruling doesn’t matter much.  It was going to happen anyway, it was just a matter of time.  Macro, we’ve been on this path for decades, and progress looks to march on. The best efforts of the Tea Party or the Ronpaulians or the Libertarians never seem to change the direction, only the speed.  Micro, it isn’t going to matter much to me either.  

Like almost every bill from every Congress, this bill was written for the benefit of the governing class. To them, primary benefits will accrue.  But there's a lot of words in there, each one an opportunity for unscrupulous others to capitalize on it.  The working poor will get to decide whether they want to buy the insurance plan HHS settles on or pay the tax.  The higher up the socioeconomic ladder you go, the more access you’ll have to lawyers who can get you out of it.  

I go to bed every night with a lawyer who spends his days trying to keep the poorest of the poor from getting screwed in court.  And while he waits for his cases to be called, he sees victim after victim get screwed because they don’t know any better, or losing cases they should win because they don’t have a lawyer.  More laws = more opportunities to use the law to screw someone.  The disadvantaged and underprivileged that Democratic politicians love to trot out for photo-ops—they don’t stand a chance. 

Her grandkids went to public school ... the one a half-mile from Dan Quayle's giant ugly house.
For every good guy out there, there are a hundred assholes who view each statutory clusterfuck as an opportunity.  Hell, they revel in it.  

I’m one of those.  

Pretty much.
And why not?  Strip away the emotion and intention, and there is no analytical or economic basis to disbelieve that Obamacare will cause deep damage to the economy and medical system.  It only makes sense that people who see the disaster coming will want to prepare. 

The last major healthcare law I read in full was the Medicare, Medicaid, and S-CHIP extension Act of 2007.  I went to classes on it.  I sat around with some really smart and more experienced lawyers and we analyzed ideas to get around the parts we didn’t like.  And then I taught seminars about it to other lawyers, and we all used those ideas for the benefit of our paying clients.  The part of me that likes games and winning will enjoy reading through the entire bill now that it's settled law.  

The progressive worldview can’t entertain the idea that the rising tide lifts all boats, so they even things out by forcing everyone into the same boat with the blunt force of legislation.  So they shouldn't be surprised when the inevitable games begin.  It makes sense that pressed sailors would be more inclined to creative mutiny.  Especially when rum rations run short.  
At least it's still legal to self-medicate.
When the pieces of Obamacare finally get implemented, the people who can afford to subsidize everyone else are going to find ways around it, so everyone else will subsidize them.  I’ll be cancelling my insurance the second it becomes more expensive than the “tax,” and drop any future health crisis onto a compulsory insurer’s lap.  When they goes out of business. . . well, that’s an inevitable consequence of the law I worked against.  If anything, that just makes it more important that I do what I can to maintain my advantages in the brave new world to come. 

And my conscience doesn’t bother me about that—at least, not much.  I did what I could to stop them from scuttling the ship of state.  But when it sinks, I plan to take the lifeboat.  

No more room for passengers.  Maybe they should legislate universal access to wings next.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Two Things

One of the best pieces of writing advice I've ever read is to never say one thing, always say two. In the dialogue chapter from Sol Stein's How to Grow a Novel, he says that well-written dialogue isn't natural (although perhaps the best-written dialogue may seem that way). Dialogue from a novel must reveal something about the character, or the motivation, or the relationship between the characters. It can't ever just mean what it says.

Although the advice makes sense to me, I didn't really believe how important it was to say have that extra layer of meaning until I started reading other novels with that in mind. When I started to pay attention to parts of books I found boring, it turned out that they dragged most when they meant what they said, and only what they said. Until I took that to heart, I thought I wrote good dialogue, that I had a good ear for natural speech. But years of reading court transcripts, particularly my own, show that natural speech is the farthest thing you would want to read in a novel. There is a morbid fascination with seeing how many times per sentence one person can say "okay" (I average 2.3 per sentence), that train-wreck impulse doesn't propel people to purchase books, I imagine.

I think that the say-two-things rule makes writing better across all entertainment mediums, not just novels. The emails, blog posts, and tweets I'm most proud of are the ones I can cram as many different subtexts into as the words can hold. I suppose that why I enjoy dirty jokes so much--manage a double entendre, and that's already two things right there. See? You thought I was warped from spending countless formative hours watching Beavis and Butthead, but in fact I'm being literary, pursuing density of thought and speech.

 But sometimes density doesn't always serve. I wanted to blog about my fish tank, just because I spent a bunch of time scrubbing it out so it was on my mind.  And I'm sure if I thought about it long enough, I could come up with some literary motif or moral lesson about cleaning the tank, perhaps something about reflections or about the importance of balancing fish and plants to maintain the environment.

But it all seemed pretty contrived, and I was afraid that the reflection theme might make people notice that my tank reflects a living room as untidy as the algae-coated tank. And really, the whole point of the fish tank is because it's a mental oasis, a quiet place to zone out, follow the fish, watch the soft stream from the bubblers. To relax.

So because I've been feeling relaxed and happy, and because I want to share something I enjoy, I only have one real thing to say today, and that is:

Look at my fish!
36-gallon tank, natural driftwood, 8 plants, 2 angels, 7 glowlight tetras, 3 emerald corydoras,
and at least 2, possibly 3 otocinclus catfish (they're hard to spot)