It’s lit

Young & Progressive. When it comes to politics, everybody’s got an opinion, it’s just that a lot of people aren’t prepared to hear ours – are you?

This site has three goals:

  1. Call out political BS from the right* and left
  2. Give millennials a platform to spread their political ideas
  3. To provide millenial insights on news that affects us all

…just kidding, there’s a fourth one too:

4. Occasional random shyt

*Trigger warning: I won’t lie, I’m gonna have a field day with this one ūüėÄ

Stop Comparing BLM and Neo-Nazis.

Whataboutism is a term that refers to a form of lazy intellectual deflection. The term was invented during the Soviet-era when it was used as a tactic by state propagandists. Whenever the Soviet Union was criticized, state officials would respond by pointing to negative events in [capitalist] countries. This would usually take the form as “what about…[insert X event here]…?”

Source: foreignpolicyblogs.

Similarly, reactionaries of the right today, are engaging heavily in this tactic.

After the reprehensible events at Charlottesville, you would think that it would be relatively uncontroversial to condemn white supremacy and unite to actively fight against it. Instead, the right is increasingly politicizing the event by downplaying its significance with their now infamous whataboutism: “what about Black Lives Matter? condemn the violence on both sides!”

To those people, here’s what I have to say:

You are an absolute moron.

First of all, there is no moral equivalency between a genocidal ideology and a movement fighting for justice in the policing system for black Americans. With that being said, violence done in the name of BLM and violence done in the name of neo-Nazism are two very, very different things. The former can not actually be tied back to the movement itself, but rather an individually-sourced criminal act. The other, is actually inspired by the [genocidal] ideology. If you can’t see that, well, again, you’re an absolute moron.

This doesn’t mean that the murderer who shot 11 and killed 5 police officers in Dallas last year should be excused, what it means is that you can’t point at him and say “BLM is a terrorist organization!”

After the horrific attack in Dallas, both President Obama and BLM leaders quickly (and clearly) came out in condemnation of this event. The cop killing goes directly against the BLM principles, which are outlined right on their website for anyone who’s curious.

Anti-white and violent rhetoric are simply not systemic in BLM, unlike in actual anti-white hate groups like the New Black Panther Party (NBPP). The late chairman of the NBPP was quoted as saying “There are no good crackers, and if you find one, kill him before he changes.” That, ladies and gentleman, is terroristic.

But if it’s okay to take the actions of a few, and use that to stigmatize an entire group, then is it fair to say that all Trump supporters are white supremacists, considering Trump is enthusiastically supported by ex-KKK grand wizard David Duke, and other white supremacists? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Trump’s faithful voters. Source: highlighthollywood.

Chanting “pigs in a blanket, fry ’em like blanket” certainly looks bad, but can anyone point to where this became part of the BLM platform? You can’t, because it hasn’t. And in instances where behavior has gone against group principles, BLM leaders have been there to denounce it.

Anyone who claims that BLM is a terrorist organization is dangerously lying. They are not only lying, they are projecting their racism. If you are one of those people, know one thing. When a group of people joining together to fight for the fair treatment of black people in society is stigmatized as being a “terrorist group”, you are proving the point that widespread anti-black racism still exists throughout America, and you are living proof why we need BLM in the first place.

And on a closing note, if you keep conflating BLM with a genocidal ideology, for the third time: you are an absolute moron.

Make Unions Great Again

Fight for $15 is a movement aiming to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 across the board. The movement gained massive traction during the Sanders campaign, and has touted impressive victories at the local and state levels.

Source: Common Dreams.

Fight for 15 is proposed as a solution to the fact that a large portion of entry-level minimum wage workers are living below the poverty line. And no, the majority of minimum wage workers are not teenagers. Supplemental income and¬†women-led households with children are the main share of these workers. Many people on the right argue that this arrangement is just because it motivates people to want to work harder, and get an education. However, that line of thinking couldn’t be any more short-sighted.

 

Firstly, even once workers’ wages are raised above $7.25, they may still be living below the poverty line. Someone working 40 hrs/week 52 weeks a year would be making $15, 080. According to the federal poverty line, a worker needs to be making $11, 770 to be living at the poverty threshold. This number is higher for a family of 2, at about $15, 930, for a family of 3 it’s $20, 090 and so on. Adjusting for inflation, these numbers would be a little higher today. But as mentioned previously, the minimum wage does not primarily affect teenagers, but breadwinners. Which means that raising the minimum wage would disproportionately benefit single parents, or 10.8 of the beneficiaries.

The argument still applies to those workers who are providing supplemental income. Stagnating wages have long been eating up the real income of working and middle class families, so raising wages would be an important step in addressing this.

Secondly, not everyone should be forced to go to college. Many people have different skill-sets to offer the economy that are different than those required by colleges and universities. Also, minimum wage workers, and similar earners are still necessary for the functioning of the economy – so we need people to fill those positions.

The argument of the right is also a bit of a paradox. On one hand, the right wants smaller gov’t, which more likely than not, requires gutting social safety nets. On the other, they are against workers organizing to raise their wages so that they can earn enough to be above the poverty line – thereby ensuring they aren’t in need of government assistance.

Source: Befrois.

In either case, Fight for $15 is representative of a broader socioeconomic problem. Wealth inequality is at a historic point. In fact, inequality levels are so great that the only other time it was so extreme was right before the Great Depression. Contrary to what trickle-down rightists will tell you, the rich have gotten richer, but everyone else has not. The productivity of the average worker has risen substantially within the past several decades, but pay has not proportionally risen along with that.

So, the left is correct in identifying the issue of stagnating wages, and fighting to fix the problem. And a bigger picture view might hold that the fight for higher wages should also include a renewed focus on the force of organized labor.

One valid criticism of Fight for $15 might be to point out why a high-school McDonald’s fry cook should be making a couple bucks less per hour than an experienced EMT. In contrast, studies point out there should be a spillover effect of rising wages from this that would benefit tens of millions, but there is a risk that without proper labor representation, these gains are too idealist.

A fundamental cause of stagnating wages has been the fall of unions. Is it a coincidence that the strongest growth in the middle class occurred in the mid 30s and into the 40s when 1 in 3 Americans were involved in unions? For the decades since then, wages have stagnated, and union membership and activity has fallen substantially. Of course, anti-labor policies by the government probably have something to do with this.

Historically, organized labor has been an absolutely crucial force in improving work conditions for all. Much of today’s worker protections and benefits are tied back to the efforts of unions.

The left is normally willing to point out the successes of European countries, particularly the Nordic countries, which have implemented a host of public programs that give the public greater social benefits, and have consistently ranked as the best in the world according to several metrics.

When it comes to the minimum wage, it isn’t mentioned very often that the Nordic countries or some countries in Europe do not actually have a federal minimum wage. But the right will, and they use it to support their argument of abolishing the minimum wage. The problem with the right’s argument however, is that they are simultaneously anti-union and anti-minimum wage. In other words, they espouse an unapologetically anti-worker agenda.

Source: Unbiased America.

Luckily, the facts are not on their side. Yes, it is true that Switzerland does not have a minimum wage, but the market isn’t exactly setting wages either. Switzerland’s organized labor negotiates fair wages across industries. The Swiss recently rejected a proposal that would have established a $25 federal minimum wage, but at the same time, most Swiss workers (90% of them) are already making more than the proposed $25. The need for a federal minimum wage is not necessary when labor negotiates directly with employers to set fair wages.

The same can be said for the Nordic countries. Take a look at McDonald’s workers in Norway.

An 18-20 year just starting out at McDonald’s in Norway will earn 126.98 Kroner/hr, which when converted to US currency is approximately $15.99. But this must be adjusted for what $15.99 buys you in Norway as compared to what the same amount would buy in the US on average, so that you can get a fair look at the comparison we are making. This adjustment is called purchasing power parity, or PPP.

The easiest way to adjust for PPP is to divide the consumer price index (CPI) plus rent of the US with the country you are trying to compare it to. In this case, we are comparing Norway and the US. The CPI plus rent in Norway is 107.93. In the US, it’s 57.93. Right off the bat, you can tell that the cost of living of living in Norway is nearly double that of the US. So, the calculation is as follows:

57.93/107.93 = 0.536488…

To be exact, the cost of living in Norway is approximately 46.35% (1-.536488) higher there than here.

So, you should multiply 0.536488… with $15.99, which gives you 8.57844… Which basically means that if an American 18-20-year-old just starting out at McDonald’s was earning at the Norwegian level, they’d be making $8.58/hr.

Sidenote: it’s actually very quick and easy to do these calculations on your own. I recommend you try it too. I’m a complete dumbass, and even I can do it. Remember:

1. convert currency amount to USD.

2. CPI+rent USA/CPI+rent X country = R [ratio].

3. and finish by multiplying R with converted USD amount.

After 4 months on the job, workers are promised a raise to 156.03 Kroner/hr, which when adjusted for PPP, equals about $10.54/hr. Even more, 18-20 year-olds are probably making more than $10.54/hr because they get paid extra for weekends and evenings.

If you notice the trend here, it is that even when adjusting for the cost of living in Norway, their youngest workers are making more than our youngest in the US, and even some who are working above minimum wage.

Fair wages? Check. Badassery? Double-check. Source: Cloudinary.

It’s no coincidence that in Norway, union membership is substantially higher than in the US. 52% of workers are union members, as compared to 10.7% over here. But among the Nordic countries, Norway is actually on the low end. In the other Nordic countries, union membership is 66.8% for Denmark, 67.3% for Sweden, 69% for Finland and an admirable 86.4% for Iceland.

It should be addressed that union membership in Switzerland is currently about 15.7%. The reason why workers there still do well, even with low union membership, is because they have had a historically active system of collective bargaining with their employers, and effective collective agreements guaranteed by the federal government. Switzerland also still has large union organizations, that have worker councils which engage in collective bargaining with industry leaders on an annual basis. Thus, Switzerland, and Norway, as well as Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland – are all prime examples of what the power of organized labor can accomplish and maintain.

It should go without saying, that unions negotiating fair wages has not resulted in mass unemployment nor other broad economic problems in these countries. They are all rich nations with strong middle classes, and low unemployment, that aren’t experiencing the stagnating wage crisis Americans are facing – as the social progress index would indicate.

In closing, yes, raising the minimum wage is the right general direction, but the best way to do it is to make the unions great again.

A Compilation of Hate 1

I decided to make this post in part as a response to the recent events in Charlottesville.

First of all, counter-protesters should be proud. They did it. They were louder, and they were braver than the neo-Nazis. This picture sticks out in my mind:

(Photo by Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It shows the alt-right surrounding a small group of protesters at the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville on Friday, August 11th. But in the video of the symbolic confrontation, you can clearly hear the counter-protesters shouting “black lives matter!” louder than anything the alt-right was shouting.

The left has shown that they are a strong force capable of effective resistance. However, what concerns me is that many leftists seem to wait until events like these before they unite aggressively in opposition to bigotry. There needs to be a concerted effort, and strategy in combating harmful ideas. And this should be something that leftists are actively fighting all the time, not just in Charlottesville.

One specific place where the fight is needed is on social media. Many bigoted ideas on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook etc. often go unchallenged, but they get large platforms, and spread like wildfire. Some leftist groups have started to catch on to this, but it isn’t enough.

What we saw from the alt-right is just the beginning. They will likely grow in numbers, and white supremacist hate crimes will grow along with that. For the past several months, I’ve been compiling screenshots of the worst things I’ve been seeing from the alt-right on social media. I will share the first batch of what I’ve gathered for all to see.

The point of this is to demonstrate that we are not facing an overnight threat, we are facing the spread of unchallenged speech, and while leftists argue over whether they’re supposed to have discussions with neo-Nazis or not, the neo-Nazis take advantage of their echo chambers to poison the internet with their filth. This allows them to grow, to coordinate, and plan for events like ‘Unite the Right’. Let’s stop waiting for another neo-Nazi rally, let’s stop waiting for more deaths and violence. Bring the *fight to them.

*I didn’t blur any names out or anything. They should know that what they post on the internet can follow you around forever. Feel free to track these people down, contact their employers or whatever else – use good judgment. I do not condone harassment.¬†

A Compilation of Hate, Batch 1:

YouTube user: gigi solder

 

. . .

Facebook name: Tom Holzel

. . .

Facebook name: Jordan Herrera

. . .

Facebook user: Beverly Hanks

. . .

YouTube user: PJ Walker

. . .

YouTube user: Donald Coder

Link to Google+: https://plus.google.com/102086338371612750267

. . .

YouTube user: Michael Moretti

. . .

YouTube user: Jim Crow

Link to Google+: https://plus.google.com/114241774684019696073

 

. . .

Facebook user: Rod Sklar

. . .

Twitter user: @calman62

. . .

You know what to do. Next batch coming soon.

Neofascists Gather in Charlottesville

Source: Steve Helber, AP.

The alt-right, and other white nationalist and supremacist groups have descended upon the historic city of Charlottesville, Virginia for their ‘Unite the Right’ rally.

The purpose of the ‘Unite the Right’ rally is to “bring together the Alt-Right with the Alt-Light and Confederate supporters around the country. We‚Äôre demonstrating in support of the Robert E Lee statue, the right of white people to organize for our interests, and to show that we will not be intimidated by harassment campaigns of the Left.”

The event was organized by Jason Kessler, a white nationalist who is relatively new to the scene, and that the Southern Poverty Law Center notes has slowly shifted his views into overt racist and anti-Semitic territory. Speakers scheduled for the event include prominent alt-right neo-Nazi figure Richard Spencer, and goat-sacrificing neo-Nazi Augustus Invictus.

The alt-right is a white nationalist and supremacist movement with anti-Semitic undertones, that seeks to bring attention to the ‘death of the white race’ by cultural Marxists.

On Friday night, August 11th, alt-right protesters held a last-minute torch rally from the local municipal park to the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville. “You will not replace us!” they are seen shouting in this video of Friday night’s event captured by the Guardian. The rally captured the appreciation of ex-KKK grand wizard David Duke.

Dr. Cornel West, civil rights and progressive activist, who was near the campus during the torch rally, said in an interview with the Guardian that “I don‚Äôt like this talk about ‚Äėalt-right‚Äô, that‚Äôs an unnecessary abstraction. These are neofascists in contemporary garb.”

They were met with resistance by a small group of counter-protesters, but were subsequently surrounded and attacked by the alt-right, which ended up resulting in a night of violence.

Plans for the Unite the Right rally the next day were confirmed Friday night, after a federal judge granted an injunction over the free-speech rights of Jason Kessler to hold the rally at Emancipation Park after the city government worked to move the location of the protest. ¬†The judge’s decision was supported by the ACLU. In an official statement, they said “we are grateful that the court recognized that the First Amendment applies equally to everyone regardless of their views.”¬†Mike Peinovich, another white supremacist speaker who was supposed to be featured at the rally, urged his followers to come to the rally armed.

Saturday’s protest was set to take place in Emancipation Park at 12 pm, officially in protest over the removal of the confederate General Robert E. Lee statue by the city council. But the involvement of prominent white supremacists made clear that it was going to be a potentially historic gathering of the alt-right.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency at 8:52 am Saturday due to morning violence, sending the alt-right in a frenzy over whether their rally could continue as planned. The VA state police later issued a statement from their official Twitter around 12 pm, that the protest was an “unlawful assembly“. Arrests were made when several protesters refused to obey the city government’s declaration.

Alt-right leader Richard Spencer posted a video on Twitter, soaked and red-eyed, saying that he was “maced by anti-fa and militarized police.” He also claimed in the video that he was protesting lawfully, when the protest had already been declared unlawful by about 12 pm.

Leaders and prominent voices in the movement quickly threatened vengeance.

In an act of terrorism, a white supremacist also ran over counter-protesters at the rally, injuring 19 and killing 1, continuing the local chaos since Friday night. 2 police officers also died from a helicopter accident while trying to reach the scene of violence and assist law enforcement.

The President issued the following statement on Saturday’s events:

We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. On many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. This has been going on for a long, long time…

David Duke said earlier in a media interview that “we are determined to take our country back. We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump.”

Legalize It

The majority of Americans now favor marijuana legalization, and it is currently legal for recreational use in 8 states. But if you talk to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, this trend is comparable to normalizing the use of heroine. Is he right? Well, the short answer is: not even close.

The truth is that marijuana is a remarkably safe drug, with the growing body of evidence suggesting that limited use has no noticeable effect on the brain in the long-run, and that it has a host of medical benefits.

The marijuana plant. Source: Vox.

A Surprisingly Safe Drug

Every year in the United States, an estimated 480,000 deaths result from tobacco-related causes, 88,000 from alcohol-related causes, 20,000¬†from the opioid epidemic and close to 7,000 from cocaine use. And yet, the amounts of deaths every year that are marijuana-related is (maybe?) a couple hundred. There are possibly 2 recorded deaths of people who died directly as a result of marijuana use. The couple hundred deaths per year, is a total guess of mine, so don’t crucify me for it. But, I base it off some of the results I’ve seen from the states who’ve legalized marijuana. The marijuana-related deaths could be coming from a rise in the number of drivers who are getting into accidents with marijuana in their system. However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration writes that:

…marijuana users are more likely to be involved in accidents, but that the increased risk may be due in part because marijuana users are more likely to be in groups at higher risk of crashes. In particular, marijuana users are more likely to be young men ‚Äď a group already at high risk.

And they’re not the only agency having a difficult time quantifying this. The Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) in Colorado issued a report stating that “from 2006 to 2014, marijuana-related traffic deaths increased by 154 percent, from 37 fatalities with drivers testing positive for marijuana in 2006 to 94 in 2014”. The caveat is that “terms such as ‘marijuana-related’ or ‘tested positive for marijuana’ do ‘not necessarily prove that marijuana was the cause of the incident…’marijuana-related’ entails ‘any time marijuana shows up in the toxicology report [of drivers]. It could be marijuana only or marijuana with other drugs and/or alcohol.’‚Ä̬†Which still raises the question if whether these fatalities resulted from individuals who were solely intoxicated on marijuana, or whether they were cross-faded with alcohol or other drugs. It also doesn’t account for whether they are intoxicated at all, or it is lingering THC that is in their system. It’s unknown at this point.

 

In either case, there is an incredibly large gap between the deaths that can be traced back to marijuana and those of legal drugs such as tobacco and alcohol.

Safer than selfies. Source: Onsizzle.

And apparently, there’s more deaths attributed to selfies.

Overdosing is another story. It turns out that overdosing on marijuana is very, very unlikely, since the amount needed to overdose is astronomically high. And apparently, no one has gotten to that level yet because¬†DrugAbuse.gov says that “there are no reports of teens or adults fatally overdosing (dying) on marijuana alone.”¬†

This isn’t really surprising, because according to¬†Druglibrary.org:

…enormous doses of Delta 9 THC, All THC and concentrated marijuana extract ingested by mouth were unable to produce death or organ pathology in large mammals but did produce fatalities in smaller rodents due to profound central nervous system depression…Thus, evidence from animal studies and human case reports appears to indicate that the ratio of lethal dose to effective dose is quite large. This ratio is much more favorable than that of many other common psychoactive agents including alcohol and barbiturates.

Specifically, the “quite large” median lethal dose (LD50) would have to be “around¬†1:20,000 or 1:40,000.” In layman terms, “this means that in order to induce¬†death a marijuana smoker would have to consume 20,000 to 40,000 times as¬†much marijuana as is contained in one marijuana cigarette.” The average marijuana cigarette supplied by the National Institute on Drug Abuse weighs approximately .9 grams. Therefore, “a smoker would
theoretically have to consume nearly 1,500 pounds of marijuana within¬†about fifteen minutes to induce a lethal response.”

Druglibrary.org makes the point that “in practical terms, marijuana cannot induce a lethal response as a result of drug-related toxicity.”

Wait a second. But smoking is bad for you, it causes cancer. So smoking marijuana MUST be terrible for you…right?

Weeeeell…that’s inconclusive. At least, if Cancer.gov is to be believed. Numerous studies have shown mixed results. One study suggests that tobacco smokers who also smoke marijuana have a much higher risk of lung cancer. Another study says that ever having used marijuana may result in an increased risk for prostate cancer. But other studies contradict these findings. One study suggests that low cannabis exposure doesn’t result in an increased risk for any type of cancer. While another systematic review of 19 studies also found that there were no “statistically significant¬†associations between¬†Cannabis¬†inhalation and lung cancer after adjusting for tobacco use.” In fact, when it comes to cancer, a study even concluded that “Cannabis¬†use was associated with a 45% reduction in bladder cancer incidence.”

In any case, users who want to avoid the chance of lung cancer or lung issues at all, have the choice of other intake methods, all of which are smokeless.

That’s exactly what you think it is. Source: Royal Queen Seeds.

Clearly, whatever deadly consequences there are of marijuana use, if any, it’s tough to find. Considering that the millions of users in the United States, including the half the U.S. population who’ve tried it, haven’t dropped dead, I think it’s safe to say comparing heroine and marijuana is slightly exaggerated. Or, you know, kind of bullshittey.

Does Pot Make You Dumb?

It is often assumed that heavy marijuana usage makes you stupid. That’s not exactly true though. One publication called the ‘Dunedin study‘ purported to show that heavy pot use for adolescents had a negative impact on intelligence (an 8-point decline in IQ to be exact), and these effects were irreversible. However, Carl Hart, associate professor of psychology from Columbia University was quick to point out that “only 38 people in the study…used it heavily enough to get diagnosed with dependence during several follow-up periods”, which fuels his skepticism about how generalizable the results are. On top of that, a study published after the Dunedin cohort concluded that “although it would be too strong to say that the results have been discredited, the methodology is flawed and the causal inference drawn from the results premature.”

Another report by researchers at the University College of London looks at the link between IQ and pot usage. According to an article on the¬†Washington Post¬†by Christopher Ingraham, the University College of London study has a sample of “2,612 children born in the Bristol area of the U.K. in 1991 and 1992.” In the article, Chris claims that:

Researchers examined children’s IQ scores at age 8 and again at age 15, and found “no relationship between cannabis use and lower IQ at age 15,” when confounding factors – alcohol use, cigarette use, maternal education, and others – were taken into account. Even heavy marijuana use wasn’t associated with IQ.

However, Chris contradicts himself by saying a few lines later that “the UK study does find evidence, however, of slightly impaired educational abilities among the very heaviest marijuana users.”

@ WaPo. Source: Funny Junk.

 

On top of the self-contradiction, an article published in The Telegraph outright contradicts the article in the Washington Post about the findings of the study. It writes that “researchers said that access to the drug at least once a week led to ‘decreased intellectual performance’ by the age of 15.” After multiple attempts, I couldn’t find the report anywhere, so I can’t confirm what the study actually says.

Either way, ¬†it seems safe to say that the evidence does suggest that marijuana is not good for brain development, and people under the age of 18 should avoid use, particularly heavy use, which seems to result in irreversible IQ decline. Even Leafly (a very pro-marijuana outlet) admits these findings.¬†But, adults don’t seem to suffer any IQ differences from its use, compared to their non-user counterparts. It would be dishonest to say that pot generally makes you dumber, because it doesn’t, but heavy use for adolescents may decrease their intellectual ability.

A [Non]-Addicting Gateway To Taco Bell At 2 a.m.

Addiction is when someone engages in an activity that becomes compulsive and begins to interfere with ordinary life. Even if they want to stop engaging in that activity, they can’t. It is characterized as a brain disorder. The addictive factor of marijuana, is very low compared to other drugs.

According to Psychology Today, ¬†“it is estimated that 32% of tobacco users will become addicted, 23% of heroin users, 17% of¬†cocaine¬†users, and 15% of¬†alcohol¬†users.” And if we take a look at Tobacco users, there are about 35 million Americans who would qualify as addicted. That number is much different for pot users. In 2015, only about 4 million users qualified as having a ‘marijuana use disorder’, which means that on average about 9% of users are likely to develop addictive behavior from pot use. For the vast majority of people, marijuana is not addictive. But even for those that are addicted, “long-term clinical outcomes may be less severe.”

The gateway drug theory is one of the most common arguments against marijuana legalization, and it is a highly misleading one. Available research suggests that marijuana could be something of a ‘stepping stone’ for people who go on to use harder drugs, but this doesn’t really support the theory that marijuana use in and of itself promotes the usage of harder drugs – it only suggests that people who are inclined to use harder drugs in the first place are likely to use marijuana first. In essence, there are a lot of social and environmental factors that are playing a role in the ‘stepping stone’ effect, which takes away firm ground from people who claim that using the drug actually innately¬†promotes one to use hard drugs. In fact, most marijuana users don’t go on to use harder drugs. Interestingly enough, studies have shown there might be a stronger case for considering nicotine to be a gateway drug (90% of cocaine users started off with nicotine).

Health Benefits?

Everyone has heard of medical marijuana, and it’s not just a stoner’s excuse to smoke – there really are medical benefits of marijuana use.

How about this for a surprise, a large study on the effects of marijuana use on the lungs, found that low to moderate users had better lung function than nonsmokers and tobacco smokers.

Ohhh I see now. Source: Roland Martin Sports.

CBD is an active chemical compound that comes from marijuana, or the cannabis plant. Studies have shown CBD to be an effective treatment against seizures. A study measuring the effects of a¬†CBD-based medical drug concluded “our findings suggest that cannabidiol [CBD] might reduce seizure frequency and might have an adequate safety profile in children and young adults with highly treatment-resistant epilepsy.” Seizures dropped by an average of 54% during this study. Another report studied the effects of the same drug on children with Dravet syndrome (a severe form of infant epilepsy) and found that “the group taking [the drug]¬†had 39% fewer seizures per month, while the placebo group saw a reduction of 13%. Differences between the two groups emerged within the first four weeks and continued throughout the study.” Yet another study conducted by a cohort in Israel found that most of the children in their sample reported significant reduction in their seizure frequency. All in all, they say “the results of this multicenter study on CBD treatment for intractable epilepsy in a population of children and adolescents are highly promising.”

A 20-year study published in 2007 on CBD and breast cancer cells indicated that CBD may slow-down the growth of the cancer cells. Follow-up studies from the team of researchers on the effects of CBD on other types of cancers yielded similar, promising results.

But cancer patients also find medical uses in pot. It has been shown to have anti-nausea effects, which counteract the brutal side-effects of chemotherapy. One such example is a study that says “cannabis-based medications may be useful for treating refractory chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.” In addition, it is effective at stimulating appetite in patients reeling from chemotherapy. As if that wasn’t enough, research and anecdotal evidence suggests it is good for severe pain relief. Finally, cancer patients seem to benefit from marijuana overall, with increased quality of sleep and relaxation also reported. It should be noted that these effects – anti-nausea, appetite stimulation, relaxation, anxiety relief – are generally useful for other health problems too, like PTSD.

Medical. Source: High Times.

There is also evidence marijuana has neuroprotective properties for the brain. Researchers write that “the use of THC can prevent long-term cognitive damage that results from brain injury.” Other researchers have also supported this in their findings. According to a team at Oxford, cannabis, paired along with another drug called minocycline, can activate brain-protecting properties. This is especially interesting, as it may be useful in helping to heal and protect the brain after concussions, or other brain injuries, such as trauma from a stroke.

A newer study even suggests a relationship between being skinny, lower incidence of diabetes and weed use.

A lot of people believe that marijuana is a good treatment for glaucoma, as it has been shown to reduce the pressure within the eye, which helps prevent the symptoms of the disease. However, it’s actually misleading to say it’s an effective medical treatment for glaucoma. The reason why is because the effects of marijuana only lower the pressure within the eye for a short period of about 4 hours or so. You’d have to be consuming weed around the clock to effectively ward off the progression of the disease, which is impractical for most people. In either case, those several hours of relief are certainly beneficial, but it’s not the best way to treat glaucoma at this point in time.

The Marijuana Revolution

The past several years have been great for marijuana activists. They’ve seen pot become legal in 8 states and the District of Columbia. Leftists with libertarian-left leanings have been in support of its legalization for quite some time, and they have allies on the right with libertarians that also support legalization.

The concerns over marijuana legalization are largely based off misconceptions and decades of anti-pot propaganda. Jeff Sessions is symbolic, in that he represents the era of this reefer madness nonsense. The truth is that marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol, tobacco, and opioid-based pharmaceuticals. It would do little harm to allow law-abiding adults to toke up after a long day of work. It would do even less harm to open up government-funding to allow further research into the many promising medical applications of the drug. The people would experience greater freedom, and the government would benefit from¬†increased revenue¬†as a result of the taxes on pot sales. It’s not without its flaws, but looking through the data, it is incredibly obvious that pot prohibition has been one of the worst government failures, if not the worst, in terms of drug law history. Countless lives have been ruined, potentially life-saving medical research has been stifled, and it is costing the government a fortune.

Legalize. It.

Climate Denialism 01 – Consensus, Past Climate Change & Scientific Integrity

CLIMATE DENIALISM PART 1 – CONSENSUS, PAST CLIMATE CHANGE & SCIENTIFIC INTEGRITY

One of the most clear dividing lines between Democrats and Republicans is the belief in global warming, or anthropogenic climate change. This refers to the human-role in the observed rise in average global temperatures, and related changes in the climate system, within the last century. One poll conducted by Pew Research found that 50 percent of conservatives do not believe the Earth is warming, much less that humans are the primary cause. Other polls (including a more recent one by Pew Research) show a larger percentage of conservative Republicans who do not believe in human-caused climate change. Meanwhile, the more recent Pew poll found that 71 percent of Democrats believe that humans are driving climate change.

Climate skeptics (what they call climate deniers nowadays) have many reasons as to why they don’t accept anthropogenic climate change. They might say that there’s no consensus, the climate has always changed, that the climate scientists are given money by the government to spread lies, ¬†etc.

The purpose of this article is to address some of the common charges against climate science.

In my experience, the most common charge made against climate change is that ‘there is no consensus’. The following article posted on Louder with Crowder¬†is a perfect example of this. The author, Courtney Kirchoff, delicately writes that “Whenever you hear ‚Äúa consensus of scientists agree‚ÄĚ on anything, raise your hand and call them out on their pungent bovine feces.” Later on in the article, she proceeds to share a ‘debunking’ of the 97 percent consensus and quarrels with the fact that climate deniers are called out for being climate deniers. In her words, this is a “dangerous ideology”.

But the only “pungent bovine feces” around here is Louder with Crowder’s fallacious article, not the climate consensus. The ‘no consensus’ argument needs to be addressed in two ways: 1. what is consensus and 2. whether there is or isn’t a scientific consensus on man-made climate change.

WHAT IS CONSENSUS?

Science is determined by evidence. Scientific theories (which are not the same as theories in philosophy!) that make their way into our educational curriculum are taught not because of a democratic vote among scientists, but because there is overwhelming evidence in favor of said theories. To put this into perspective, let’s look at an example. Most people are taught plate tectonics in 9th or 10th grade. The evidence for plate tectonics is overwhelming. There are places in the world where you can even see fault lines, such as this one in China:

Piqiang fault in China

But most people would be surprised to learn that it is the theory of plate tectonics. Yet, if you ask any geologist whether the theory of plate tectonics is valid, the answer will of course, be yes. They would say yes, because the evidence is overwhelming.

Consensus refers to the position that is generally held by scientists who are experts in a given field. For example, there is a consensus among seismologists (a geologist who specializes in studying earthquakes and related natural characteristics) that plate tectonics is a valid theory. Here’s what consensus doesn’t mean: unanimity, and unchangeable. In other words, scientific consensus does not mean that every single scientist out there holds the same view, and it does not mean that as new developments in scientific knowledge arise, that adjustments to the existing consensus can’t occur.

So, to sum this all up, scientific consensus in the modern age represents what the overwhelming evidence supports. Furthermore, if one has a problem with the overwhelming evidence/consensus, then the burden of the proof is on them to disprove it.

SCIENTIFIC CONSENSUS ON MAN-MADE CLIMATE CHANGE?

There is overwhelming evidence in support of the theory of anthropogenic climate change. Therefore, the consensus among climate scientists is that the climate is changing, and that human activity is the primary cause. I will paste the first sentence of the paper’s abstract here, which says “The consensus that humans are causing recent global warming is shared by 90%‚Äď100% of publishing climate scientists according to six independent studies by co-authors of this paper.”¬†A key point in the paper is that the higher level of expertise in climate science, the higher the level of agreement that there is that the evidence strongly supports the case for human-caused climate change.

Here is a list of scientific organizations that affirm the evidence for man-made climate change:

“The following scientific organizations endorse the consensus position that “most of the global warming in recent decades can be attributed to human activities”:

And:

The evidence for man-made climate change that these organizations affirm is found here, here, here, and here. There is of course, plenty more, but this should be a good start.

Already broke the climate skeptics

For skeptics, let me put it this way. Hypothetically, let’s say I concede there’s not a 97% consensus. Focusing on whether the numbers are exactly 97% or not is missing the point. Consensus may be 90-99%. In either case, it still reflects the overwhelming scientific opinion, which is backed up by mountains of peer-reviewed evidence; that humans are warming the planet at a very fast, unnatural rate due to our contribution of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and that our activity is harming the environment in various other ways. You can keep playing semantics over whether it’s really 91% or 96%, but what you can’t do is ignore the science.

In military operations, generals can never say with 100% certainty that any given scenario will occur as planned, you can say there’s always a small chance they’d be wrong. But if generals sat around mulling over whether they’re actually 91% or 96% certain, they’re going to cause everyone harm by inaction. When it comes to climate change, there is more than enough certainty to justify the need for action. It not only makes it necessary, but the only responsible thing to do. Otherwise, our inaction is going to cause us all harm.

HASN’T THE CLIMATE ALWAYS CHANGED?

Next, is the argument used by climate skeptics that the climate has always changed. Climate change, they say, is natural. And they’re absolutely right. Climate change is a natural process. According to Wikipedia: Climate change¬†is a change in the statistical distribution of¬†weather¬†patterns when that change lasts for an extended period of time (i.e., decades to millions of years). Climate change may refer to a change in average weather conditions, or in the time variation of weather around longer-term average conditions (i.e., more or fewer¬†extreme weather¬†events).”

Looking at the geologic timescale, there has been epochs throughout our geologic history where climatic conditions were a lot different than today.

The Earth’s climate has varied dramatically, going from the Huronian glaciation¬†and other ice ages, as well as periods of extended warmth, where¬†even the Arctic had tropical weather, such as during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM).¬†A closer look at the PETM reveals something interesting though. According to a¬†Nature article,¬†“We estimate CO2¬†concentrations of more than 2,000¬†p.p.m. for the late Palaeocene and earliest Eocene periods (from about 60 to 52 Myr ago)…” By contrast, today’s CO2¬†levels are 0.04 percent of the atmosphere, or¬†400 ppm.

One important factor in the PETM era that led to such an increase in global warming, is¬†positive feedback loops. High levels of carbon dioxide were able to warm the Earth so much, that¬†methane hydrate deposits¬†embedded in ocean floor sediment were released, which resulted in an even higher increase in global temperatures. Methane, is of course,¬†another powerful greenhouse gas. ¬†Unlike other periods with extremely high levels of¬†CO2, this one was thriving with life. The reason for this can be explained by the fact that an increase in the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere did¬†not¬†occur overnight. They occurred over millions of years, allowing for “life, ocean chemistry and atmospheric gasses” enough¬†time to adjust.

Let’s look at a period in Earth’s geologic history that appears to contradict the theory of global warming.

During the late Ordovician glaciation period, there was a period of very high CO2.¬†Some estimates¬†indicate levels of CO2¬† as high as 4,000 ppm. But there are several reasons why there wasn’t a runaway greenhouse effect. For one thing, ocean temperatures are estimated to have been ¬†conducive to support an expansion of marine biodiversity. This results in the storing of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere deep into the ocean¬†in a process called carbon sequestration. Another factor was the Taconic orogeny, which was a mountain building period that created major mountain chains in North America. This allowed for carbon dioxide to be sucked out of the atmosphere over time (since the Ordovician lasted millions of years) in a vast chemical weathering occurrence. This process is when CO2 ¬†and water combine into a compound called carbonic acid, which then goes through other reactions to eventually form limestone or other rock types. The other crucial factor is the output of the sun. Nuclear models of main sequence stars indicate that the sun would have been dimmer during this period. The decrease in solar output would’ve been enough to change the ¬†CO2¬†threshold for glaciation to 3,000 ppm. In other words, if the sun is dimmer, more¬†CO2¬†is needed to stop our planet from freezing over.

But historically, rapid and sudden changes in ¬†CO2¬†levels have resulted in ¬†destruction toward life on Earth. One extreme example is the Permian-Triassic extinction event, which occurred about 252 million years ago. It is the most severe mass extinction event in the Earth’s history. 80-96% of all marine life and 70% of all terrestrial vertebrate species was wiped out. The cause? An article at MIT¬†says that “the carbon deposits show that something caused a significant uptick in the amount of carbon containing gases – carbon dioxide or methane – produced at the time of the mass extinction“. The burst of methane, they add “would have increased carbon dioxide levels in the¬†oceans, resulting in ocean¬†acidification ‚ÄĒ similar to the acidification predicted from human-induced climate change.” This leading hypothesis points to a runaway greenhouse effect that led to the destruction of almost all life on Earth hundreds of millions of years ago. The difference between this event and the Ordovician period, is that this event came about from a sudden increase in methane or carbon dioxide. Needless to say, we shouldn’t worry about another Permian-Triassic extinction event, but the parallels with today’s global warming and this event, including others like it, is impossible to ignore.

All in all, yes, the climate has changed naturally – but the difference between the past and today’s climate change is that human activity is now causing sudden changes in the climate due to our heavy output of greenhouse gases.

ARE CLIMATE SCIENTISTS LYING?

No. This is another tactic used by climate deniers, I mean skeptics. When the empirical evidence is overwhelming and difficult to ignore, they’ll cast doubt on the validity of peer-reviewed science. They do this a number in a number of ways, either by questioning their financial motive, or accusing climate researches of some kind of global conspiracy to maintain the global warming hoax (usually both).

In reality however, none of these claims hold up to close scrutiny. Take for example the financial motive. The average salary for a climate scientist is around $72K a year, which is a healthy salary to be sure, but hardly rolling in dough. The work for these scientists is mainly with government agencies or colleges and universities. Like most scientists, they rely heavily on governments grants and money for their original research. And unsurprisingly, there is little work for them in the private sector. But there is no indication the granting process for government-funded research is biased, in fact it is set-up in such a way so as to preserve scientific integrity.

Ed Caruthers¬†–¬†Retired physicist and technology developer, age 70 on how the process works:

If funding comes from a federal agency, like the National Science Foundation, or a national lab, like the Naval Research Lab, then the scientists submit a research proposal.¬† This is a fairly detailed document that describes not only the question to be answered but the importance of the problem, the method that will be tried, the PI’s (Principle Investigator’s) relevant previous experience, and how the grant money will be spent (travel, equipment, student salaries, …).¬† The agency employs scientists with experience in the areas where they accept applications.¬† The proposal is sent to reviewers with established expertise in the field.¬† The agency scientists generally know the people working in their field and try not to send an application to someone who is clearly a friend or enemy of the applicant’s.”

He adds:

“I assume the OP is worried about bias by the reviewers.¬† After all, it’s generally reported that 99% of researchers in the field believe that global warming is real and that human generation of CO2 is a significant cause of global warming.¬† How would a denier get funding?¬† The answer is, you’d have to propose doing something new.¬† And what you propose has to have two possible outcomes – supporting previous theories or not, depending on actual results.

If the reviewers think the the proposal has a good and original idea, and that the PI is likely to be successful, then the agency does its own ranking of the importance of the various proposals…”

Nor is government funding for climate research extravagant in the first place. The following article writes:

For the US government, spending on climate research across 13 different agencies (from the Department of State to NASA) is tracked by the US Climate Change Science Program. The group has tracked the research budget since 1989, but not everything was brought under its umbrella until 1991. That year, according to CCSP figures, about $1.45 billion was spent on climate research (all figures are in 2007 dollars). Funding peaked back in 1995 at $2.4 billion, then bottomed out in 2006 at only $1.7 billion.

Funding has¬†gone up a bit¬†over the last couple of years, but it’s at best brought us back to somewhere around the 1995 pea (not adjusting for inflation). It’s clearly not a growth field, and it’s not even one that’s especially well funded to start with‚ÄĒthe NIH alone has a $31 billion budget.

The caveat?

So, despite sporadic accusations otherwise, climate researchers are scrambling for a piece of a smaller piece of the government-funded pie, and the resources of the private sector are far, far more likely to go to groups that oppose their conclusions.

Correct – which means that if there is any questioning of financial motive, it’s clear that it needs to be directed toward the ‘scientists’ in the private sector who engage in pay-for-play with the fossil fuel industry. Willie Soon, an expert in the field of astrophysics, went outside of his field to publish academic work that was riddled with scientific errors and espoused the claim that climate change is caused by the sun, not fossil fuels. Needless to say, it was found that Soon received over $1.5M in private funding from the Koch brothers and Exxon Mobil¬†(the quantity varies slightly depending on the source), prompting a conflict of interest investigation. What’s more? Prominent organizations that espouse global warming skepticism all have ties to the fossil fuel industry. These are vested interests who want to preserve the unquestionable use of fossil fuels due to a strong financial motive, and that bias is clear and undeniable. They are not giving money to organizations or individuals so that they can come out and say “yes fossil fuels are harming the planet and we need to do something about it”.

oops

Meanwhile, the interest of actual scientific organizations is in advancing scientific knowledge. Respected scientific journals are in the business of publishing evidence-backed, sound research. Virtually every library, scientific organization and researcher pays high subscription fees for respected journals in order to access the latest information in the scientific body of knowledge. It therefore makes no sense, that any individual would want to pay money for a journal subscription that fails at delivering those high quality standards. The purpose of science is to expand our knowledge, which consequently may overturn some of our assumptions. If an important advancement in science is proposed by a groundbreaking study, it will be published in a respected journal – as long as it can back up its claims with empirical evidence and pass peer-review. Scientists have their own personal beliefs and convictions like anyone else, but the rules and ethics of scientific research make them separate their personal convictions from objective research. If scientific organizations were only interested in maintaining some kind of status quo, or global conspiracy, then we would never see advancements of any kind. The theory of plate tectonics, the theory of evolution, relativity etc. would have never seen the light of day if scientists were only concerned with publishing research that fits the narrative of the day and age.

If a climate skeptic can prove that global warming isn’t happening, or that greenhouse gases aren’t the cause of it, with a methodologically sound project that supports its conclusion with empirical evidence, it will get published. The problem is climate skeptics have failed at doing so, and then they get mad at the ‘global conspiracy’ for ‘censorship’. Can you imagine using this logic for literally anything else?

Examples of junk climate skeptic papers or statements:

  1. The paper: “Proxy climatic and environmental changes of the past 1000 years“. The skeptics: Willie Soon, Sallie Baliunas.

-Willie and Sallie ties to fossil fuel industry.

-“[Sallie Baliunas] Wrote, with Willie Soon, a paper which collated data from a number of scientific papers which came to the conclusion that the climate hasn’t changed in the last 2000 years. The American Petrolem Institute partially funded the paper. The paper was later refuted by a panel of 13 scientists, the authors of the papers Baliunas and Soon cited. Several editors of “Climate Research”,¬†the journal which published the paper, later resigned in protest at a flawed peer review process which allowed the publication.”

2. The statements: “I can say that there certainly hasn’t been a warming of temperatures since [1998].”, “The climate always warms and cools”, “We are finding that the climate is not very sensitive to CO2 and those kind of gases” et. al. The skeptic: John Christy.

-Ties to fossil-fuel funded Heartland Institute

-Study refuting new proposal by John Christy and fellow skeptic Roy Spencer.

-John Christy claim about bad climate models debunked on the Guardian. John Christy temperature estimates debunked again on the Guardian.

-All of John Christy’s contrarian claims debunked.

3. The paper: “On the Observational Determination of Climate Sensitivity and Its Implications“. The skeptics: Richard Lindzen, Yong-Sai Choi.

-Richard Lindzen has Ties to pro-fossil fuel Koch-brothers Cato Institute.

-Lindzen & Choi’s paper refuted.

-Lindzen tries to defend fossil fuel industry shill climate skeptic Willie Soon, uses PRATT (points refuted a thousand times).

-All of Richard Lindzen’s contrarian claims debunked.

4. The statements: “I’m willing to wager two things …I’ll take even money that the 10 years ending on December 31, 2007, will show a statistically significant global cooling trend in temperatures measured by satellite. [this was in 1999]”, “”it’s a pretty good bet that we are going to go nearly a quarter of a century without warming.[this was in 2013]” et. al. The skeptic: Patrick J. Michaels

-Has admitted on CNN that 40% of his funding comes from the fossil fuel industry. Strong ties to Koch-brothers Cato Institute.¬†Really strong ties: “Michaels is listed as a recipient of at least $100,000 from¬†IREA¬†to combat global warming ‚Äúalarmists.‚ÄĚ The¬†IREA¬†memo outlines a coordinated strategy by¬†Koch Industries, the¬†Competitive Enterprise Institute, Michaels, and other key groups. ‚ÄúWe have met with Koch,¬†CEI¬†and Dr. Michaels, and they meet among themselves periodically to discuss their activities…‚ÄĚ

-Wrong. Again, again and again.

-Michael’s climate skeptic arguments debunked.

5. The statement: ‚ÄúI find no compelling reason to believe that the earth will necessarily experience any global warming as a consequence of the ongoing rise in the atmosphere’s carbon dioxide concentration.‚ÄĚ In a paper: ‚Äúit is abundantly clear we have nothing to fear from increasing concentrations of atmospheric¬†CO2¬†and global warming, i.e., the ‘twin evils’ of the extreme environmental movement. Indeed, these phenomena would appear to be our friends ‚Ķ and friends of the entire¬†biosphere.‚ÄĚ The skeptics: Sherwood Idso, Craig Idso and Keith Idso.

-The Idso family fully-loaded with fossil fuel interests. Craig Idso received payments from fossil-fuel funded Heartland Institute.

-No, more carbon dioxide will not be our friend.

-Yes, carbon dioxide does/will result in global warming.

It turns out that there is a trend among prominent climate skeptic scientists, most of them, if not all, are funded by the fossil fuel industry. I’m sure that doesn’t mean anything.

A healthy skepticism is not only good, it’s necessary for good science. People should realize, however, that bullshit is not conducive to good science.

END OF PART 1

The Reactionary Right and Transgenderism

Generally speaking, the “reactionary right” is the right wing faction that specializes in being ‘anti-SJW’ and non-PC. This faction has harbored the online ‘skeptic’ community, which focuses on free speech, racial and gender issues, and immigration. Their presence is predominant on YouTube.

Leading voices of the reactionary right include figures such as Dave Rubin, Sargon of Akkad, Ben Shapiro et. al. One of the central criticisms of ‘SJWs’ that the reactionary right has is regarding trangenderism.

Ben Shapiro. Source: Seraphic press.

But perhaps the most important figure of the reactionary right is Ben Shapiro. He is one of the most outspoken critics of what he calls the transgender “mental illness”. He has ‘debated’ countless liberal college SJWs, with¬†these videos often plastered on YouTube with ¬†clickbait titles.

Shapiro has claimed, with the utmost conviction, that not being part of an arbitrary binary gender system is a mental illness. In his view, the entire movement needs to be confronted as such. He frequently cites ‘the science’ (coming from a theist and global warming skeptic) as his main supporting evidence. Yet, a quick look at the science proves him wrong.

For starters, it is not true that transgenderism is a mental illness. The most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, does not consider transgender identity a mental illness. ¬†An older edition of the DSM did consider transgender identity a mental illness, and ¬†it was referred to as ‘gender identity disorder’. The recent shift results from an increase in scientific knowledge, a process that is completely natural to science. However, the new DSM does identify ‘gender dysphoria’. Gender dysphoria is a feeling of¬†anxiety¬†and restlessness¬†resulting from realizing your body does not reflect your true gender. This is not the same as a mental illness. According to the American Psychiatric Association: ” It is important to note that gender nonconformity is not in itself a mental disorder. The critical element of gender dysphoria is the presence of clinically significant distress associated with the condition.”

That’s not the only front where Shapiro is wrong. An article in the Scientific American suggested that research is growing in favor of a biological basis for transgender identity. This is consistent with a¬†recent study, which conducted a literature review on the subject of transgenderism and concluded that “current data suggests a biological etiology for transgender identity.”¬†

Transgender symbol. Source: Fotolip.

Gender dysphoria exists because of a societal structure that makes it taboo (or considers it a mental illness) for anyone to live outside rigid gender roles. As such, it is crucial to make the distinction between sex and gender, and to accept that gender roles are not as universal as traditionalists think them to be. Individuals like Ben Shapiro should reflect on the fact that their rhetoric is a contributing factor to the shockingly high transgender suicide rate.

For the sake of argument, let’s say I concede that there is no biological basis for transgender identity, and that cross-cultural studies supported the idea that gender roles are naturally rigid. I would still argue that there are inconsistencies in Shapiro’s value system. As previously mentioned, when he argues against transgendrism, he frequently cites ‘the science’. According to this tendency, you’d assume that his beliefs and values are as scientific as possible. Yet, he’s a devout theist and remains skeptical, or in denial of, anthropogenic climate change. A man of science, at the very least, would certainly question his faith, and be more accepting of the climate reality.

But this isn’t to engage in ad hominem, it’s actually an important point. What science can Ben show me, that supports his religious views? Specifically, science that provides sound, empirical evidence in support of virtually any of the main religions in the US and around the world? Another example. Take human rights. We all believe in human rights. But again, show me something scientifically tangible that provides sound, empirical evidence in support of human rights?

just so we remember science is cool…Source: Joeswam wordpress.

 

Human rights and religion are similar in a certain respect, in that you can’t necessarily find the science to support them. In other words, there’s actually nothing scientifically tangible that ‘proves’ either. Yet, our society values them. For the most part, we respect, and value religions. And human rights are recognized by almost every country on Earth.

So if Ben claims that ‘there is no science’ in support of transgenderism, why can’t society still value, and at the very least, provide a space for equal protection and opportunity for transgender folks under the law? Instead, you’ll see that, for example, efforts to teach new information regarding gender studies¬†are opposed¬†by the reactionary right at every opportunity. Or, more recently, the military ban on transgender personnel in the US military. The list truly goes on and on.

There’s also a prevalent idea among the reactionary right, that someone identifying as a gender other than male or female is akin to being held hostage by them. From a practical perspective, it makes no sense to believe that a group with limited social power, is affecting you personally by wanting to identify as something other than the binary gender paradigm. Transgender and gender nonconforming people shouldn’t have to wait for the blessing of the reactionary right before they can identify with different pronouns, or however they wish. Transgender people, have a high suicide rate, are more likely to be discriminated against in the workplace and throughout their social lives, more likely to experience homelessness¬†and are among the lowest status in the economic ladder. Yet, the reactionary right will claim victim hood in the whole thing simply because a transgender person asks to be called by a different pronoun, or use the bathroom that matches their true gender.

The reactionary right is just that, a reactionary movement devoid of critical thinking and analysis, that espouses borderline harassment and bigotry toward those they are ‘reacting’ to. In the war of ideas, I don’t expect the reactionary right to offer anything very insightful other than flashy, clickbait YouTube videos.

The Case For Single Payer

Healthcare is one of those issues where conservatives have trouble distinguishing between progressives and hardcore communists. This is ironic, considering that conservatives in other Western countries are baffled that US conservatives are against single payer (skip to 42:40). To be fair, a growing number of US conservatives are starting to make the case for single payer as well.

The reason why any conservative should consider single payer is because it is more efficient, cheaper, and maintains and/or exceeds US quality of care.

Before going any further, I should formally define single payer. According to Merriam-Webster, single payer is:

a system in which health-care providers are paid for their services by the government rather than by private insurers.

Now, let’s sort through the arguments in support of such an organization.

EFFICIENCY

By ‘efficiency’ I mean that under a single-payer model, there is less bureaucracy and complexity. This may seem counter-intuitive, after all, single payer is government bureaucracy, is it not? Not quite.

There are two general types of universal healthcare: government-run, and nationalized insurance. Government-run healthcare is the British model, where the government actually owns the hospitals, and medical staff are government employees. According to Wikipedia, under the British system (called the National Health Service, or NHS):

Nearly all hospital doctors and nurses in England are employed by the NHS and work in NHS-run hospitals, with teams of more junior hospital doctors (most of whom are in training) being led by consultants, each of whom is trained to provide expert advice and treatment within a specific speciality.

Nationalized health insurance is a bit different. Under the nationalized insurance version of single payer, which is the Canadian model, taxes are pooled into a national insurance fund, and citizens get their care delivered by private practice. The PNHP (Physicians for a National Health Program) provides the following summation of this type of healthcare system:

Doctors are in private practice and are paid on a fee-for-service basis from government funds. The government does not own or manage medical practices or hospitals.

One of the central issues with a free market healthcare arrangement is that there are thousands of health insurance plans, each with their own rules, enrollment, paperwork, premiums etc. It is inherently a fragmented system. The reason why single payer is less bureaucratic than market-based healthcare is because there is a centralized insurance plan, which drastically simplifies administrative costs. In other words, it creates a single standard for determining where the money needs to go.

The Institute for New Economic Thinking, has this to add about the free market inefficiencies in healthcare:

This inefficiency is compounded by a problem of asymmetric information built into the structure of the American health care system. The average consumer of health care has limited information on the quality of a given insurance plan, and shopping between plans‚ÄĒand accurately assessing the difference in quality between each‚ÄĒis difficult.

The result of these problems, say some economists, is a fundamental failure in the market for health care, which is distributed unevenly and uneconomically among consumers.

COST

One study¬†¬†conducted by BMC health services research concludes that “A simplified financing system in the U.S. could result in cost savings exceeding $350 billion annually, nearly 15% of health care spending.”

Such incredibly high costs of our healthcare arrangement are an outlier compared to other rich nations. According to the Commonwealth fund, the US:

Health care consumed 17.1 percent of the nation‚Äôs gross domestic product (GDP) in 2013, about 50 percent more than any other country. Despite being the only country in the study without universal health care coverage, government spending on health care in the U.S.‚ÄĒmainly for Medicare and Medicaid‚ÄĒwas high as well, at $4,197 per person in 2013. By comparison, the U.K., where all residents are covered by the National Health Service, spent $2,802 per person.

A publication by the Peter G. Peterson foundation provides a nice visual comparison with other countries on average healthcare spending per person:

The Commonwealth fund has another chart which provides a comparative visualization of healthcare spending as a percentage of GDP:

Our healthcare system is costing taxpayers billions in terms of wasteful, bureaucratic spending. But it is not necessary, it is a political choice. As cited in the study above, switching to a single payer system could save the US at least $350 billion annually, which is more than enough to cover the rest of the uninsured in the country.

Another source of savings in a single payer system result from the ability of the government to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. A study conducted by the National Institutes of Health found that if Medicare as it stands now were allowed to negotiate drug prices, there could be savings of $21.9 billion a year. In a nationwide single-payer arrangement, the savings would be much higher. the savings that are possible by expanding that ability in a medicare-for-all arrangement. It’s no surprise then, that compared to other countries with universal healthcare, we’re paying way more than we need to be.

Another consideration is to look at the fact that our current healthcare system is stifling¬†business competition¬†around the country. ¬†It’s true that Obamacare has merely exacerbated this problem, by causing healthcare price hikes. But the solution should be to address this problem head on by getting government to pick up the tab, and easing the burden on businesses. These¬†slides¬†provide a strong business case for switching to single payer, namely the reduction in direct costs and reduced employer risk. Or, you could take it from Richard Master, ¬†a Pennsylvania business owner. ¬†He says that:

‚ÄúWhat we say to them is that single payer costs less,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúIt costs less for the company in basic care, and it will take away from the company the requirement that they are responsible for providing medical care for employees.‚ÄĚ

Removing that burden from U.S. businesses, he said, would make them more competitive in the global marketplace.

Single payer is even finding its way into the minds of some of the most powerful people in the US.¬† “If the government wants to pay all the bills, and employers want to stop offering coverage, and we can be there in a public private partnership to do the work we do today with Medicare, and with Medicaid at every state level, we run the Medicaid programs for them…” says Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini, “then let’s have that conversation.” Aetna, for readers who don’t know, ¬†is a Fortune 100 managed health care company. It is one of the largest health insurers in the US.

How would single payer be financed? Since single payer is funded via taxation, for individuals there would be a slight increase in taxes. But this would take the place of rising insurance premiums,  co-pays, deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses. These savings elsewhere may result in net savings overall for most people, especially for the chronically ill.

QUALITY OF CARE

It makes sense to say that healthcare quality will determine health outcomes. This is why comparing the health outcomes  of different nations is a fair way to gauge quality of care. Every single country in this dataset  that has better health outcomes than the US has a form of single payer. These positive health outcomes point to a system of high quality and accessible healthcare.

Why is this not surprising?

Taking the profit motive out of healthcare means that health insurance companies aren’t making money off you being sick. The profit motive in healthcare creates a perverse incentive system where treatment medicine is preferred over preventative medicine because it’ll make more money. In single payer, the government seeks cost control methods. It is cheaper for government (in our case, local and state governments) to push for preventative medicine over treatment medicine, and this can be highly effective at cutting healthcare costs because if these efforts are successful, people will go to the doctor’s less. This is a main reason why healthcare quality is normally better under single payer systems. The following¬†article¬†discusses in depth, the processes and logic behind a single payer system and why it results in better health outcomes.

IS HEALTHCARE A RIGHT?

Senator Bernie Sanders (I) from Vermont, ran a campaign on a host of progressive issues, one of them being single payer for all Americans. He declared famously that “healthcare is a human right!” A defining moment of the Sanders campaign came when Fox News host Brett Baier pressed Senator Sanders at a townhall by asking him “Excuse me, where does that right come from, in your mind?” Sen. Sanders replied “Being a human being.”

The question revolves around a philosophical disposition, whether you believe that healthcare should be considered a right, or if it is a service available to those who can pay for it. Allow some thought into this.

There is also no particular reason to believe that voting is a natural right. In fact, voting is a civil right, not a natural one. Civil rights come from the way our society is structured, and where we derive our values from. Democracy forms the basis of voting, and our society is structured as a representative democracy. Without voting, we could not participate freely and fully in society according to the way its set up. That’s why voting is an important civil right. Similarly, healthcare is an issue where participation in society is ultimately limited if you don’t have access to it.

This is especially problematic if you consider that¬†a number of social factors outside¬†of people’s control can affect their health. Specifically, class differences come into play. Research has consistently shown that¬†poor people¬†are more likely to be sick, and one of the direct causes is a lack of access to high quality healthcare. But it’s not just the poor. Even the middle class is affected quite negatively by the exorbitant cost of medical care. The number one leading cause of bankruptcy¬†in the US is unpaid medical bills.¬†Why is this justified? Why should society be structured this way, when it is totally preventable?

Other countries have successfully implemented single payer programs, raised their life expectancy, and improved public health in general simply by changing a fundamental view of the world. Instead of treating healthcare as a commodity, other nations have figured out that they can include healthcare in their civil rights package and benefit their citizens. In short, I’d argue that healthcare is indeed a civil right, because we can, and should have it. But according to the UN Declaration of Human Rights, you might even go as far as to call it a human right.

ADDRESSING ARGUMENTS AGAINST SINGLE PAYER

One of the problems for the right wing on this issue is that their judgment is almost always clouded by layers of misinformation and ideology, which prevents them from objectively weighing the pros and cons of single payer. There are a laundry list of misconceptions about the system, like the argument that universal healthcare automatically means “socialized medicine”, or that Canadians are pouring over the border in droves to get their healthcare over here. These should all be addressed honestly.

  1. “Single payer is socialized medicine!”

-Depends which model you follow. The British model is certainly socialized medicine. The Canadian model, however, is nationalized insurance. ¬†There IS a difference, and it is pretty important to stress this, because if conservatives don’t understand the difference then progressives will lose them. Britain = government-run healthcare, Canada = national insurance fund with private delivery of care.

2. “Canadians are pouring across the border!”

-Based off what? Where is this information coming from? The best research article done on the matter single-handedly disproved¬†that notion. That’s not to say that some aren’t coming to the US, but typically these are for elective surgeries and not for people who have an immediate medical concern.

3. “Canadian doctors barely make enough money!”

-They make a bit less than US doctors, yes. However, it is a blatant lie that they do not “make enough” money. They are making 6 figures. Here¬†is one part of a study that discusses physician incomes in Canada (sadly, you can’t access the full research article because of a pay wall.) Also, there’s this:

4. “Wait times under single payer are notorious!”

-This is a mixed bag. Data shows that UK and Swiss citizens wait less than US citizens for specialist appointments. They both have single payer (different versions of it though). Meanwhile Canada is seen to have higher wait times. These wait times are avoidable under single payer, as an increase in funding can address shortfalls. Citizens decide if and when they want to increase their funding for the healthcare system. Even so, compare satisfaction with the healthcare system between British and Americans, and the difference is obvious.

5. “You’re not entitled to somebody else’s labor!”

-Then that means you’d be against the 6th amendment, EMTALA Act, public education, police services, firefighting services etc. Most conservatives don’t realize this.

6. “There’s rationing in single payer!”

-Yes, due to cost control, people living under single payer may have to ration, resulting in the noted wait time difference. As I addressed already, this is not something that can’t be fixed, there just needs to be an increase in funding, slashing of wasteful spending, or both. Now, in the case of the US, we also ration our care. And the difference is that it is inherent to the system. According to a Health Affairs study:

US adults were the most negative about affordability (Exhibit 2). They were significantly less likely than adults in all other countries to have confidence in their ability to afford care. They were also significantly more likely than adults in other countries to have gone without care because of cost, to have spent $1,000 or more out of pocket on medical care, and to have had serious problems paying medical bills during the previous year.

In other words, due to the cost barrier, American healthcare is rationed en masse. There’s no telling exactly how many people are affected by this exactly, but¬†one study¬†estimated up to 45,000 deaths in the US every year due to lack of healthcare. Note: this was before the ACA. Criticizing the rationing under single payer is fair game, but don’t turn a blind eye to trouble at home.

CLOSING REMARKS

One thing you can’t do is deny the strength of single payer systems. They do have their flaws, but they are serious competitors to the market model of healthcare, and in all cases, exceed the market model of healthcare in several crucial areas.

We already have a market based system, and many Americans are not satisfied with it, whether we look at pre-ACA or post-ACA. We know what it’s like. If it was so great, it would be immediately obvious, and no other industrialized nation would embrace a single payer system that is clearly inferior. Yet, that’s not the case. Maybe it’s time for America to join the rest of the rich countries, or maybe it’s not. Either way, one thing is for sure, it’s time for Americans, especially conservatives, to honestly hear out the case for Medicare-for-all.

What Does It Mean To Be Progressive?

Progressivism today is bashed on repeatedly by right-wing figures such as Dennis Prager, Dave Rubin,¬†Ben Shapiro¬†et. al.¬†¬†The criticisms are similar; that progressives oppose free speech, support communism, are violent, hold evil feminist views, don’t believe in freedom etc. The word ‘regressive’ pops up often, and it is used as a blanket statement to describe progressivism as a whole.

Straw-manning the left has never been so easy!

One of the most common arguments from rightists that I hear all the time is that ‘safe spaces’ and ‘trigger warnings’ are a prime example of left-wing thought. As if, somehow,¬†the 1.8 percent¬†of institutions of higher education that have official policies about the use of trigger warnings are objectively representative of left-wing views.

And then there is the common ‘liberal college students are banning free speech argument’. As another sweeping generalization, statements like these invite further division among the left and right. The high profile Berkeley cancellation of a Milo Yiannopolous event was used as a prime example of supposed student intolerance. Yet, the 150 masked agitators (who were part of a historically problematic anarchist group) that caused¬†100,000 dollars¬†in damages were not even students at the university. As one student from Berkeley put it:

“It’s a sad irony in the fact that the Free Speech Movement was founded here and tonight, someone’s free speech got shut down. It might have been hateful speech, but it’s still his right to speak”¬†

That, is what progressivism is about.

Of course, you could not have this discussion without mentioning the term ‘social justice warrior’. It originally used to mean an individual who argues about social justice issues on the internet, without necessarily thinking things through, and doing so to raise their own reputation. According to rightists, they’re a little something like this:

Nowadays, however, the definition of a SJW has expanded to include people who talk about social justice issues at protests, not just online, and rightists have also called liberals SJWs for raising legitimate concerns about systematic racism (and here, also here) among other contemporary issues. Although the term SJW may not have always been used as a blanket label on all left-wing thought, it sure seems to be the case now (as the link to the PragerU video demonstrates).

It is pertinent for rightists to have an accurate, basic understanding of what progressivism actually is. Although we may not agree on most things, the truth is that basic rights such as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press etc. are highly valued by both progressives and conservatives. I’ve written this short article to clear up for the right wing ¬†what ‘violent’ progressive ideology actually stands for.

Modern progressivism is a reformist, moderately left-wing ideology. It is innately critical of laissez-faire economic policies, and advocates for regulated markets. It stresses the harm in vast social inequalities between the rich and the poor, and generally advocates for a medium to large welfare state to provide a robust safety net for the working class against the rough edges of capitalism. Progressives are also critical of free trade, the big banks, and corporate injustices.

America’s most progressive president

Progressives support a progressive taxation system, and also support increasing taxes on the wealthy. Progressives support increased state intervention, in turn favoring a larger government, to enact domestic policies such as universal healthcare, tuition-free university, public banking, expanding social security, livable minimum wage, environmental protection, campaign finance reform etc.

On social issues, progressives strictly support the philosophy of equality of opportunity and equal protection, so we tend to champion the rights of minority and historically marginalized groups (african-americans, LGBTQ, etc.) while bashing systemic injustices. We are pro-choice, anti-death penalty, anti-interventionist, pro-immigration, pro-pot legalization and pro-secular government. We support free speech, the right to bear arms (although we support heavier restrictions), and basically all the other hallmarks of free societies.

Putting it all together, progressives support social democracy. Social democracy essentially revolves around economic and social justice within the framework of a capitalist economy. Jerry Mander, well-known author and activist, has said that social democracy is “a kind of ‚Äúhybrid‚ÄĚ economics, an active collaboration of capitalist and socialist visions.” Indeed, it is the dominant economic model in the Scandinavian countries, who even have a special name for it – the Nordic model. We can look to the performance of the Nordic model in Scandinavian countries to judge whether it’d be a good idea or not in the United States. What we observe is that the Scandinavian countries consistently top the¬†social progress index, ranking high in education, wealth equity, public and environmental health.

Flags of the Nordic countries

Progressives, therefore, are hardly the violent-SJW regressive anti-free speech mobsters that the right makes them out to be. Progressives share astonishment with rightists at the insanity regressive elements engage in, however, it’s important for rightists not to conflate that sort of behavior as having anything to do with the principles of progressivism and social democracy.

The last thing right wingers want to do, is place themselves in the same echo chambers that they often accuse the left of – if you want to criticize the left, you have every right to do so, but at least know what our politics are first.

Smacking Down PragerU 3

In this post, I’m going to be smacking down PragerU’s “Single-Payer Healthcare: America Already Has It” video that features Pete Hegseth, former Executive Director of Vets for Freedom.

0:02-0:10

“Would a government-run, Canadian style healthcare system work in the United States? A nation with 320 million people? Well, we already know the answer.”

  1. Acknowledging that Canada has single-payer is a good start. Although you could’ve also mentioned basically every other rich country.
  2. I find the placement of “320 million people” tactical. For a single-payer healthcare system, why would it matter that there’s more people in the United States than Canada? Obviously, a bigger population would mean more tax revenue, which means funding for healthcare (and therefore quality) is able to keep up with the population.
  3. Does a private healthcare system work in the United States? Well, we already know the answer.
  4. Btw, lol @ the title
  5. Single-payer =/= government-run healthcare. Single-payer is a healthcare system in which healthcare costs are covered for all residents regardless of income, occupation or health status. Government-run healthcare, like the Military Health System, or Veterans Affairs, does not meet these requirements. You can say that the VA or MHS is similar to single-payer, but there are some crucial differences. I will talk about it more later on in the post.

0:11-0:36

“Just ask America’s veterans. They’ve had government-run healthcare for decades. The U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, known as the VA, runs the largest hospital and healthcare system in America. The VA employs nearly 340,000 people. Twice the size of the Marine Corps. And it has a $180 billion annual budget, making it the 2nd largest department in the federal gov’t.”

  1. Yes, why don’t we ask¬†the vets?
  2.  We should really ask them.
  3. I double-checked the numbers here, they’re all good. +1 for PragerU (up from -1000000)

0:42-1:05

“The VA is a true single-payer healthcare system. It runs over 150 hospitals, and 1400 community based clinics across all 50 states. The doctors, nurses, administrators – everyone who works for the VA is a government employee. The system actively serves some 7 million patients. 1/3 of the 21 million veterans alive in the US.”

  1. I’m impressed! 1 minute in and a PragerU video hasn’t made sweeping generalizations, straw man arguments and ad-hominem.
  2. But, Pete Hegseth is wrong. The VA is inherently limited precisely because it’s NOT a true single-payer healthcare system. Allow me to explain. In a single-payer healthcare system, everyone qualifies for health services. Be it rich, poor, white, black – all citizens. Although the VA definitely has the gist of single-payer, it is anything but a national health program. Most of the wait time associated with the VA (which Pete will get into ¬†here in a little bit) is the government determining whether someone is even eligible for VA services. That is not single-payer. Furthermore, he cites the fact that there’s 21 million vets alive (I’ve also seen 22 million) but fails to mention that millions of vets do not qualify for the VA. That is not single-payer. Lastly, the VA has to deal with private health insurance providers such as Health Net, so it is intertwined with our fragmented healthcare system – which limits it from operating as a true single-payer system like Canada’s. That is not…oy vey, you get the drift.

1:08-1:29

“Sounds impressive, right? But for the past few decades, and especially for veterans in the war of Vietnam, as well as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan where I served, the VA has been an abysmal failure. Inefficient, bureaucratic and sometimes, deadly. Among veterans, horror stories about the VA abound.”

  1. RIP PragerU’s whole minute of honesty :'(
  2. “Abysmal failure” ->¬†wrong.
  3. “Inefficient” -> also¬†wrong.
  4. “Bureaucratic” ->¬†wrong¬†and¬†wrong.
  5. The “bureaucratic” argument is what always astonishes me the most. In any form of single-payer, administrative overhead (AKA bureaucracy) is drastically reduced because you eliminate the thousands of insurance plans, each with different enrollment, paperwork, rules, regulations, marketing etc. Example. Right now in the U.S., for every dollar spent on healthcare, about 31% of it is going to administrative bureaucracy. Contrast that to 1 or 2% in Canada. If we adopted Canadian levels of overhead, which we very well could do by switching to single-payer, we would save $375 billion¬†annually.¬†Those savings are more than enough to cover all Americans and upgrade healthcare for those who are under-insured. That makes single-payer systems inherently more efficient than bureaucratic, private healthcare.

1:30-1:49

“These stories were tragically brought to light in 2014, when whistleblowers in Phoenix reported that 1700 veterans there had waited an average of 115 days just to receive an initial appointment. According to the VA’s official policy: that should of been no more than 14 days.”

  1. The 2014 VA scandal was something that both sides agree was a failure and should have never happened. However, the problem was an organizational issue. Basically, lying became normalized behavior across various VA locations and as a result, some veterans suffered. But normalized deviance is an organizational issue that happens in public and private instances (see Washington Mutual). The difference is that in government-based failures, you’re going to hear about it because they’re publicly accountable and you know who to blame. In private failures, it’s harder to pinpoint private individuals who aren’t publicly accountable, so you don’t hear about it as much.
  2. Secondly, as Pete pointed out, recent wars in the Middle East and in Vietnam created a lot more vets. From 2007 to 2013, demand for VA services increased 200%, while funding during the same period only increased by 16%. In other words, proper funding did not exist to efficiently deal with the massive increase in demand.

1:59-2:07

“Phoenix turned out to be the norm, not the exception. The VA’s inspector general found systemic problems across the country.”

  1. It wasn’t the norm. It happened in several locations, that is true, but use the big picture here. Remember 500 hospitals and 1400 clinics? Only 5 clinics/hospitals were found to have had systemic problems.
  2. About 1,000 veterans are estimated to have died as a result of long wait times, which is truly despicable, but the VA adequately treats millions of veterans every year. Furthermore, 1,000 deaths pales in comparison to the¬†tens of thousands¬†of deaths that result in the U.S. every year due to a lack of health insurance. 250,000¬†deaths also occur every year as a result of medical error, with “fragmented health insurance networks” playing a role in those deaths. I’d say those are some pretty serious systemic problems.
  3. A private investigation of the VA conducted by the RAND corporation was released just last year, and government-run healthcare alarmists will be disappointed by the results.

2:47-2:56

“the Obama Administration’s own deputy chief of staff, Rob Nabors revealed that VA healthcare has a “corrosive culture”, with “significant, and systemic” failures.

  1. Rob Nabors made those statements as a testament to the fact that the VA at the time had systemic problems, not that the concept itself is bad, which is what Pete seems to be suggesting. Rob Nabor also urged Obama that the VA needed additional staff, and that the VA needed transparency and more accountability.

2:56-3:16

“What was politicians’ response to this debacle? Spend more money – a lot more money. The VA’s budget has almost doubled since 2009. They’ve hired 100,000 new people within the past decade. Wait times have actually gone up. Yet not one administrator was fired for the waitlist scandal.”

  1. Spending money is clearly what was needed in this case, along with drastically increased transparency and accountability.
  2. Specifically, Congress passed the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014 which included with it a new ‘Veterans Choice’ program. The Veterans Choice program allows veterans who don’t live within 40 miles of a VA facility to go to a non-VA facility on the dime of the VA. It also allows veterans to seek non-VA services if wait times at the VA are too long. The idea is to improve veteran’s choice (nooo really?) and reduce wait times at VA facilities. But as Pete claims, wait times have gone up. Keep this in mind, I’ll get to back to it in a minute.
  3. Administrators were fired. The Directors of the Pittsburgh , Dublin, Georgia, and central Alabama VA system, and Phoenix VA systems were all fired. Now, I completely agree that they should’ve been forced to pay back any administrative leave they were given by the VA and should’ve lost their jobs much sooner. Also, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs resigned due to the scandal.
  4. Oh, and the VA has set up a new system of feedback and transparency that has no counterpart in the private sector.
  5. Also, what should’ve happened right after the scandal:
  6. no really though.

3:24-3:49

“The real solution to the problem is not more government, more money and more bureaucracy, it’s more competition, accountability and transparency. Let the money follow the veteran. If veterans were given vouchers that they could use at any healthcare provider, private or government, they would control their own care. This, in turn, would force the VA to compete for their business, encouraging staff to treat patients as customers, not just as names on a waiting list.”

  1. Veterans Groups oppose Pete’s idea¬†because it would take billions away from the VA and cause a total collapse of the system.
  2. A form of Pete’s idea already exists, and it’s called the Veteran’s Choice (VC) program, which I previously mentioned. If Pete’s idea worked, then he wouldn’t be pointing out that wait times seem to be going up. The reason why wait times are going up, even with the VC program, is due to the nature of private healthcare. Now that the VA will pay for services for non-VA facilities, there is a new middleman in the equation: private health insurance providers. Specifically, Health Net. Health Net has to receive authorization from the VA before veterans have the greenlight to use private services. Then once it is approved, Health Net pays for the service with VA money. The problem¬†is that the transaction of money and information gets slowed down by the sludge of the bureaucratic nature of private health insurance providers. If we were to expand VC, then wait times would continually worsen.
  3. Also, wait times in our private system are much longer than in¬†Britain’s national health program. Like names on a list.
  4. Then again, why do we even need healthcare??

3:53-4:04

“Veterans will remain at the mercy of politicians and bureaucrats, who continue to insist that the government can deliver quality and timely healthcare, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.”

  1. The irony is almost beautiful, because conservatives continue to insist that the market can provide quality and timely healthcare, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

4:10-4:23

“14,000,000 people [veterans] don’t use the VA at all. And those that do use the VA still get 75% of the healthcare they use outside of the VA system, even though they have to pay more for it.”

  1. In 2014,¬†about 6.6 million¬†people used the VA. With the number of patients increasing every year, it’s probably closer to 7 million right now. There are 21 million veterans. 21-7 is 14, which is probably where Pete gets his ‘14,000,000’ figure. Pete’s claim that 14,000,000 veterans don’t use the VA at all is highly misleading, because [again] he fails to mention many of those veterans may simply NOT BE eligible for VA care. There are no estimates that state how many veterans don’t use the VA because they aren’t eligible. But it is probably a lot. For a while, the VA had an income cap, meaning that if you made more than X amount of money you would not be eligible. That’s just one example of a potential limitation. There is also confusion among veterans whether the VA is only for veterans with¬†service-related disabilities¬†or not. ¬†That could also prevent veterans from even checking with the VA to see if they’re eligible. The whole government-run healthcare alarmist rhetoric might have an effect too.
  2. I couldn’t find the source for the ‘75%’ claim, but here’s what I did find. 80% of people enrolled¬†in the VA are eligible for other public insurance coverage, like Medicare or Medicaid. These people tend to ‘diversify’, by getting their healthcare across multiple providers. It is hardly a damnation to the VA, as much as it is using your resources.
  3. The VA has an 8-step priority system, P1 vets receive free prioritized, high quality care before everyone else. Needless to say, P1 vets are those most likely to be 100% reliant on the VA, which makes perfect sense, why would you go anywhere else? However, this is a prime reason why the VA is not really single-payer. Vets with lower priority are incentivized to get outside care because they are more likely to have to wait longer. But the fact that people who are P1 are most satisfied with the VA speaks volumes about the validity of single-payer healthcare, because, in a true single-payer system, everyone would be like the P1 vet. Everyone would receive high quality, efficient care as a right.

4:35-4:46

“So, could government-run Canadian style healthcare work in the United States? Given America’s experience with the government-run single-payer VA, why would we even want to try?”

  1. More like: “given my twisting and turning of reality, I’ve probably convinced you to be scared enough of government-run healthcare to prevent you from even considering the idea!”
  2. We would be wise to try it, considering most Americans agree our healthcare system sucks, and there is overwhelming evidence that countries with single-payer have better healthcare than us. Damn communists.

In closing, this was a huge topic to talk about, and I’m glad that PragerU recently made a video on it to give everyone the opportunity to see how much right wing lies about single-payer holds us back from achieving a better healthcare system. Even though generally speaking, the entire argument against single-payer is total BS, I want to give Pete credit for not being a complete dickhead like Greg Gutfeld. He refrained from the usual logical fallacies, and instead focused on making a strong argument with plenty of examples to support his case – a plus in my book. In short, Pete is a worthy opponent in the ring and he earns respect. With that being said, this video gets a new rating: not-so-stinky¬†BS.¬†