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The Crucible

ntoddpax's picture

I was originally going to do one of my patented And Fuck...rants: And Fuck Progressives. Just thinking about the post, I essentially got enough catharsis so I'm going to dial it down a notch, though admittedly I still harbor some of my original annoyance.

It has been interesting to post at different places outside my usual haunts with their predictable audiences. There's been such an array of reactions to what I've been writing about reform and action lately, often surprising to me because many comments are about little asides, my choice of titles and other things instead of my actual thesis or conclusions.

Some folks tell me I set the movement back by engaging in direct action. Others think the current HCR bill is a nice step forward so I should accept it. Still others say I clearly hate poor people and am pissing in their faces.

It's progressives like me who have killed real reform. And I'm not a real progressive for wanting to kill the bill. Oh, and while I'm totally right about killing the bill, I'm a faux progressive (not to mention ignorant) for thinking a PO might be a suitable springboard for future reform. Have there been updates to the Qualified Progressive Manual that I've been unable to download over dialup?

Okay, I don't want to turn this into a whine about how mean people in the blogosphere hurted my feelings. I've just found it fascinating, albeit sometimes frustrating, and more confirmation that The Left is anything but monolithic. The only thing any of this has proven is we none of us have a monopoly on the Truth, as Gandhi observed.

The key to me is moving the new normal--not just the "conversation" as Reid and Dems are saying whilst keeping their powder dry--forward and building upon its foundation. Even after HCR, there are other crucial peace and social issues to deal with, and achieving justice in one area helps bolster our chances of creating more in another.

Lots of us wanted full marriage equality in Vermont over a decade ago, but celebrated Civil Unions in their imperfect, separate-but-equal way, and used that tactical achievement as a springboard as we kept fighting for our strategic aim. It was hard enough to get CUs with 2/3 of Vermonters against that compromise, but even people who resisted any social change got used to the idea over the intervening years. While it still wasn't easy, we were able to get full equality passed last year despite the Governor's veto, so the arc of history bent further toward justice in our little slice of America.

Medicaid, Medicare and Tricare are clearly considered normal, having been around so long, to the point that you have to remind people they are government programs. In our current push for single-payer, there may still be points where we can shore up gains in the immediate term as we continue to press the issue as forcefully as possible.

Justice delayed is indeed justice denied, and in this case delay in fact denies health and even life itself. Sadly, the struggle is necessarily long and after only a year of sausage making with no significant progressive pressure on our elected employees, we should prepare ourselves for the inevitable "loss" in this round. Yet if we are persistent and aggressive in exercising our great collective power, we will stack up enough glorious defeats to achieve success in the end.

Each of us, with our differing ideas on what constitutes meaningful reform and a legitimate fallback position, is an important part of the process--a pestle in the mortar of change--so we should respect each other as we grind away, trying to figure out the answers. The "extremists" are necessary to create space for the "moderates", both in terms of ends and means. The "moderates" are also necessary as, well...a moderating force since there are positions staked out on the far sides of the equation. All this tension is a good thing.

What's important is that we all are active and passionate, rather than passive and impotent. That's where social progress comes from.


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Submitted by lambert on

Interesting article; I googled the phrase because it sounded like a concept that should exist! Somebody with real CAS chops -- that would be you, lets -- should comment on this in the context of pricking the sack of pus that is inverted totalitarianism.

ntoddpax's picture
Submitted by ntoddpax on

Looks like something Dave Pollard would write. I'll take a gander--love the Knowledge Ecology stuff, too. Thanks for the headsup!

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

I hadn't seen this yet, so thanks. I'll try to get to it before too long. I've had some RL the last few days, and still have some more coming, and I also want to do a rant on the "poor-mouthing" and obesiance to deficit hawkism in the SOTU. That's really got me pissed off.

I like the idea of "pricking the sack of pus that is inverted totalitarianism." And , you're right, I do have some complexity chops. Some the things I've written about CAS in the past are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

I sure did. It was priceless.

Submitted by hipparchia on


dude! you've been a blogger long enough to know what kind of response sorry, i'm not going to give you any links is most likely to generate. shhesh.

on ghettoization, even if all 200 million of us who are uninsured [50ish million] or have private insurance [150ish million] were allowed into a wonderful and generous and free public option tomorrow, it would still leave the poor in their ghetto/silo/wev [medicaid], the elderly in their ghetto/silo/wev [medicare], native americans in their ghetto/silo/wev [ihs], veterans in the ghetto/silo/wev [vha], military in their ghetto/silo/wev [tricare] where each small, isolated, relatively voiceless group can be more easily defunded than if all of us were in one big group.

so, no. absolutely no support from me on any public option [and no civility either], but yes, i'm with you 100% on all the rest of it.

ntoddpax's picture
Submitted by ntoddpax on

you've been a blogger long enough to know what kind of response sorry, i'm not going to give you any links is most likely to generate. shhesh.

I'm the king of demanding citations. I'm also on dialup and not inclined to dig up a link on my blog when I don't really give a flying fuck about proving a point, particularly when ostensible allies could actually give me the benefit of the doubt on what seems to be, not unlike now, ancillary to my thesis.

I don't make shit up, nor do I take kindly to assumptions that I haven't in fact read anything. And I especially hate people telling me what my intentions and meanings are. I hadn't said I wouldn't provide a link, simply made a parenthetical statement that I didn't have one at the moment, but people piled on with ad hominem and strawmen as though I were some kind of troll and then I stopped caring about how fresh the apples were.

As for silos I've already acknowledged the dangers of divide and conquer in myriad posts. No, not just acknowledged: sounded the alarm about it.

Yet if you get all people invested in some healthcare expansion, I think it's a net gain regardless of silos. The problem with having anybody uninsured is that those marginalized groups left behind have fewer advocates for further expansion--the I've Got Mine So Fuck You theorem (part of the problem with #MASEN).

So I want to kill this bill, and am less passionate about killing a marginally better one that isn't single-payer if it gets government further into the coverage business. Then Congress has actually produced something that most Americans think they want, the GOP has a harder time making gains in November let alone repealing anything that impacts disadvantaged constituencies, and we can continue to consolidate whatever gains we have and build upon them.

Fuck it, even if the current bill passes, we win. If we actually, you know, mobilize.

My biggest concern is everybody seems to be focusing on a single instantiation of what shit comes out of the sausage grinder. People act as though this bill is HCR terminus, and if it passes/fails (depending on your POV) real HCR is doomed. We didn't give up after Plessy or CRA1957. Would've been awesome to have Civil Rights in 1896, but I hear tell that arc is pretty goddamned long.

So again, the whole discussion is moot if we don't present a realistic threat to kill the Senate bill and get to the table in the first place. Congrats on doing yeoman's work demonstrating PO's frailty and SP's awesomeness. Seriously. Now how about we find a way to combine your extreme wonkishness and my nutty tactics to achieve our common goal of single-payer instead of trying to wave our proverbial dicks around?

Submitted by lambert on

Public option advocates can expect pushback at a blog where single payer work has been strong -- as can those who equate the two, in kind, as policy alternatives (which is what the "fallback" idea amounts to). I don't see why anybody would find that in any way remarkable.

Linky goodness is part of the process of testing arguments here; see moderation policy 4. Again, I don't see why anybody would find that in any way remarkable.

And although I find the argument from authority unpersuasive at the best of times, I find it especially unpersuasive when the authority is the person making the argument; if the homework has been done, one or two links to it should be easy to produce, even over dialup. Surely the best and simplest way -- and also, given bandwidth limitations, the quickest -- to end the "pile on" would have been to supply the links? Then and now?

It seems a strange concept of "should be allies" where policies can't be fought out and arguments can't be subjected to tests for evidence and reasoning. As I keep saying, "Your argument is not you."

And as far as action goes, surely it's a fair question to ask what the action is in aid of? Which takes us right back to policy. If you want a fine example of what not asking questions leads to, see the ludicrous example of HCAN't organizing a phone campaign for "real change" without defining it. What a pig in a poke!

That said, I'm very happy to learn about NV, as I think you are to teach. But if you send a message on policy objectives as part of the NV curriculum, then you're going to get pushback on the policy, and in the way this blog does that sort of thing. Again, I don't see that as in any way remarkable.

UPDATE None of the above is about dick-waving. If it were... I don't know about you, but let me assure you that my dick is much too heavy and large to wave. Kidding!

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

speak as though it's now or never (I don't include you in this group, just to be clear). I do believe if they pass something - anything, regardless of whether there's an actual public option - that a lot of those who have been supporters of the PO and of the current version of HCR will declare victory and go home (particularly the Democratic leadership, HCAN, and access bloggers).

I don't think those who hate the bill, particularly single payer advocates, are going anywhere whether the bill passes or not.

The reason for that is that one group is motivated by politics and the other by policy.

ntoddpax's picture
Submitted by ntoddpax on

I don't include you in this group, just to be clear

'preciate it.

And I agree, the "now or never" meme is complete bullshit. Yes, we need reform the day before yesterday, but to tell us there is only one shot at this and should the bill die HCR dies is disingenuous at best. The current bill is not the sum total of HCR opportunity, the fact that it shouldn't even be labeled HCR aside.

Really, they think they are threatening to destroy a thing (to pick up my previous post's theme) so they have control. Shows they don't understand HCR or the true nature of control, which is how the shit sandwich got made in the first place.

Submitted by lambert on

To which, like all blackmail, the only answer is "Go ahead and do it."

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

and achieving justice in one area helps bolster our chances of creating more in another.

well said. this is why Move Your Money is also important to the single payer movement.

non-violent coercion is a great phrase. It has been thirty years since I read Gandhi, so I had forgotten it.

ntoddpax's picture
Submitted by ntoddpax on

this is why Move Your Money is also important to the single payer movement.

Helps us fuck up the corporatist status quo. If only a similar withdrawal of consent wrt ins cos were so easy and risk-free.

ntoddpax's picture
Submitted by ntoddpax on

Public option advocates can expect pushback at a blog where single payer work has been strong

Given that I'm not an advocate of PO, I wasn't expecting any pushback. For the last fucking time, I advocate SP and see the other as an out the Prog Caucus would likely take if threats to kill the bill are real. I also happen to think it can be meaningful--more meaningful than the current shit sandwich--depending on how powerful their initial negotiating position is to allow for a decent fallback and stepping stone. But by all means, let's parse a single goddamned word in a single goddamned sentence in a post about action in support of SP.

Your arguments haven't convinced me that a PO is a defeat, and I'm not concerned about proving any position of mine because it's pretty much vaporware (I ain't got a lotta links because I haven't blogged about a PO because...I don't advocate for one, dig?). I made no appeal to authority--I asked for benefit of the doubt on something I didn't care to discuss, that being a general concept which was never my point of issue.

Surely the best and simplest way -- and also, given bandwidth limitations, the quickest -- to end the "pile on" would have been to supply the links? Then and now?

No, the best way would be for people to stop being condescending, continuing to insist I advocate something I do not, and calling me blind or a fake progressive. That's the piling on I refer to, not use of links and facts and arguments--all that is of course fair game, duh. Trying to give me homework when I'm not even auditing the class? Ain't gonna make me all that receptive to an argument I have no interest in having in the first place.

And as far as action goes, surely it's a fair question to ask what the action is in aid of?

I believe I've said eleventy million times: Medicare for All. Now can we please talk about a plan of action instead of meta trolling?

Submitted by lambert on

I included an explanation of moderation policies here; they include responding to requests for evidence when asked (or backing down from the point raised). Please read them and see point 4.

I won't continue to demand what it seems obvious that you could easily produce if you had it. However, as a tactical matter, purely as a matter of ethos, you would do well in future to avoid making claims, especially on health care policy, that you can't back up when challenged, because here you will be. And as for the parsing of words: Surely you wish what you write to be read carefully? Here, it will be.

If you wish to consider this "meta-trolling," do feel free. I mean, I'm a moderator. Taking care of the meta is part of my job description.

NOTE The straw man point is simply false. Careful readers will see that I took your position into account. Single payer and public option are different "in kind". One is meaningful; the other is a marketing slogan. Therefore, the second cannot be a fallback for the first. The best response to that, I feel, is the case of VT; there are various open issues on that, perhaps best handled in a separate thread rather than here, since state policies are a huge issue in the game.

ntoddpax's picture
Submitted by ntoddpax on

I stated an opinion when somebody took issue with a word that was not about advocacy and shit spiraled way out of proportion. If I said I think ranch is a reasonable substitute should the diner be out of blue cheese, it doesn't mean I want ranch or that I think it's the same thing, and should somebody demand proof I will not comply, whatever ethos you hold. If I claimed the moon was made of blue cheese, then I would've actually provided the link without being asked.

So the strawman charge is NOT false. You and others have kept saying I advocate PO. I do not. Your arguments knock down a position I do not maintain, beyond thinking having some form of conceptual PO--per Valhalla's constructive comment--can still be a political and optic gain for us and thus, meaningful, even if it is just some clever marketing. I'm looking at a realistic outcome despite our efforts for real reform, and I want to find the good in it--hell, I've itemized good things in the bill that I want to kill in the same manner.

Trying to parse one word and then tell me I should've said things differently is really pretty fucking silly, particularly when I explicitly stated my true position over and over. It's a goddamned blog post, for Gandhi's sake.

So how about instead of haughtily quoting me moderation rules and criticizing my lack of an editor after I've taken issue with your characterization of my opinion, we drop this ridiculous line of "discussion"? TIA.

Submitted by lambert on

Not saying you fall into this category, but single payer advocates have heard the "I support single payer but...." talking point since, it feels like, the beginning of time. Check the link for the history.

So the position of "I support single payer with X as a fallback" does tend to raise red flags, since, considered purely as a talking point, we've heard it before in situations where it ended up leaving a really bad taste in our mouths.

ntoddpax's picture
Submitted by ntoddpax on

So the position of "I support single payer with X as a fallback" does tend to raise red flags

That's not my position. I support single payer. Period.

Yet assuming that the Prog Caucus will not have enough collective support from us and will thus lack the spine to fight it out, I see some fashion of PO as a political fallback that we can use to rally further reform and it will provide to some degree a meaningful improvement over a bill that lacks it. Since when does considering possible outcomes mean 'advocacy'? And do I look like a fucking politician with talking points?

So put the red flags down and focus on what I actually have said: issue a demand for SP, threaten to kill the bill, then...what? Please let's move on--I've never been involved in such a meaningless (heh) argument about something I don't believe, even in my worst relationships.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

"Oops, it was inopportune for me to use the phrase 'meaningful reform, at the very least PO' at a blog that has extensively documented the destructiveness of the widespread advocacy for 'public option' by lefty blogs and advocacy groups"?

ntoddpax's picture
Submitted by ntoddpax on

"Oops, I guess we're on a hair trigger here and might have overreacted and been condescending once NTodd clarified his position?"

I stand by the word. Injecting HHS and Treasury into the game, vis my observation about Mcare, Mcaid, TriC not seen as govt programs, does have meaning for reform efforts and should the Progs at least vote for that, we're in a better position than with the Senate deform bill. Even the current bill with Bernie's several billion dollars for FQHC can be meaningful for improving delivery of care. None of those things make the bills what I want or come close to the reform that I advocate, but I will celebrate them and get back to work on SP in the almost sure event that HR676 doesn't pass.

I understand that I'm coming into a community that's had previous discussions and there are red flags as lambert said. But hey, when a guy who clearly isn't a corporate shill or lying politician or concern troll says he's an SP advocate, couldn't you, like, take him at his word? I don't speak in code, which I have to think some people around here would already know.

So all that said, I do apologize for stepping on landmines and being defensive. I did not like the direction of the previous thread and shouldn't have fed into it.

I would like perhaps some acknowledgement on your end that maybe you could've accepted my olive branch and moved on after I'd said eleventy million times that I advocate SP, but even lacking that I'm done with the discussion (see how I want one thing but accept maybe an imperfect solution is likely and not the end of the world?).

*chews thoughtfully on apple*

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

One of the many things I will probably never be able to forgive progressives for is how they combined with the Obama marketing machine to ruin the English language. "Pragmatism" -- a perfectly good word, which should be used to mean do or ask for as much as you can now but with a realistic eye toward future effects -- now means precompromise and an excuse/cover for doing nothing much at all.

"Incrementalism" is another abused word. Actually, it's not just the abuse of definitions of words, but the application of logic to words. Incrementalism is a perfectly good strategy, as long as the increments are lined up toward the ultimate goal. But we have incrementalist arguments trotted out (and often, rammed down our throats) as a basis by which we should support legislation or actions which actually goes in a totally different direction than toward the goal.

At this point, using the public option as a fallback isn't any more meaningful than saying "we're for single payer with blue elephants as the fallback." It's the single payer part that's clear, but the fallback that's all muddy (besides excluding the "public option"). I think that's partly because as soon as we start talking about the minimally acceptable position, people start disagreeing about minimums and people who might support "real reform" start to fall away. Plus it's all complicated by the fact that using traditional negotiation strategies, conversations about fallbacks are done in secret, which bloggers can't really do.

What was I on about here? Oh yeah, I'm actually interested in learning about fallback positions, esp. ones which actually will facilitate Medicare for All in the future. Could that be the Vermont plan? Or maybe the only reasonable fallbacks are Medicare for More Now and All Later? What's the min. acceptable elements a hc bill would have to have for me/us/whomever to support it, or at least not actively oppose it? (for me, I won't support any bill that expands abortion restrictions or fails on women's health, as the current House and Senate ones do).

Oh, and I want my damn language back.

ntoddpax's picture
Submitted by ntoddpax on

I'd be interested in somebody posting something about Green Mountain Care. My personal experience with it has been absolutely positive so I'm curious what flatlanders' objections are to that interim step in our State. I'm even more curious as to what people might do to help us pass single-payer this Leg session.

Submitted by hipparchia on

I'd be interested in somebody posting something about Green Mountain Care. [...] I'm curious what flatlanders' objections are

well, i would, but i'd hate to be the one who sets off your allergy to extreme wonkishness, dick-waving, and link-following, so ppphhhbbttt!

oh wotthehell, check back in a couple of hours, or later tonight [and no, i have don't have any sympathy for your dialup connection] and i'll have a post up about green mountain care specifically and gmc-like health insurance expansion generally.

ntoddpax's picture
Submitted by ntoddpax on

I am not allergic, in all fairness to myself. I just don't see the need to be so on a point I have no investment in. Notice what I *was* invested in: getting people to hear me when I said I advocate SP.

It's like asking me to prove God exists after saying I see how the concept of God can be meaningful when I in fact don't believe in God. I enjoyed playing Devil's Advocate in my philosophy classes, but nowadays I could give a rat's ass about St Anselm or any other "proof" for God. Yet I will defend theists' right to believe and worship, and I will spend inordinate amounts of time on a blog clarifying that I don't share those beliefs. And I will bristle when people tell me what my beliefs are no matter what I say.

Anyway, thanks for committing to some VT coverage. I'm pleased with the model in its current implementation as it meets my family's needs, and am looking forward to beating CA to the single-payer punch this session. Thing I need to figure out is which version should be pushed: the original H100/S88 introduced last year, or Zuck and the Prog's H491. Just haven't had time to get down to Monty for hearings or to badger the Reps.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

And obnoxious behavior. Good luck with that.

Note: though you are apologizing somewhat for your defensiveness, you never cease to try to pin the blame (i.e., renewed defensiveness) on me for your screw-up.

ntoddpax's picture
Submitted by ntoddpax on

Thanks for being a great dance partner and really trying to see another perspective.

ntoddpax's picture
Submitted by ntoddpax on

Incrementalism is a perfectly good strategy, as long as the increments are lined up toward the ultimate goal.

Yes whatever you call it, moving forward is not a bad thing even if you don't get all you want so long as it supports your principles and desired result. CRA57 (Strom's favorite) paved the way for CRA64, CUs paved the way for marriage equality. King's admonitions in I Have A Dream notwithstanding, most important journeys take more than a few steps and a lot of time.

I appreciate the concerns about "SP with a PO fallback", the "marketing slogan", etc that I stumbled upon. But as I've said, I'll even focus on the few good things in the Senate bill as it stands should the Dems somehow organize to pass it, and certainly muse about it online. I'm also not going to target Bernie's seat (or Feingold's or Franken's), symbolically or otherwise, as certain flaming canine bodies of water tried--that's counterproductive for a number of reasons, not least of which such a threat has no bite.

On the House side, I'm also as yet unconvinced that having HHS and Treasury involved in establishing the so-called "public insurance option" originally in HR39whatever...(62?) is inherently awful, even if in the context of the exchange bullshit. Since that's also the thing our beloved Prog Caucus is enamored with, I accept that it's likely they'll settle for it if there are any negotiations (no matter what we end up mobilizing in the short term). I'm not going to vote against Welch in November if he did end up voting for the bill if certain things are restored to the status quo ante--I'd rather find ways to help get another Prog in office somewhere else.

I very much like your thoughtful comments about language, though I'm less concerned about framing the PO than I am about pushing action for HR676. I think everybody has a different focus and skill set, and framing ain't either of mine.