Unintended Consequences of the Attempts to Repeal Obamacare (by Jack)

A strange thing happened on the way to the series of attempts to repeal and replace the Republican-hated policy known as “Obamacare.” Fundamental attitudes about health care began to change–and in an unanticipated direction.

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The Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”) has been an excellent example of how perceptual screens affect attitudes. Polling indicated that when people were asked about the policy called “Obamacare” it received less support than if it was called the “Affordable Care Act.” But even more, polling reveals that partisanship functions as a perceptual screen when making such judgments—Democrats support Obamacare/the ACA more than do Republicans. This was true when it was first passed and remains somewhat true today—but oddly enough, some attitudes on health care have shifted to bring Democrats and Republicans closer to each other. (Could we have the beginnings of an emerging bipartisan consensus?)

Health Overhaul Protest ChicagoThe latest polling indicates that a substantial majority of Americans (over 60%) now believe that health care is a right rather than a privilege. (Substantially less than a majority had this belief as recently as 2014). And while there is still a modest partisan divide, lower income Republicans now agree with Democrats of all income levels that health care is a right. The strongest support for the view that health care is a privilege and government should not play a role is isolated among relatively well-to-do Republicans.

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Ironically, the catalyst that has produced this change has been the controversy that has been sparked by the various aborted attempts in Congress to repeal Obamacare. Republicans, hoping to kill the Affordable Care Act have instead helped build support for not just the ACA, but for even greater government involvement in health care.

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Specific provisions that arose during the debate also helped to solidify public opinion and narrow the partisan divide on the issue. Now, an over-whelming majority of Americans (over 70%) want health care to be guaranteed to people with pre-existing conditions. Further, even a substantial number of Republicans (66%) want insurance policies to provide a minimum package of benefits and a vast majority of Americans of all political persuasions want coverage to extend to children up to age 26 (on their parents’ plan). These are significant changes in attitudes from just a images-1few years ago.

Sociologist Robert Merton first identified the “law of unintended consequences” in 1936 when examining decisions policy-makers make in complex social systems. While he identified a number of reasons for this phenomenon (including stupidity and relying upon short-term interests over long-term interests) he also noted that it was difficult to effectively adopt policies which went against the grain of fundamental underlying values and beliefs. That may now be the dilemma the Republicans face when they try—yet again as they no doubt will—to repeal and replace Obamacare. If Republicans in Congress continue to pursue health care reform in a partisan fashion they may find that their constituents, both Republicans and Democrats, may rebel.

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Stand or Kneel? Sports and Politics (by Sasha)

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As a political scientist, I view the controversy over the NFL players kneeling during the national anthem as grounded in two related questions:

1)  How did football (and just about every other sport) become a forum for displays of patriotism?

2)  Why is the kneeling of a player during the playing of the national anthem viewed as an insult to veterans in particular?

So, in answer to #1, there is really no good reason why sports have been aligned with militarism. Some have theorized that joining the two connects nationalism with aggression; or winning with patriotism. “We (meaning the US) are Number 1!” But the history of this conjoining of (male) sports teams with national patriotism has its origins in WWI and this grew stronger during WWII.  During the fighting of the world war, it was viewed as unseemly that while other men engaged in international warfare to save the country and indeed the world, professional athletic males in the United States were playing their sports rather than engaging in true warfare. Sporting events were also an opportunity to mobilize much needed public support. Thus, patriotic moments were injected into the games: the playing of the national anthem or patriotic songs, the presence of the American flag, flybys or honor guards by the military, and the recognition of war veterans. But this association continued far beyond the world war years. It is now seen as part and parcel of what it means to be engaged in athletic competition. As a result, displays of patriotism infuses football, baseball, soccer, hockey, and so on.

image_20But think about it…this is a social construct that survived its time. This was a nationalistic practice that originated as a way of defending why able-bodied males should continue to play competitive (and lucrative) games during a time of war. The national symbolism has continued throughout the decades although it is now disconnected from the original purpose it served.

In answer to #2, I can understand that some people may be offended by NFL players who kneel in protest during the national anthem. But why is this form of symbolic speech interpreted as an insult to veterans in particular?

This protest began last football season (2016) by Colin Kaepernick. Because it was a silent form of protest, in later interviews he had to articulate the meaning in words. His explanation was that the physical gesture was a sign of protest about the troubling incidences of black men shot by police officers who were not punished by the legal system. Kneeling was chosen a “respectful,” peaceful, and silent protest about racial inequality in the country.

nfl+9.24So how exactly does this implicate veterans?

It doesn’t. The protest is an indictment of the American legal system, law enforcement system, and systemic racism within the culture. But it is not in any way aimed at those who have served in the military.

Why? Because the flag, the national anthem, the Constitution, and patriotism at large does not belong to veterans exclusively. Yes, the nation should thank veterans for their service and should provide them in turn with respect and concrete resources to integrate them back to civilian lives (e.g., imagine a VA that is efficient and responsive and generous). However, criticisms about the nation, no matter how cutting, are not aimed at veterans. They are directed at society at large. Although symbolic speech, these actions invite reflection and conversation. Are they pointed and sometimes painful critiques? Yes, they are. But does kneeling constitute treason or an attack on veterans in particular; I’d say not. Political protest is and should be a protected right. That is necessary in any society that aspires to be democratic. Dissent should be met with conversation, not misdefined or misaligned as attacks on veterans or unpatriotic expressions in need of punishment.

It is a bit ironic that this sensitivity to the feelings of veterans as the victims of the NFL protests is taking place during a time when conservative commentators have been unforgiving in their criticisms of college and university policies designed to protect student “snowflakes” from upsetting speech, topics, or situations. Veterans, who have been redefined in recent years as heroes, are now being constructed as victims in need of protection from kneeling athletes. And so, in the words of Pres. Trump, a protesting athlete is a “son of bitch” who should be fired.

Some might say that political protests are unwarranted given the time and place consideration that these occur during sports contests, not political events. But, as I wrote earlier, the infusion of symbols of patriotism during athletic competitions is an odd coupling to begin with. If patriotic displays are embraced during games, one can expect, and one is expected to tolerate, differing views in response.

 

Salty Dog: Oh, Brother! (by Karma)

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While humans scanned the skies for the path of Irma

I weathered my own crisis here on terra firma.

A whirling dervish who bites, chews, and pees

His name is Koda, a little Cuban Havanese.

A mini me, but don’t assume I’m his mother

My humans informed me:  he’s my new “brother.”

I thought at first he was a storm victim, a guest,

But he’s here to stay, the shark-like pest.

 

He hangs from my tail, and eats from my bowl,

Over elimination, he has no control.

He squeals like a pig when he’s left alone

And smells like urine eau de cologne.

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But he’s willing to play and likes tug-of-war

My place is the sofa, he likes the floor.

And the boy’s got style when he copies me.

So he’s my Wingman, Dawg, BFF, Homie.

 

 

 

But wait…what is this fresh hell?

Says his name’s Sir Charles of Taywater Dell!

Not another young pup to guide all lifelong!

Whew! Not ours, but belongs to Cat Armstrong.

The Salt Life: Disparate Ramblings following Hurricane Irma (by Sasha)

A week after Hurricane Irma…some factoids and thoughts:

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  • Nickname:  Irmageddon (apt for the devastation of Caribbean Islands and the Florida Keys)
  • Local news stations were asked by the Pasco County Sheriff’s office to instruct locals NOT to shoot guns at the Hurricane. It had to be explained that (1) this would not alter the direction of the storm and (2) that the bullets themselves could prove dangerous.
  • In Sarasota and Manatee Counties, largely spared because of the storm’s turn, over 64,000 people were still without power as of 6pm Saturday night; that is 1 in 7 of Florida Power & Light customers in the two counties (Source: Herald-Tribune, 9-16-17, p. B1).

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  • Sarasota was largely spared but the impact continues: some gas stations and businesses still not reopened, some food shortages remain as deliveries haven’t arrived (e.g., skim milk, crackers, some fresh produce), tons of food ruined from lack of power fill dumpsters while people are being fed by neighbors, friends, charities, All Faith’s Food Bank, etc., lots of tree debris piled up at curbs waiting to be picked up; most local colleges and schools have remained closed (some served as shelters during the storm) but hope to reopen this coming week; Power and Light trucks, both locally and out of state, have set up local camps for workers who are trying to restore power by the 20th which would be two days ahead of schedule.

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  • A new danger was posed by traffic lights that were out. When this occurs, the rule is not “floor it” but act as if the light was blinking red: meaning that vehicles from every direction must come to a full stop and then take turns going through the intersection.

 

  • Some evacuees are still waiting to find airline tickets to return. Some who drove back only made it because they had filled gas cans with them (so many stations throughout the state still without fuel.)

 

  • Gov. Scott (who I think showed unusual leadership, transparency, and competence during the storm) still remains unconvinced of human-induced climate change.

 

  • Even with five days to prepare, preparation was nearly impossible. When the storm IMG_4522was approaching in a “cone of uncertainty” large enough to swallow the entire state, there was not enough of the following: gasoline, airline flights, bottled water, canned goods, plywood, tarps, batteries, flashlights, and sandbags (a 10 bag limit if you could wait for hours!)

 

We can do better; we’ve got to do better.

 

The Salt Life: Hurricane Irma and Us (by Sasha)

We are doing our best to prepare for Hurricane Irma now that she has decided to move to the West Coast of Florida. We are staying put and will check on the homes of our neighbors who have better sense than we do.

Jack has given new meaning to the term “repurposing.” What do you do when there is no plywood at Home Depot or anywhere for miles and you need to board up windows:  see what he’s done with our closet doors and fencing:

 

 

Many thanks to our son Jamison for the closet door idea; Jack lopped off the bottom and found a way to attach them. He is still pulling down a fence and fencing our windows in. All these years I’ve complained that our third garage has been converted to his woodworking shop…now I love it.

We have spent days searching for gasoline and bottles of water. Today almost every store along University Ave. was closed, so Kudos to BJs which stayed open until 2:00 today (Saturday) and had both fuel and water (and lots of wine,  yeah!) Driving home I came upon this sight driving East on University Parkway:

 

 

That’s right. The Military has arrived. Saw them turn from U. Ave to Longwood Run. Setting up a base perhaps? It should be comforting but it was scary to think we’ll need it.

And then there is stress, and not so much:

 

That’s our new puppy, a Havanese named Koda. True, our timing is off, but he is making us laugh through what looks to be a disaster in the making.

We have secured one of our bathrooms and hope to use it as a safe place if need be. Should be an interesting Sunday night…

We wish all of Sarasota–our friends, family, neighbors, and every resident–well. Be safe. If you are in need of anything and can come to our home or communicate with us, please do.

Love to all.