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Monday, September 21, 2009
Random Thoughts, Mostly Brief

An AARP radio ad, Kung Fu Panda philosophy, the divine attribute of omnipresence, the intersection of MoTab and Cougar football, and, best of all, goat sacrifice.

That AARP Ad

The AARP, which used to be known as the American Association of Retired Persons -- a name I was unable to find at aarp.org -- has been losing members at an alarming rate. The reason is not natural causes or even swine flu, as we might expect. It's AARP's public endorsement of current legislative efforts to nationalize medical care in the United States. Bear in mind that, besides being a major medical insurance provider and many other things, AARP is also the six-billion-pound gorilla of the lobbying jungle, and as such is probably more influential than the NEA or any other labor union.

(By the way, I didn't just pull that number out of the air. AARP reportedly has about 40 million members, and I assumed an average weight of 150 lbs. per member.)

Their new radio advertising campaign is clearly designed to stop the hemorrhage. Maybe it will work; maybe it won't. I don't know. Either way, one thing is clear: the ad illustrates one important thing that is wrong with the present debate.

Essentially, the ad says that there is this big health care debate going on. One side wants to change the whole system, and the other wants to change nothing at all. The AARP isn't on either side. Instead, it's on your side (if you're a member). It wants what's good for you.

The problem is in the ad's definition of the two sides. It's not just the AARP that isn't on one side or the other. Hardly anyone else is on either of those sides, as the ad describes them.

Most proponents of medical care reform don't advocate scrapping the entire system. In fact, they seem to think that they can dismantle part of it and make the rest of it run even better. Opponents are skeptical of this. (Dismantle the engine of my car and see if it runs better . . .)

Most opponents of the current proposals are not passionate about maintaining the status quo, either -- except in the sense that they think liberal proposals would make things even worse than they are now. Almost everyone will admit that there are problems. Conservatives simply have a different approach to those problems and to the need to preserve what is good and effective while we address the real problems.

For his part, President Obama will sometimes admit that opponents have fundamental differences where the role of government is concerned, and that they evaluate the proper balance of freedom and government control differently. Often, however, he is no better than the AARP; he has falsely claimed many times that opponents have no proposals of their own to offer, but are simply defending the status quo.

Misrepresenting yourself and your opponents is an old rhetorical trick. So it casting both sides as extremists and presenting yourself as the reasonable middle. But in most cases -- where both sides are not actually extremists -- neither of these manipulative strategies leads to intelligent discussion of serious issues. And if either ever leads to wise policy in such cases, it is merely by coincidence -- and that rarely.

Kung Fu Panda

Kung Fu Panda enjoys bouts of popularity among the younger crown chez Rodeback. One of the offspring was watching the movie the other day, and I happened to overhear this morsel of wisdom: "To make something special, you just have to believe it's special."

On one hand, there may be some merit in that thought. On the other, how's it working with presidents of the United States lately?

Five Sunday Shows and Letterman

Speaking of presidents, traditionally God is thought to possess at least these three essential attributes: omniscience (sees all, knows all), omnipotence (has all power), and omnipresent (is everywhere present in some sense or other).

I am aware of the jokes about President Obama thinking he's God. They're old standards; all you have to do to update them is change the name. I don't think he's God, and I don't think he thinks he's God, but I think he may aspire to demigod, at least.

It's this business of five Sunday shows plus Letterman in the space of about 36 hours, coming on the heels of a week full of major speeches.

Clearly, he's working on omnipresence, one of those three attributes of deity, and he's obviously making some real progress.

That said, he won't be able to claim actual omnipresence until he is willing to appear on Fox News, too.

Speaking of the Nearly Divine

I have it on good authority that the BYU Cougar fight song was used as a warmup by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on the morning after that glorious victory over Oklahoma. I don't suppose they sang it again yesterday, alas.

Goat Sacrifice

I saved the best for last. Such is my own opinion, at least.

I've written a lot about freedom lately, including an attempt to explain that those who love the principle of freedom celebrate and protect others' freedom, not just their own. In that spirit, I appreciated Eric Rassbach's insightful explanation, "Why I Defend Goat Sacrifice."

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