Tuesday, March 23, 2010

'Raise your hand if you love freedom. Notice your dead mom didn't move a muscle, kid.'

Here's the story so far: Marcelas Owens is 11 years old and doesn't have a mom. She developed pulmonary hypertension, a potentially fatal but very treatable disease. Because she got sick, she lost her job. Because she lost her job, she lost her healthcare. Because she lost her healthcare, she lost her (potential) access to treatment. Because she lost her access to treatment, she lost her life.

A month ago, Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) told Marcelas and his mother Tifanny's story to President Obama as an illustrative tale of how fragile people's lives and economies are without healthcare. This week, conservatives responded by telling an 11-year-old that his mom should have pulled herself up by her healthstraps and got undead, like, doublequick. She's just lazy. She lies around on her back all day.

Their response combines the best of ignorance, self-serving fabricated victimization and imperial unconcern with the little things, like whether someone lives or dies. Let's go to the McClatchy article on the subject, which describes their behavior as "ridicule":

"Now this is unseemly, exploitative, an 11-year-old boy being forced to tell his story all over just to benefit the Democrat Party and Barack Obama," [Rush] Limbaugh said on March 12, according to a transcript [of] his show. "And, I would say this to Marcelas Owens: 'Well, your mom would still have died, because Obamacare doesn't kick in until 2014.'"
Really? That's what you'd go for? How do you think that would work out for you?

"Hey, kid, some big fat guy wants to tell you some stupid shit about why your mom's death has no meaning, for a stupid reason, by saying some stupid shit. He smells like sweat and cigar smoke, but he's really fucking fat like Santa, only if you wrote letters to Santa every year and included a check and then he bought himself a present. You want to do an interview with him?"

I don't think he'd get the chance to say any of his shtick to me, if i were that kid. I think he'd get about half of that out before I force-fed him a coaster stone. It'd be all right: he could lick the sweat off his forearms for some excreted oxycodone until it didn't hurt anymore. Then I could jam that coaster in there until I heard his teeth grinding. Kinda the same sound they make when he goes too long without oxycodone. Anyway, where was I? Right, a parable about personal responsibility. Or something.

Also note how he calls it the "Democrat" party. Hohohohohohoho! That's some cutting-edge othering, right there.

[Glenn] Beck, according to a transcript of his March 15 show, pointed out that Owens' recent trip to Washington was paid for by Healthcare of America, a group that has been lobbying for a health care overhaul. "That's the George Soros-funded Obama-approved group fighting for health care," Beck said.
It's a perennial peculiarity of the American right that the first thing they get angry about is when some wealthy guy starts spreading his money around for a political project, despite the fact that this almost entirely defines the spirit and function of the GOP. Ordinarily one would chalk this rhetoric up to self-loathing, but self-loathing requires insight. It's probably resentment and suspicion.

Soros is wealthier and smarter than they are, and he's liberal as hell. His existence explodes the GOP's core tautology that all successful people are Republicans, and all Republicans are successful people. Soros' proud liberalism ruins the group photo at the billionaires' brunch. It's like all the cool kids in school and all the other kids who want to be cool wandered into the lunchroom in their matching letter jackets, then the prom king (who's also the starting quarterback and class president) walked in wearing a tweed jacket over a Clash t-shirt. If he's the coolest kid, then they must be wearing the wrong clothes. But wait, they're all out of allowance money for clothes. Okay, he dresses like that because he's gay. Problem solved. Now nobody talk to him anymore.

That said, you've got to admire Beck for still employing the cumbersome demonizing phrase "the George Soros-funded Obama-approved group" when he'd have much more traction with his suburban and rural white audience by just spitting "THAT JEW" whenever the man's name came up.

"Since all of the groups are so concerned and involved now, may I ask where were you when Marcelas' mother was vomiting blood?"
Glenn found a good phrase in "vomiting blood," but he doesn't even have a tactic to use it for. He asks where these liberals were, as if that puts pukeblood firmly on their hands. But the follow up to this is, "Where was Glenn?" If an absence of intervention to help this woman ascribes a mortal blame, then he's just as complicit as the liberals he's castigating. In fact, he's probably more at fault.

After all, these liberals are trying to do something to fix the problem: overhauling the healthcare system. They're going to fuck it up completely, but their response correlates with their ideology. Beck, on the other hand, subscribes to the economic philosophy that individual charity effects better change and greater results than government largesse. So why didn't he just cut a check? He makes a lot of money, after all; he charges people $75 to watch him talk about Christmas, and he has all those bestsellers.

The conceptual mess doesn't end there. Like almost everyone else on the right, Glenn recognizes that he can't point to any actual facts to establish the social or economic utility of letting 1 in 6 Americans go bankrupt or else sicken and die. As such, his only arguments against healthcare are against how it's being supported and by whom. Thus this story is invalid. Tifanny Owens' death is a non-thing because Democrats didn't notice it immediately. They only had a few days to mention it before she lapsed into some realm between the living and dead, a null zone of rhetorical weightlessness where things that happen in the past have no bearing on the future.

This is a common tactic among conservatives, where objective and factual demonstrations of injustice cease to be unjust or cease merely to be because of who noticed them, or how. Homosexuals are too sensitive about what "might" be homophobic, so you can't trust them. Black people have a lot of frankly uptight issues about racism, and they also hate white people, so anything they decry as racist is probably a reverse-racist gesture just to demonize some innocently mustachioed Republican who was only trying to take a Sunday drive around Marvin Gardens or Park Place in a solid pewter car when that black child flung herself under the wheels. People who really want socialized medicine are probably too wound up about it to talk objectively about it. Has anyone even looked closely at Tifanny Owens? Are we sure she's dead? Maybe a liberal killed her to make a point. Liberals love killing things. Just look at this field of miniature white crosses.

Ordinarily, invoking the Nazis delegitimizes an argument in any reader's eyes, but it's impossible to talk about Glenn Beck without talking about Nazis. Glenn appears to be on their street team because he's done more to up their Q-Rating than Spielberg's oeuvre. Yet by Glenn's own standards of what constitutes fair dismissal of a point, Nuremberg should never have happened.
PROSECUTOR: Did or did you not exterminate six million Jews?"
BORMANN: Oh, I didn't see you in 1941.
BORMANN: Chelmno opened in December. We all got together to talk at Wannsee the next year. First time any of you noticed any of this stuff was July of '44. If we were really killing all those Jews, why didn't you say anything?
PROSECUTOR: This is absurd!
BORMANN: Sure it is, if you listen to what the Jews have to say. But tell me, who do you think is going to have most to gain from finding anti-Semitism everywhere? Those people are like Sharpton: they don't get checks at the fundraiser if they don't create a bad guy. That's why they're always demonizing Aryans.
PROSECUTOR: Did or did you not kill six million Jews!
BORMANN: No, you did.
MAGISTRATE: Case dismissed!
BORMANN: Wow, thanks!!! Um, I mean, oh, wow. This is just amazing! I want to thank Hitler, and my parents, and Leni. And all the great people here in the audience. Oh!—oh, they're playing me off—that's "Horst Wessel" from the Soundtrack to the Motion Picture "The Third Reich." Oh, um um ummmm, I know I'm forgetting somebody. I just want to say that we were all leftists because we had the word socialism in our name. Please ignore, like, all the stuff we actually did. Just use our words. We were always 100% scrupulous about using words properly. Also please vote Obama in '12 because as you can imagine we all really like black people.
The sad thing is that Glenn himself will never stop to imagine that this is logically where his hysterical invocations take him, because as soon as he hears "Nuremberg," his brain automatically runs his "Munich" subroutine and bypasses all that ugly business of the Republican party championing anti-interventionism and preventing the liberal Democrat from declaring war two years earlier.

Moving on...

Malkin dismissed Marcelas Owens as "one of Obama's youngest lobbyists" who has been "goaded by a left-wing activist grandmother," promoted by Murray and has become a regular on the "pro-Obamacare circuit."
Naturally Michelle Malkin is on the scene, which is always fun. She's just so vicious and tiny. Whenever she does her scrunchy-nose snarl thing, it's like watching a Bichon having a bad amphetamine experience. It's adorable in the way that tiny angry things are always adorable. Michelle's my favorite race traitor. After 9/11, she happily sold out Asian-Americans' unjust internment in World War II by ginning up a phantom spy/saboteur threat even more fallacious and histrionic than the one that was used to excuse it in the first place. She did this to create a backdoor legitimation for rounding Arab-Americans up into camps, but mostly she did it to be on TV. Michelle needed to get attention. It's sort of a pattern with her:

When it comes to the citizenry, Republicans only need seven or eight coloreds and about half as many homosexuals every four years. But with TV, they need someone to go on message whenever they get a phone call. She should love Affirmative Action, because it's the only reason she has a job. Some darker-skinned person does something that goes against the GOP message, so out comes Michelle, making her grrrrrrr sounds and tugging and gnashing ineffectually at the pantleg of reality, trying to yank it back on-message. The dog metaphor wasn't my being demeaning: she seems extraordinarily loyal. She stayed mum regarding McCain's calling Vietnamese people "gooks" while vociferously warring against "victim culture," including Asian-Americans. If some GOP presidential candidate shoved his foot in his mouth by saying Asians had sideways vaginas, I have no doubt Michelle would unveil the facts for the nation in support. Not hers, mind, but I'm sure she'd be willing to pay to have a poor Asian woman genitally mutilated so she could be disrobed in front of a camera.

Anyway, Michelle's out here to be mean to the black grandmother and the little black boy who's mother's dead because Michael Steele is probably still trapped in a corridor somewhere, suffering a purgatorial neverending series of daps and "YOU BE DA MAN!" with Michelle Bachmann, and Alan Keyes is still locked in a crate in a disused ICBM silo. They'd drag Alan out to wield the hatchet, but he'd only muddy the message by talking about divorce and Catholicism. And while I'm sure Pat Buchanan is available to seem sort of avuncularly evil, he's too white for the gig. Michelle's just dark enough to safely cross the "it's okay, it's a minority telling the minorities that their suffering is 100% their own" line. Plus she's a sociopath and probably pretty cheap. She gives off the sense that she'll do anything to be on TV. Maybe it's the pom-poms talking.

I mention Buchanan because he represents the sort of high water mark for the kinds of careers people like Michelle used to have. People who wrote books, assassinated via the pen and lurked in back rooms eventually accrued enough favors to emerge hissing into the light — advising elected officials, giving a major speech at the RNC. Unfortunately, when Pat pulled off that last one, he scared the shit out of the entire country, which probably did as much to unseat Bush the First as anything else. After that, the RNC learned its lesson about fearmongers: keep them on the panel discussions to agitate the populist base and provide smoke and mirrors for the actual candidates. The formula went awry in 2008, with Palin as the Veep candidate, because it was a lot like running Pat Buchanan for Veep only after someone gave him a manboob job and whanged him in the head seven or eight times with a croquet mallet. Then everyone learned their lesson again and shunted the whackos back to FOX.

Thus poor Michelle is stuck writing books without facts for the same die-hard Nielsen households that watch her guest-host shows without facts or who follow her blog without facts. She's always waiting for the phone to ring with "the big call," always crashing down to earth when she's given another mercenary job saying something so unforgivably cruel or empty that it precludes her holding an important position anywhere. Michelle still has not come to grips with the ugly reality that 50% of the job description for "useful idiot" is "idiot." This explains more than anything why Michelle can call a grandma a left-wing activist because she doesn't like it when opportunistic ghouls insult her family, then mock the grandson by claiming he holds a political job (one that would pay well enough for him to afford mom-death-avoiding levels of healthcare): it is probably all she has.

Malkin also suggested there were other programs that could have helped Tifanny Owens, adding, "It's not clear that additional doctors' visits in the subsequent months would have prevented her death."
This is it, the most thorough conservative commentator strike against the claim that an 11-year-old's mother died a needless death: a Baby's First Legal Argument jab about proximate causation. Someone who had a treatable illness died, and all Michelle Malkin or anyone else can muster as a thoughtful response is a myopic plunge into legal liability.

In case you don't know, here's the gist of proximate causation. Say someone has a patch of ice on the path in front of their house. Your mother slips on it, falls, starts bleeding, gets taken to a hospital and then dies. You or your family then sue the person who had the patch of ice, claiming wrongful death. The Ice Man argues that it's unclear that your mother died because she slipped and fell on the ice in front of his house. Maybe the fall wasn't the proximal cause of death. Maybe it was medical negligence. His argument is that you, the plaintiff, have not proved that his conduct was the proximate cause of harm, at least not enough to create liability. It's such a socially vacuous response to this broader issue that it should gall, until you realize that it's the most substantive one thus far proffered.

It still misses the mark. Here's what everyone remotely sane about this issue is saying:
This woman needed healthcare. She couldn't afford it. She died.
This is Malkin's response:
An 11-year-old child is a plaintiff making an argument that additional doctor visits would absolutely have saved his mother's life. He is now suing the state for being the proximate cause of her death by denying access to medical care. However, he does not have standing to bring this suit, and he hasn't proven the merits of his case. Thank God that Judge America threw this one out, for freedom.
Again, as with Glenn Beck, this is an argument about an argument and also an argument about the person making the argument. The actual topic can and never should be engaged, because touching upon it reifies the inhumanity and social bankruptcy of her position. Malkin has to resort to abstractions of legal liability and ridiculing the standing of a pre-teen, because as soon as you strip away her theatrics, it's unmistakable that her philosophy amounts to: "Other people's death is preferable to my inconvenience."

There is no other recourse but to "socialism!" and "marxism!" and "this 11-year-old kid is a paid agent of anti-American usurpers and tyrants!" when another's demand that you simply state your case would oblige you to say, "Let them die."