August 11, 2009

Birthers, Deathers, and Poway Mobs

I'm proud to be an American. Which is not to say I am proud of all my fellow Americans. Lately, it is getting down right embarrassing to be of the same species as some crazy-talking folks.

First up in the crazy folk category are the birthers. These are the people who claim Obama was born in Kenya. Even though Obama has released his birth certificate and Hawaiian officials have verified that Obama was born in Hawaii, and even though the local newspapers printed birth announcements when Obama was born there, some whackos still insist he was born in Kenya.

G. Gordon Liddy, one of Nixon's White House Plumbers, was on the teevee the other day proclaiming that a "certificate of birth" isn't the same thing as a "birth certificate", thus Obama's "certificate of birth" is not the real thing. Does this criminal not even have a basic understanding of English? Who let him on the teevee?

Liddy also said he had a "deposition" from Obama's step-grandma stating that she saw him born in Kenya. But, it wasn't a deposition, it was a taped phone call. And you'd think that somebody who was a convicted felon would know the difference. The phone call involved several translators and a bit of miscommunication at the beginning. Obama's step-grandma meant she was "here" in Kenya, not "here in Kenya at Obama's birth". A full translation of the entire phone call indicates that Obama's step-grandmother and the translator repeatedly clarified that Obama was born in America, not Kenya. But the crazy birther people just keep carrying on.

I was surprised at the amount of traction this story got. Think about it. Obama's mother was a teenager. She would need a passport, and a plane ticket. Assume for a moment that she managed to get them and hide her plans from her parents, who would've raised holy hell if they found out. Then there is the travel itself; a multi-houred plane ride on one or several planes. Most doctors (except Sarah Palin's) and airlines do not recommend that women travel by plane in the late stages of pregnancy. Sitting in a chair can be uncomfortable in the 9th month; a many-hour plane trip to Kenya would not be fun. It could even be dangerous.

But think a little harder. Why would a teenager leave her parents and friends to give birth in an unfamiliar place, with people she doesn't know, speaking a language she cannot understand, in an unfamiliar and uncertain medical situation? I mean, it wasn't like she was Angelina Jolie.

Next up in the whacky nutjob department are the deathers. These are hysterical mobs disrupting health care forums claiming Obama is gonna kill their granny. Sarah Palin, the queen of the deathers, wrote on her facebook page,

The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down's Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's "death panel" so bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their "level of productivity in society," whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil."

Please Sarah, quit making stuff up. There are no "death panels" in Obama's health care initiative. Did you even read it, Sarah? Nevermind, don't even bother answering that.

Obama's plan does contain a provision for patients to elect to be counseled about end-of-life care. Most people don't actually have an "advance directive", which is a legal document that spells out what medical treatments someone does or doesn't want done at the end of life. We decided to get one after the Terry Shiavo fiasco, where government did intrude on a family making end of life decisions.

There are several do-it-yourself advance directives online. We did ours as part of our estate planning and if anyone wants a recommendation for a great estate lawyer, check out Walter Pinkerton. We are glad we did. He was quite reasonably priced too. I have no problem with this service becoming part of health insurance coverage. It is the best way to make sure everyone gets the end of life care that they really want.

So how did something so reasonable as an advance directive morph into "Obama's death panels"? Who whips these people into a frenzy and why do they let themselves fall for it? I can answer the first question. Just follow the money. Who is going to lose billions of dollars if Americans have reasonably priced insurance and cannot be terminated for having a medical condition? Exactly.

As for why people let themselves turn into a frothing, seething, hysterical mob, some of whom are "packing heat", well, I can't quite figure that one out. Do these people not see that it is to their own advantage to have health insurance, for everyone to have health insurance?

Rustling up a mob to advocate for something that is not in their own interest baffles me. I'm more familiar with the mob mentality to protect an advantage from being taken away. In Poway's current water/sewer rate structure, the advantage is entirely in favor of the large water user. The restructured rates also favor the large water user, but slightly less so than the old rates.

When the new rates were first proposed, the city held several workshops and got input from many residents. On July 21st, dozens of angry residents showed up at the council meeting complaining that the new rates were unfair to large water users. Nevertheless, the council approved the new rates. (Two votes are required- the second council vote will be on August 18th). A week after the first vote, Bruce Tarzy of the Green Valley Civic Association (GVCA) sent a written proposal (Aug 18th staff report) to the city proposing an entirely different rate structure. He suggested that the city charge all single family rate payers a higher price for their water and then give a rebate to users who reduce their consumption based on their 2006 water use. Guess who this would advantage.

Now, I imagine that GVCA sent their proposal to all of their members and asked them to lobby city hall to discard the plans that the city had been working on for months and endorse the GVCA's new rate structure instead. A couple of dozen letters were sent to the city in response to the GVCA proposal.

Here is one of my favorite crazy quotes from someone named Mike Myers:
I strongly support the alternative water rate structure put forward by the GVCA. It creates necessary conservation measures but does not socialize water use.

"Does not socialize water use." Uh, Mike...who do you think owns and operates the water department right now? I will give you a hint. It starts with g, o, v and ends with m, e, n t.

Among the more than 2 dozen letters sent to the city, there are some from reasonable folks who asked the city NOT to switch to the GVCA plan. Those letters came from GVCA members as most of the people in the city who would have been disadvantaged by the GVCA plan never got an opportunity to see it or comment on it. (Disclaimer: I saw it, I commented on it, but I did not write a letter directly to the city and my letter is not included in the packet for August 18, 2009 although I may submit one later.)

Tim Herberer wrote:
The GVCA proposal only rewards people who have wasted water in the past and it penalizes people who have already made changes to reduce water consumption.

Pete Babich:
As to the argument that large water users are subsidizing the low water users, I suspect the reverse is true. Because of the fixed costs associated with the water/sewer bill, low water users actually pay more per unit of water than large water users.

Michael J Smith, Vineland Hills HOA BOD Secretary:
The following is what I sent to the GVCA:
"I'm appalled at your late input into the water rate schedule.
Where were you when the city held the Water Conservation Workshops?
I was in attendance.
If you have a large lot then change its structure.
I have done this for my meager lot and have gone from using 50 units to using 10 units at a fair cost to me.
Why should I further subsidize large lot owners?
Further as a member of the Vinelnd Hills HOA BOD we have gone from using 8000 units in MAY-JUN-2008 to 4000 units MAY-JUN 2009.
We have been anticipating the water shortage for over two years.
Where have you been?"

Yes, yes, where has GVCA been? It isn't as if the water shortage just cropped up last week. But more importantly where are they going next? Are we going to have angry mobs at the council meetings or will reasonable people prevail?


jeffswpblog said...

The birthers have their claims that Obama was born in Kenya

The deathers divert people from the facts about the health plan with wild stories of bureaucratic "death panels"

And then there is the Poway story of how the water bill's fixed charges are unfair to low water users. Sadly -- there is no plan presented to show how these costs can be fairly incorporated as consumption fees.

I am very disappointed by your decision to attempt some sort of parallelism in this week's blog. This technique comes from a page of the Rush Limbaugh book of journalism.

The GVCA may be slow to react, but they have presented a reasonable plan. Please do not discount it with far-fetched comparisons or labels.

In my opinion - One should not think that the objections to these new rates are entirely about money. The city's new tiered water rates are, in my opinion, a wrong turn in the City of Poway's philosophy towards property owners and land use in Poway.

Chris Cruse said...

I disagree. I do not think the GVCA plan is "reasonable". That is the whole point about what I wrote. IMO,the GVCA plan was not only unreasonable, but of questionable methodology. And parts of it were factually incorrect.

Is structuring the water/sewer rates so that smaller users pay more than larger users a philosophy? If so, I don't see that the council has really changed directions. The rates are still disproportionately dinging the low water user more than the large water user.