This day in Crankery, November 16th

So who here has actually read the health care bill?. I've been devoting a bit of time each week to peruse more and more of it, and while there are endless obstacles to a complete understanding of it (including legalese and the annoying tendency of legislation to contain edits to other bills without including the text of the other bills being edited) it is telling that opponents of the bill are having some difficulty coming up with real criticisms of it. For example, the now infamous death panel fiasco was a willful misunderstanding of a completely wholesome concept, the idea that physicians should be compensated for having end-of-life discussions with patients. It makes sense on multiple levels to reward such discussions. For one, they are hard conversations to have, and without a motivating factor, they are avoided by many physicians. The result is a situation in which many patients fail to communicate their desires for the end of their lives, they fall in the default pathway of over-utilization of resources at the end-of-life, with invasive and often pointless interventions that have no benefit and burden and overwhelm the health-care system. The ideologues who sank that language in the bill should truly rot in hell, because they destroyed a good thing just to create a bogus political argument.

And speaking of the death panel conspiracy theory,
has anyone been checking out Arthur Goldwag's coverage of Sarah Palin's conspiratorial beliefs? How sad is it that we still have candidates for national office that believe things that fail the test? Palin gives me the creeps, she represents my worst nightmare, a crank candidate with inroads towards a national campaign. Goldwag's writing on the birther movement is also excellent and I'm glad to see these crackpots are being laughed out of court for the fools they are. In particular I liked the text of Judge Carter's decision describing what it's like to deal with cranks in court:

The hearings have been interesting to say the least. Plaintiffs' arguments through Taitz have generally failed to aid the Court. Instead, Plaintiffs' counsel has favored rhetoric seeking to arouse the emotions and prejudices of her followers rather than the language of a lawyer seeking to present arguments through cogent legal reasoning. While the Court has no desire to chill Plaintiffs' enthusiastic presentation, Taitz's argument often hampered the efforts of her co-counsel Gary Kreep ("Kreep"), counsel for Plaintiffs Drake and Robinson, to bring serious issues before the Court. The Court has attempted to give Plaintiffs a voice and a chance to be heard by respecting their choice of counsel and by making every effort to discern the legal arguments of Plaintiffs' counsel amongst the rhetoric.
This Court exercised extreme patience when Taitz endangered this case being heard at all by failing to properly file and serve the complaint upon Defendants and held multiple hearings to ensure that the case would not be dismissed on the technicality of failure to effect service. While the original complaint in this matter was filed on January 20, 2009, Defendants were not properly served until August 25, 2009. Taitz successfully served Defendants only after the Court intervened on several occasions and requested that defense counsel make significant accommodations for her to effect service. Taitz also continually refused to comply with court rules and procedure. Taitz even asked this Court to recuse Magistrate Judge Arthur Nakazato on the basis that he required her to comply with the Local Rules. See Order Denying Pls.' Mot. For Modification of Mag. J. Nakazato's Aug. 6, 2009, Order; Denying Pls.' Mot. to Recuse Mag. J. Nakazato; and Granting Ex Parte App. for Order Vacating Voluntary Dismissal (Sep. 8, 2009). Taitz also attempted to dismiss two of her clients against their wishes because she did not want to work with their new counsel. See id. Taitz encouraged her supporters to contact this Court, both via letters and phone calls. It was improper and unethical for her as an attorney to encourage her supporters to attempt to influence this Court's decision. Despite these attempts to manipulate this Court, the Court has not considered any outside pleas to influence the Court's decision.
Additionally, the Court has received several sworn affidavits that Taitz asked potential witnesses that she planned to call before this Court to perjure themselves. This Court is deeply concerned that Taitz may have suborned perjury through witnesses she intended to bring before this Court. While the Court seeks to ensure that all interested parties have had the opportunity to be heard, the Court cannot condone the conduct of Plaintiffs' counsel in her efforts to influence this Court.
Plaintiffs have encouraged the Court to ignore these mandates of the Constitution; to
disregard the limits on its power put in place by the Constitution; and to effectively overthrow a sitting president who was popularly elected by "We the People"-over sixty-nine million of the people. Plaintiffs have attacked the judiciary, including every prior court that has dismissed their claim, as unpatriotic and even treasonous for refusing to grant their requests and for adhering to the terms of the Constitution which set forth its jurisdiction. Respecting the constitutional role and jurisdiction of this Court is not unpatriotic. Quite the contrary, this Courtconsiders commitment to that constitutional role to be the ultimate reflection of patriotism.
Therefore, for the reasons stated above, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED.

You can just taste the crankery. The complete looseness with the truth as long as it conforms to the warped worldview of these crackpots is part and parcel of cranks the world over. Reading the follow-up of this case from right wing sites like Free Republic, and Storm Front, it's impossible to tell the difference between the conservative ideologues and the unrepentant racists. All the appeals to patriotism and the constitution are such weak cover for the fact these cranks are angry we have a black president.

I continue to work the long hours of a surgical intern and must say, it's a lot of drudgery. Internship is much more about paying your dues than about learning a whole lot, although my daily routine is occasionally punctuated by moments of extreme excitement. For instance, I will not forget the first time I placed a chest tube in a patient in the bedside, the blood that poured out of the guys chest that was keeping him from breathing, or the time I walked into a room to discover a patient in the midst of having a heart attack. Luckily, the training sets in, and we have a lot of supervision, so even when things get crazy I've always got someone with me who has seen it all before.

I also am increasingly motivated to write more as I feel less plugged-in than ever to the outside world since writing at least forced me to read tons of diverse information on lots of different topics. Cranks and crankery are all around us and I'm constantly reminded of the problems they create. It seems every time I see some topical show, and the commentators pause to reflect for a moment on the problem they're all facing, it seems like they all know what the problem is but just don't have a good name for it. The problem is that lies can be equally effective as the truth, and denialism creates very real problems for us and our democracy every single day. Denialism works, and cranks run amok throughout our country and the world. We have to keep writing about it until rather being on the tip of everyone's tongue, people are willing to come out and call out denialism for what it is, and shout it down when it rears its ugly head.

More like this

Haven't read it myself, but I have been watching the run down on what it actually "does" contain, verses the insane nonsense that it doesn't, from people like Olberman. You know, on that "liberally biased, entirely unfactual" station, unlike Fox, which gets 100% of it all right, according to the same insane lunatics babbling about death panels. So far, the impression I get is that one station tells the truth, the other lies all the time, and everyone else, with the possible exception of non-American stations, just try to come up with something "in between" the two, to look less liberal to the right wing wackos (which, like claiming you are Christian, but not believing in Biblical literalism or fundamentalism, doesn't work, and just gets you called *worse* than the ones that insist its all BS, by at least some of the crazies).

I get the uneasy feeling, every day, watching this mess, and the sorts that look like they are going to get presented at the 2012 candidates, that there is an oncoming train, which I can hear and see, but half the people around me are deaf and blind to. Its not just health care. If Obama suggested we needed air to breath at this point, half the loonies would demand that "real" Americans hold their breath, and the only reason they aren't doing it is that you can't talk without breathing, so wouldn't be able to tell everyone that he was lying about needing air.

@ MarkH;@ Kagehi:I am similarly exasperated by the rank stupidity I see daily in the media, signalled by the rise of Sarah Palin(or as I like to call her,"Dunning-Kruger personnified"),as well as Faux News denialism,"Tea partiers",woo publicized as "medecine",etc..However, in the past week,on several separate occasions,I have personally heard quite a few others express *their* contempt in no uncertain terms- which is encouraging. Remember, Obama also faced a lot of opposition in the primary season, then prior to the election, and again, during the 2nd financial crisis this past winter: it will continue.We have to "keep on keeping on".

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 18 Nov 2009 #permalink

Yeah. Well. Here is to hoping that the train is on a side track and only hits C Street when it finally crashes. lol

The birthers will not cease until Obama leaves office. Every setback only strengthens their conviction. In their view, losing in court only proves that Obama is controling the judge.


What a relief. I am not alone, nor are you.

It's frightening to watch as we descend into a world that is ever more truth-free and reality-free. As a fellow scientist, it is even more frightening to see crankery and denialism encroaching into medicine, a field that has done so much to improve our existence.

Keep up the great work. I hope that surgeons are still a part of the reality-based community!


I worked on Capitol Hill for nearly a decade and I can tell you that the rank and file members and their staff rarely ever read the entire bill for some of the reasons you are discovering. It's an intricate maze that simply boggles the mind at times. It's written by a committee of members, lawyers, and staff and for anyone person to really get their head around it is usually basically impossible. In fact, each year there is only one bill that members basically have to 'prove' they have read--the Intelligence agency appropriation. The reason is that it is classified and you have to go upto the secure Intel committee room in the attic of the Capitol and sign in to read it (and, no surprise, only about a dozen members ever actually do it).

What you might find more interesting (and I'm not sure if it is even out) is what we call "Committee Prints". These are almost the same size as the legislation but written in plain English and go into the more practical matters related to the bill (be sure to read the minority's view as it will often add more insight into the true meaning).

For example, if you look at the Defense funding bill you'll find something like $10,500,000 for vehicle replacement costs under Section 40(a)(ii)(3) of Title 22, which tells you nothing. But the committee print will say something like "$10,500,000 for new airport fire trucks at national guard air bases in Nevada" or something like that.

Anyway--not sure if there is a good "print" out there just yet. The websites of the various committees that had jurisdiction would be a good place to start.