Sunday, July 22, 2007

Sunday roundup and branding -- the Gazette, and beyond...

Baucus cashing in his CHIPs: Montana Headlines has made it clear in numerous posts that a civilized society that can afford it (not all civilized societies are wealthy, and not all wealthy societies are particularly civilized) should provide basic healthcare to children in low-income families. Whether their parents are low-income because they are disabled, lazy, down on their luck, substance abusers, from under-privileged backgrounds themselves, or whatever, really shouldn't matter.

Our goal should be to give every child the opportunity to become a productive member of society -- suffering from poor health care in childhood is a good way to ensure that they won't make it. And right now, we can afford it -- something that may not always be the case, by the way.

So Sen. Baucus is to be commended for working to expand CHIP eligibility to include more currently uninsured children, and the Republicans who worked to craft this compromise deal for a $35 billion increase are also to be commended.

Noelle Straub's somewhat snitty start to her article in today's Gazette doesn't do good service to illuminating the discussion, however:

In this corner: Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, his Democratic colleagues and some Republicans, fighting to help low-income kids get medical coverage.

In the opposite corner: President Bush, his administration and some conservatives, fighting against an increased government role in the health care system.

She eventually gets to some of the serious Republican concerns about this particular program, but the message is clear from the first paragraphs: Democrats like kids -- evil Republicans like kids, too -- but only to eat them for dinner as appetizers.

She mentions that the bill passed out of committee 17-4, so there really must have been a lot of conservative opposition.

There are serious points to be made, though, and Republicans have been right to ask questions and demand changes in the legislation as originally written.

Why are so many adults -- even many adults without children -- on a children's healthcare program? Is this a cynical way to avoid a straight-up debate over the expansion of government-funded healthcare for adults?

And what evidence is there that Democrats are genuinely concerned about possible adverse effects if the government undermines the current system of private health insurance, usually jointly funded by employer and employee contributions?

"I am deeply worried about further expansion will really lead to the undermining of the private health care system, which would take the greatest health care system in the world and convert it into a mediocre health care system," (President) Bush said.

As indeed he should be.

Of course, Michael Moore would have us believe that medical care in Cuba is better than that in the United States -- we're that bad.

The sentiment has been echoed by some here in the Montana blogosphere. If someone needs major surgery, though, it would be interesting to see if any of these fans of Cuban medical care would be willing to go to Cuba to have that surgery.

And not at a cushy Havana hospital that serves the nation's elite -- but rather in the Cuban equivalent of backwater communities like Billings, Missoula, or Bozeman.

How about it? Any takers? Would you rather be someone (even without insurance or money) needing a life-saving surgery in Billings -- or someone in an equally out-of-the-way Cuban town with full free health care?

Anyway, that is a digression -- CHIP (for children, that is) is one of Baucus's few good policies, and he is understandably riding it for all he's worth as he comes into an election year.

Oh what a relief it is (that Pat Davison lost): Charles Johnson has apparently been reading Montana Headlines. Well, not really, but it is interesting that today's "Horse Sense" column echoes what these pages have said repeatedly -- what a disaster it would have been for Montana (not to mention the Montana GOP) had Pat Davison won the GOP primary for governor.

Along the way, Johnson reminds us of numerous oddities, to say the least, in Davison's campaign. He closes with some harsh words about Billings businessman Mike Gustafson and his relationship to organizing a debate at MSU that seemed to be stacked to favor his friend and business colleague Davison.

Johnson's viewpoint is understandable, but it would seem that given how many people were taken in by Davison, Gustafson could be cut a little slack, rather than dragged into the conversation about Davison's breathtakingly bold criminality.

Plugging the local economy: Happy days are here again! The Billings Farmer's Market is back in business for the summer. It's good for your health (both the food and the walking,) good for encouraging local food producers, good for downtown Billings businesses that normally are closed or quiet on Saturdays, good for musicians who need more venues to hone their craft, and good for the soul.

Now, if only the weather would cooperate. See you there.

The Gazette Golden Pen Award: ...predictably goes again to someone who scolds Republicans. We're still waiting for a conservative with a Golden Pen. Granted, since we conservatives aren't that bright, it may be a long wait.

Thought-crimes legislation: A good opinion in the Missoulian recently addressed legislation that tacks on additional penalties for so-called "hate-crimes."

No matter the motivation, violence cannot and should not be tolerated.

But is an assault more heinous because the victim was attacked because of their religion or sexuality? And should the prosecution be more vigorous?

We think not. All people of this country should receive equal protection under the law - equally swift and forceful.

“We simply cannot accept violence that is motivated by bias and hate,” Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., said in introducing the Senate version of the hate crimes bill.

We agree. Nor should we accept violence that is motivated by greed or jealousy or rage or mental illness.

We also should not accept any attempt to stifle free speech. And Smith's legislation could lay the foundation for making so-called “hate speech” a crime. And that we must resist. However ugly the words.

Well-stated. Hate-crimes legislation amounts to putting people in jail (or keeping them there longer) for their thoughts and feelings -- distasteful as those thoughts and feelings might be.

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