Thursday, July 19, 2012

Football is hell

Governor Mark Dayton landed himself in hot water (again) yesterday, with (again) some probably ill-advised extemporaneous rambling.  This time, about a recent spate of off-season Viking arrests:
"Idle time is the devil's play," Dayton said, referring to the NFL's offseason. "It means that young males who are heavily armored and heavily psyched as necessary to carry out their job are probably more susceptible to being in bars at 2 o'clock [in the morning] and having problems. It doesn't excuse it. It just says this probably comes with it." 
"Shake one of their hands and you know that this is someone who is not your ordinary citizen. They're heavily armored, heavily psyched to do what they have to do and go out there. It's, basically, slightly civilized war," Dayton said. 
 "Then they take that into society. Much as soldiers come back, they've been in combat or the edge of it and suddenly that adjustment back to civilian life is a real challenge. And that's part of the reality. That's not to say it's good and it shouldn't be improved. It should."
Cue totally predictable self-righteous freaking out.  "War is hell!  And football is a game!" cry the scolds of Minnesota in unison.  

Now, obviously, Dayton should have known better, but "I should have known better" is basically the dude's motto at this point.  But this would also be an excellent time to point out that he has a decent substantive case.  Contra, well, pretty much everyone, football isn't just a game.  It's physically punishing in a way that soldiering rarely ever is.  Enlisting doesn't mean your life becomes Saving Private Ryan every single day--or ever.  And if anyone wants to compare the measurable physical trauma of being a soldier (no bonus points for Being a Hero!) with the measurable physical trauma of playing football, it's easy to see who's going to come out ahead.  Being a soldier entails a relatively high risk of getting injured, but at least the Army tries to help you avoid repeated concussive blows to the head.

It might also be a good time to point out that, American Heroes or not, soldiers returning from a war zone aren't exactly known for their ability to reintegrate easily with civilian society.  Vets commit crimes too--a lot more than normal people--and hand-wringing over Dayton's comparison just hides the more important commonality: that young men who have developed in physically and mentally destructive environments of any description make poor neighbors, whatever amount of arms-length adulation you slop onto them afterwards.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Why we need to fix health care, in one anecdote

From the Attorney General's court filing in the Fairview-Accretive scandal here in Minnesota:
Carol Wall’s experience at Fairview Riverside ER was similar. Carol is 53 years old, has a Master’s Degree, and is a project manager for Securian Financial Group. On January 21, 2012, Carol began vaginally hemorrhaging large amounts of blood. At the Fairview Riverside Emergency Room, she was brought to an examination table and put in a gown. Her condition worsened, with tremendous pain, cramping, and wooziness from the blood loss. While Carol was waiting to be diagnosed, a woman with a computer cart wheeled up to the exam table and told her she owed about $300. The woman insisted that Carol pay money as she bled profusely. Carol was vulnerable and gave the woman her credit card. 
On a Sunday two weeks later, Carol awoke from a nap and couldn’t talk or breathe. She was partially paralyzed. The paramedics took her to the Emergency Room at Fairview Riverside Hospital, where she was hooked up to blood pressure devices and had neurological tests. Before Carol was stabilized, a woman with a mobile computer cart again drifted up to her examination table and asked for money. Carol was having a stroke, and her husband kicked the woman out. Carol was then transported to the University of Minnesota Medical Center, where she was treated for a stroke caused by a blood clot to the brain.
Jesus Christ.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Obama's biggest mistake

CBS asked him what it was and, well, he got it half right:
When I think about what we've done well and what we haven't done well...the mistake of my first term—couple of years—was thinking that this job was just about getting the policy right. And that's important. But the nature of this office is also to tell a story to the American people that gives them a sense of unity and purpose and optimism, especially during tough times.
This is actually a pretty interesting answer from Obama.  On one hand, it's a bit like going to a job interview and saying your greatest weakness is working too hard.  "Getting the policy right" isn't really a mistake, after all.

But if you ignore the hope-y change-y stuff at the end, his first sentence is a nail-on-the-head description of what went wrong in the Obama administration for about two and a half years.  Obama seems to have spent half his first term laboring under the delusion that well-chosen policy could solve the Gordian knot of congressional politics.  Here, "getting the policy right" doesn't just mean choosing the best solution to various national problems, but also choosing the policy that would entice both sides into voting for it.  And two years of mindless, incoherent, and almost universal Republican obstructionism conclusively demolished the idea that succeeding at politics has anything to do with just finding the correct proposal.