A LOVE SUPREME

I am now blogging at a new blog: erdman31.com

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Imagine if you can

This from Harper's:

"For at least two decades, our political landscape has been dominated by consultants; but there is no presidential campaign this year whose success or failure so will depend on media managers, marketing strategists, and political gurus as that of Mitt Romney. Unlike his chief competitors for the Republican nomination, he started out with a fairly low national profile and hence has needed to be introduced and marketed to a national audience. And the task of reformulating and repackaging the Romney brand - from the moderate Republican governor of the most liberal state in the Union to a red-meat social conservative and heir to Reagan - has been entrusted to an army of consultants far larger than that of any of his challengers. Campaign disclosure records are convoluted and poorly categorized, so it's difficult to make a precise inventory. But based on filings with the Federal Election Commission, as of this summer, Romney's campaign has employed more than a hundred different consultants, making combined payments to them of at least $11 million - roughly three times the amount spent by John McCain or Rudy Giuliani. Much of that money paid for the creation and placement of TV ads through Romney's media consultant and chief strategist Alex Castellanos, but the campaign also spent heavily on polling, political strategy, and voter mobilization." (p. 34 Harper's magazine, November 2007 "Making Mitt Romney: How to Fabricate a Conservative" Ken Silverstein)

First, do any of us really believe that "there is no presidential campaign this year whose success or failure" will depend on media/marketing/political gurus as Mitt Romney? This suggestion strikes me as incredibly naive. Politics is media/marketing/political gurus. That's all there is. It's called "spin." Spin wins. The best spin wins the prize of power. Is there really any one of us that believes that any one candidate depends on spin more than any other? In American politics perception is reality; truth is what you can get away with. The politician creates their own world: It's called image. And image is everthing, as we all have known since the Canon Andre Agassi commercials in the 1980s.

The interesting thing about Mitt and other contemporary politicians is that they risk losing a clear identity in the mass of images. Image is everything, but too many images that go too many different directions will direct the collective minds of the American people in too many different directions. As such, the people will think that the politician is "not genuine." Of course, smart people on this blog know that there is no such thing as a genuine politician; there is only the politician who can imagine himself as genuine.

29 comments:

Emily said...

That reminds me of something one of my college profs would say. Something like, "A Christian politician is like a Christian prostitute. The former negates the prior." Ouch!

Jonathan Erdman said...

I was watching the History Channel over the weekend, and I heard something about how during the Middle Ages the Church sanctioned certain forms of prostitution as necessary evils. Homosexuality and any form of sodomy was considered punishable by death, and it was not right for a woman to be on top......so, uh, where was I going with that???

Emily said...

Yes, where were you going with that?

ktismatics said...

From the Associated Press: "When Republican voters size up the GOP candidates, Giuliani claims the advantage on a host of personal qualities. He is the GOP candidate most often seen as decisive, strong and compassionate. But, just as for Clinton, ethics and honesty are a potential soft spot. Some 59 percent of GOP voters see Sen. John McCain as ethical, compared with 54 percent for Giuliani, 45 percent for Fred Thompson and 42 percent for Romney. On honesty, McCain and Giuliani run about even. Which Republican is the most likable? Giuliani gets the nod, both from GOP voters and among voters overall."

samlcarr said...

So, it's all in the image and in the public's willingness to believe that the makeover is really real.

I think it's a mistake to underestimate 'the public'. But then except for Sen. McCain it does look like all of the others need to be transformed into something that fits a more conservative mould, or do they?

I'd guess that the electorate may be irritated with the 'born again' conservative picture. Perhaps Mitt is making a mistake? It's even possible that Hilary is a little too straight to be OK, tho she does have her hubby to fall back on if need be.

The biggest problem for the Dems is that they have proved to be utterly useless at keeping their promises. So perhaps one doesn't really need to look at the dem candidates too seriously...

Melody said...

It's even possible that Hilary is a little too straight to be OK, tho she does have her hubby to fall back on if need be.

I don't understand what you're trying to say here. Too straight?

Jonathan Erdman said...

Failure to keep promises is not limited to Dems. The Rep. base is ticked off that no one "has a backbone" to pass strong, conservative legislation. The base of both parties seem to me to be expressing the same complaint.

Sam, I don't necessarily want to imply that I underestimate the public. I just want to be realistic that our "news" comes via a media blitz: We always have a buffer between us and truth. What we say is truth is always filtered. From a political perspective, then, we all (here in America) seem to have to pick people on our side to get our perspective on the "facts." The "facts," of course, are filtered. For example, in the 80s the Reagan administration started giving the evening news broadcasts their version of the news of the day. So, in that case, the news company had their facts filtered through reporters (who also had bias and filters of their own), and then they had a spin from the White House. The ultimate product of all of the spin was what we would see on tv each night.

The spin these days, I would say, is even worse. Makes one dizzy.

Melody said...

The spin these days, I would say, is even worse. Makes one dizzy.

News is a business. They put out what sells. Just like anything else.

They're supposed to be unbiased, but the truth is that unbiased doesn't sell.
It's boring to write, it's boring to read, people want to be entertained.

Even so, if you only presented the cold hard facts, you'd have to choose which facts and which stories. Even the order you present them in makes a difference.

I'm glad I don't write hard news. Too nerve wracking.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Melody:
Even so, if you only presented the cold hard facts, you'd have to choose which facts and which stories. Even the order you present them in makes a difference.

Absolutely correct.

samlcarr said...

Melody, I've always felt that Hilary is more a conservative at heart. She often sounds more neocon than her Republican cousins. Now Bill is a whole other kettle of fish... So, if the public (polls etc) express an opinion that swings towards nonconformity one can expect Bill to come off the sidelines and take on a much more visible role. Still I think everyone knows that as the first gent his opinions will be studiously ignored.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Sam,

How can you suggest that Hil is conservative? What about Hilary Care in the early nineties? Socializing the medical sector is more than little bit of a leaning to the left, it is far from centrist....at least as far as American politics are concerned.

Also, do you really think Bill's opinion is irrelevant??? I don't think so at all. I think he still wears the pants in the family, so to speak. Deep down, I think most Americans also think that. But maybe I'm projecting my thoughts on others.

ktismatics said...

"Socializing the medical sector is more than little bit of a leaning to the left."

From Wikipedia on 1993 Hillary Care: "The bill was a complex proposal running more than 1,000 pages, the core element of which was an enforced mandate for employers to provide health insurance coverage to all of their employees through competitive but closely-regulated health maintenance organizations (HMOs)."

This is socialized medicine?

Melody said...

Absolutely correct.

Right, so I guess I'd rather the bias be glaringly obvious than a very subtle leaving out of certain stories and more prominant arrangement of some facts etc.

A lot of slight of hand still goes on that you wouldn't notice unless you know to look for it, but mostly reporters are super obvious, so you know exactly where they're coming from before you've finished reading the headline.

I think they're doing themselves a disservice. Manipulating the facts works a lot better when it's not obvious you're doing it.

Sam, Hillary is Miss Socialist 2008. What do you find conservative about her?

Jon said, I think he still wears the pants in the family, so to speak. Deep down, I think most Americans also think that. But maybe I'm projecting my thoughts on others.

You're projecting...I don't think most people thought he wore the pants when he was in office. Hillary made it look like he did because when she tried to be upfront people hated her. It was just good politics. Good spin.
But even then I remember discussing with my friends how it was really Hillary running everything and this time around I've heard a lot of comments onlong the lines of "Hillary's running for a third term."

Kstimatics, I don't know about 1993, but I've heard Hillary talk about health care recently and she's compared it to what they have in Europe and...well you know better than I do I guess, but from what I hear it's pretty socialized and it's crap (this from friends who live/lived in France and Germany, my Canadian friends think it's great).

ktismatics said...

"Manipulating the facts works a lot better when it's not obvious you're doing it. Sam, Hillary is Miss Socialist 2008."

Case in point...

Melody said...

lol, I think that counts as an opinion, Kstimatics.

Manipulating the facts would be more like if I'd listed out all the things she's done that are socialist in nature without listing anything that she's done that wasn't and then said that she favors socialist projects.

I was never good in journalism. Red marks all over my homework. The whole unbiased thing. I'm sure you can see how that was a problem.

ktismatics said...

Hillary was the third of the three major Dem candidates to unveil her version of universal health coverage. Obama and Edwards say she doesn't go far enough, so if she's Miss Socialist I wonder what that makes the other two.

samlcarr said...

With Hilary, it's more just a feeling that I have rather than anything very concrete. The way she thinks and the things she really values 'on paper' look just a bit suspicious. I keep getting the feeling that she's a hawk in dove's clothing.

As to healthcare, there's absolutely no chance, NIX, that the U.S will end up actually socialising healthcare. Not just Pharma but in fact the entire medical community will never let that happen, there is simply tooo much money being made all round!

I've often wondered whether as believers we couldn't get together to take care of our health problems in-house, so to speak?

Melody said...

Obama and Edwards say she doesn't go far enough, so if she's Miss Socialist I wonder what that makes the other two.

I don't know, but they're sort of ineligible for the Miss Socialist pagent.

Sam: As to healthcare, there's absolutely no chance, NIX, that the U.S will end up actually socialising healthcare.

Thank-goodness.

I've often wondered whether as believers we couldn't get together to take care of our health problems in-house, so to speak?

There are some attempts to do that. As an uninsured person I keep looking into them, but they're all more expensive (for a single person) than health insurance.

I have read about a doctor who charges reasonable rates and doesn't take insurance because he believes if we would cut out the middle-man the world would be a better place...but he's somewhere like Texas or Oklahoma.

ktismatics said...

"I've often wondered whether as believers we couldn't get together to take care of our health problems in-house, so to speak?"

An added inducement for becoming a Christian: great health benefits!

samlcarr said...

Thanks Kt! My idea is that here is a great livelihood and a fantastic way to make money that one absolutely ruins (for money making) by making it a free service or at the least some sort of vague barter, I'll do what I can for you now if you'll do whatever you can for me whenever you can.

If we could start by getting folks to do at least this first as a 'sacrifice for other Xtians', it's not too big a stretch to get them to then see that it is actually an obligation that falls squarely under God's desire that one could "love your neighbor..." Or so I thought!

samlcarr said...

It is also a thought that what is being touted as medical care In the U. S. of A. really isn't. Just look what happens to your healthcare under stress (e.g. Katrina).

There's a great business flourishing in India providing state-of-the-art healthcare to Americans (without insurance) and Britishers (who would die if they waited for the NHS to do it).

ktismatics said...

The French go to Tunisia for low-cost high-quality care, mostly for elective treatments like cosmetic surgery. France has the top-rated healthcare in the world: access is great, and costs are very low compared to the US even if you aren't in the system and pay cash. It cost me 21 euros ($27) for a visit to my general practice doctor -- that's not just the copay, but the whole fee. A friend in Chicago had a treadmill stress test that cost something like $3,400; mine (on a stationary bicycle of course!) cost under $100. Plus the cardiologist wrote up the results on the spot and handed them to me.

Doctors in France have no nurses, no receptionists, practically no paperwork (the only payment plans are the government and cash, and they keep automated medical records), plus they don't make much more money than anybody else. Prescription drugs are really cheap too -- I guess the government is a tough negotiator with the pharmas.

samlcarr said...

Sorry Jon, we're way off topic now.
I wonder why Michael Moore didn't take a jaunt over to France. Freedom Fries indeed!

Here in India folks mostly come for open hearts, stenting, neurosurgery, cancer treatment and surgery, but the extras, dentistry, botox, facelifts are usually thrown in as add-ons for he primary patient or family members...

An MRI costs about $200, a stress test about $10 and having a stent put in (as I did recently) was all of $3,000.

There's nothing social mediciney about this, just that Indian doctors fees, and all the overheads, hospitalisation costs, are just low by U.S. standards.

ktismatics said...

I haven't seen Michael Moore's movie about healthcare, but I think he does commend the French system. He's amusing, but plagued by (or blessed with) Melody's inability to do unbiased reporting.

Sounds like India offers good bargains too, plus a lot (most?) of the doctors speak English. Kind of a long trip from the States, but with those price differences it might be worth it. In the States there's a pervasive bias against foreign-trained doctors, the presumption being that they couldn't have gotten into US medical schools and that the foreign schools are relatively primitive by American standards. It's a case of the consumer making the producer's sales job easier, and so keeping prices higher.

I don't know how the Indian healthcare system works, Sam, but in France the cost of living isn't much different from the States (except now, with the dollar falling rapidly relative to the euro, America might be cheaper). The low cost of French healthcare is a notable exception.

What constitutes socialism in medicine? As in the US, French doctors remain independent practitioners. As in the US, there are three parties to the economic exchange: the provider, the consumer, and the payer. In the States the payer is two-tiered: the insurer pays the doctors, the employer pays the insurer. In France one of those layers is removed. The US payment system is a kind of private socialism, where the premiums collected from healthy people pay costs incurred by the sick. The same situation applies in the France where the government acts in effect as a public insurance company.

Theoretically the employer negotiates health plans on behalf of their employees. In practice, health benefits are a cost center that cuts into bottom-line profits, and the plan administrator's main incentive is to reduce those costs. Certainly in a government-administered plan the incentive is to keep costs down too, because citizens don't like tax increases. But at least in a government-administered plan the cost savings go into the taxpayers' pockets rather than into the shareholders'.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Ktismatics:
From Wikipedia on 1993 Hillary Care: "The bill was a complex proposal running more than 1,000 pages, the core element of which was an enforced mandate for employers to provide health insurance coverage to all of their employees through competitive but closely-regulated health maintenance organizations (HMOs)."

This is socialized medicine?


Yes! It is socialized medicine! What doesn't matter is the actual content of the bill. What does matter is what Rush Limbaugh and others said was contained within the bill. Media spins reality.

Sam:
With Hilary, it's more just a feeling that I have rather than anything very concrete. The way she thinks and the things she really values 'on paper' look just a bit suspicious. I keep getting the feeling that she's a hawk in dove's clothing.

And this goes along with the above observation. I think Righties are suspicious of Hilary being a raging Lefty. Lefties are worried about Hilary being a Righty in Lefty clothing. But all this goes back to spin. Hillary, like Bill before her, goes for the dead center.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Sam:
I've often wondered whether as believers we couldn't get together to take care of our health problems in-house, so to speak?

There are programs like this out there. Some are legit. In other cases I have heard of major scam jobs.

There are orgs where you can pay for other believer's medical bills. This builds up your own "capital" account, which then results in others paying for your bills if you get sick. There are many variations of the theme. I would never do it, because it is too easy to scam religious folk.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Ktismatics:
A friend in Chicago had a treadmill stress test that cost something like $3,400; mine (on a stationary bicycle of course!) cost under $100. Plus the cardiologist wrote up the results on the spot and handed them to me.

It's kind of ironic, b/c as I am reading your comment just now I am out of state blogging on a computer in a hospital sitting next to a cardiologist....you just can't make these things up....The doc here says that a stress test will typically cost between $900-1,200 and that he can get the results in an hour, if a patient were willing to wait around. He believes there was something a bit unusual with the insurance company that would cause the price to be $3,000 for your Chicago friend. Or maybe it was just city prices. Regardless, he suggests that 900-1200 is a more typical stress test range.

Sam,
How would you rate the quality of heart health care over in India versus the U.S.? Is there a difference, in your opinion? Or do you think that by-and-large it is the same quality of care just lower overhead?

Also, if there is lower overhead in Indian, does this imply that the equipment is not as advanced in India as it is in the U.S.?

ktismatics said...

I wonder if your cardio buddy is factoring in all the costs, or if it's just his fee. The hospital also charges for its space and equipment and technicians, and that's usually a separate bill from the doctor. But even if it's an all-in price, the $900-1200 is still 10 TIMES the price in France. BTW, when I asked the cardiologist how come he used a stationary bike instead of a treadmill, he shrugged and said, "This is France; we like bicycles."

samlcarr said...

Hmmm. The short answer is that there are some very good hospitals here in India. There are also a very large number that have all the show but are really a mess.

I was standing by the bedside of a comatose patient in an ICU recently when suddenly her trace on the monitor went flat. I grabbed a wrist and felt a pulse and just about then the nurse from the monitoring station came rushing up and dived straight under the bed. I was quite startled till I realised that she was pulling on various wires and plugs and shortly the trace came back up. The nurse didn't even look at the patient but promptly went back to her seat... Now that was horrifying, for if she really had had an arrest, by the time the wiring had been all checked out she wouldn' even be revivable!

So, one would have to be very selective and not trust an agency but really have someone with inside knowledge batting for you before deciding to come to India for any treatment. I think very often the cost factor plays a big part and as long as the teatment course goes routinely, there should be no problem (and you got it done for a tenth of the cost) but if there are problems then you do want to be in a good place.

I think the equipment is generally on par. The doctors are also well trained (mostly) and have actually had a lot more clinical experience than docs in the U.S. with the same amount of seniority - that's just the caseload factor.

A typical doctor would be take home about $800 per month and qualified nurses about $300. Electricity and even building expenses are all low too. One thing that I think makes a huge difference is that the total markup due to value addition in meds, disposables, maintenance etc is much lower here.

Kt, a well-run nationalised healthcare system would be the best bet anyday but you don't want to do it the British way!