Thoughts on ‘mental gymnastics’ and public policy


A letter writer took me to task saying I was incorrectly using “mental gymnastics” in a pejorative sense regarding his thought process. He noted, “Wiktionary’s definition of mental gymnastics is “difficult and complex logical thought processes.”

True enough, but he didn’t look at Wiktionary’s definition number two: “Inventive, complex arguments used to justify unjustifiable decisions, or situations.” Therefore, I will say again the writer used stunning mental gymnastics attempting to prove the government shutdown was the fault of the Senate and the president. Many words have opposite definitions depending on usage.

The great majority of Americans hope we don’t have to go through the shutdown and debt-limit crises again and spend another $24 billion for no purpose except to make the tea party followers feel good about themselves.

I mentioned that most Republicans probably wouldn’t want to give up or take deep cuts to their Social Security and Medicare. The answer was, “The old trick of bringing up Medicare and Social Security is a fallacious red herring. Most people on both sides agree that those are now necessary and appropriate — although future funding is in serious jeopardy.”

Really? Jim DeMint, ex-senator and now head the conservative Heritage Foundation, recently said, “ ... health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid are ‘un-American’ and built on the principles of ‘socialism and collectivism.’ ”

George Bush tried to privatize Social Security in 2005 and Paul Ryan wanted to convert Medicare into a voucher program in both 2011 and 2012.

The ability to hold opposing thoughts in one’s head is generally thought to be positive. I back the president regarding the Affordable Care Act because I believe every American has a right to access health insurance.

On the other hand, I strongly oppose the president in the matters of the NSA, drones, fracking and the Trans Pacific Partnership treaty. This treaty, called NAFTA on steroids by some, would be a huge win for corporations and the very opposite for workers, consumers, the environment and national sovereignty.

Norm Osterman

Walla Walla


PearlY 1 year, 8 months ago

I assume you oppose recent NSA measures on grounds of privacy and personal liberty, and drone policy on grounds of privacy and personal security against extrajudicial killings. But you support Obamacare which is realistically a bigger threat to more Americans on those grounds than NSA and drones put together.

Why should I care about the government spying on my emails, phone calls and Internet usage when it is free to poke around in my counselor's files and doctor's notes, as it has for decades been free to poke around in my financial files? Why should I care about drones when the government is gradually accruing to itself the power to decide not just whether I should receive life-saving treatment at government expense, but even at my own expense?

"Un-American" like beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I don't know how anybody could reasonably argue that Social Security and Medicare (and now Obamacare) are NOT collectivist and socialist programs in principle. Just because those are dirty words to a lot of people doesn't cause them to lose all meaning.


jubilado 1 year, 8 months ago

PearlY— You should worry about the NSA because it's trashing the 4th Amendment search and seizure guarantees. Many people on your “side” in the comments would be out in the streets if the 2nd Amendment was being trashed to the same extent.

You should worry about drones because of “collateral damage” they cause. Totalitarian states use “prophylactic justice.” If you know that the person you want to kill is in a room and you also know that 100 perfectly innocent people are in the room, you blow up the room with a clear conscience because the state's desires are more important than the lives of innocent people. “If you want to make an omelet, you must be willing to break a few eggs”--Lenin

To clear up some things about “socialism,” a term loosely bandied about, consider this:

To have a truly socialist healthcare system (like England's NHS) the hospital and clinics would be owned by the government and the doctors would be salaried employees of the government. Medicare is a single payer system, but care is given by private doctors. The ACA isn't a single payer system and entrance into the system is through private insurance. The two most socialist health systems in the U.S. are the Indian Health Service and the VA. Should we kick those “taker” verterans off their health care even though they served and afought for America?

In the economic sphere socialism is defined as:
so·cial·ism [Merriam Webster online dictionary] noun ˈsō-shə-ˌli-zəm : a way of organizing a society in which major industries are owned and controlled by the government rather than by individual people and companies The Soviet Union was a socialist system , except for the fact “some were more equal than others.” Communist party members had their own stores with better quality goods. And, yes, this system was wildly inefficient and it did kill incentive. More food was grown on private plots than on the huge state farms.

Even Sweden isn't a socialist country in the economic sense. Volvo and other companies are not owned by the state, they are private. Sweden uses a high tax rate to fund free university education, day-care, long maternity leave, etc.

The Nordic countries of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland are ahead of the Unisted States in many areas of measureable “success.” The UK Telegraph noted: “On Tuesday Legatum published its 2012 Prosperity Index, which ranks 142 countries - covering 96pc of the world's population and 99pc of global GDP.” The United States dropped out of the top 10, to 12th place followed by the UK and Germany. The U.S. only has “the best healthcare system in the world” if you throw out the 30 million without insurance, the fact that insurance companies have a history of dropping sick people and won't take many “prior condition” people and your quality of healthcare goes up in direct proportion to your wealth.


namvet60 1 year, 8 months ago

In theory you have a nice letter Norm if you are preaching to your liberal base with the same ole rhetoric. I also see that you have moved away from Obamacare with the President running away from another one of his signature failures now wanting it called ACA. In your next letter maybe you could address NERAL and Planned Parenthood which Obamacare supplies funding? So many subjects and so little space to liberalize the topics.


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