Monday, 22 March 2010

In Which I Fervently Hope I Am Not Speaking Too Soon

I am an expert in probability. It is what I do. All the rest of this poking my nose in politics and arguing with people about science fiction is just a side-show. Probability runs through my veins. Just as with any other science, I suspect, you eventually get to a point where you start to see the world differently, like Neo inside the Matrix. Everything becomes a long string of events, each with their own attendant probability distributions, stretching into infinity. Any attempt to pass comment on the future becomes an almost subconscious effort to reduce the topic under discussion into its constituent elements, each of which are considered according to one's own approximation of their probabilistic behaviour, before being reassembled into a coherent whole.

It's automatic. It's reflexive. It is who I am.

I tell you this purely to provide some context for how ridiculous it is that I fear declaring the HCR battle over and retiring to bed. The suggestion that such pre-emptive celebration might in some way "jinx" this fourteen-month long, horrendously complex process in which I played no direct role and almost certainly had not even the slightest of indirect effects upon either is entirely anathema to me.

And yet...

Screw it. Time to nut up. I'm calling it: by the time I wake up tomorrow, HCR will have passed. It already looks like it will pass by a greater margin than I had predicted, in fact. A very large number of people who were hoping to receive the help they have been denied for so long will breathe a sigh of relief, and a very large number of people I am not strong enough to stop myself hating will find their various crusades to eliminate all but the most contemptibly self-serving of government actions significantly harder.

Not everyone who opposed the bill falls in that camp, of course. Poor old Dennis Kucinich, before he made the right choice and pledged to vote "yes", had more than his fair share of reasonable points. This is not a perfect bill. It is not even a great bill. Even the fact that I'm prepared to call it a good bill says more about how hopelessly, miserably broken the American system is. Every time I step away from the minutiae of this exhaustingly drawn-out political battle and start considering the wider picture, I am utterly bewildered by the idea that there could be any argument over the suggestion that a society should not allow people through simple twists of fate to be denied the drugs they need to stop their bodies from eating themselves. But that's where America is, and so the HCR bill manages, in a true testament to the fundamental disgrace that is the human condition, to be both a pathetic affront to intelligence and decency and a truly historic moment in the history of that strangest and yet most familiar of countries.

So it's got problems. A shit-load of said. At some point, someone still needs to get the remaining 5% of people in the country insured, for a start. And the myriad problems and potential problems that the bill in itself throws up aren't our only concern; we also have to process the amount of crappy, crappy bones that had to be thrown at crappy, crappy people even to get this far. Pro-choice groups are reacting to the last-minute compromise between the White House and Stupak's posse - those people who choose the deaths of hundreds of thousands of their own people over the merest possibility that taxpayer dollars may fund a single abortion and are pleased to call it "principle" - with what can be best described as total fucking outrage. Depending on who you listen too, the text of the executive order places it somewhere between a piece of toothless kabuki that nevertheless symbolically strengthens the railings on either side of the gender gap, or an actual legal recognition of illegitimate patriarchal BS that anyone with any sense has been desperately been trying to forget about.

We didn't win nearly big enough, and we did it only at high cost. Too high, for some. But for tonight, I'm actually OK with that. Tomorrow, an awful lot of very smart people are going to sit down and talk about how we make this better. Josh and Jed are going to want to know what's next. How do we take the next step forward, and what can we do to repair some of the damage that always seems to get done on the way? Progressivism is many things, but right now it feels most like spinning an infinite number of plates.

That's tomorrow, though. Tonight, we won.


Jamie said...

GRRM puts an interesting perspective on the situation in his blog.

Glad to hear it was passed, flawed though it is!

Tomsk said...

Your first paragraph is depressing as I've never had a Neo moment with chemistry. Clearly I should change fields!

By the way, who are the remaining 5% and why aren't they covered by this bill?

SpaceSquid said...

Join me, my friend. Join me, and together we can rule this galaxy as, er, friend and friend.

My friend.

As to the five percent issue, I confess to not being entirely certain. Perhaps unsurprisingly, people are far more willing to talk about the 95% who are insured. What what I can gather, though, we're talking about those illegal immigrants who are de facto citizens. There may be other groups also not covered, but I don't know who they might be.

Garathon said...

"I suspect, you eventually get to a point where you start to see the world differently, like Neo inside the Matrix. Everything becomes a long string of events, each with their own attendant probability distributions, stretching into infinity."

--- Of course, Neo could see the outcome path beyond any decision he understood; the statistician can only see the superposition of all the paths, which can be very complex.