Thursday, August 27, 2009

An unfair meme...

...but one I might like to see propagated.

Republicans can't get put in charge of Medicare, ever. Why? Because as soon as they hear about hopes to control costs, the only thing they can think about is euthanasia and other forms of hastening death.

They can't even easily imagine people having other opinions on the matter; they're so lacking in imagination that they are unable to say "no, that's not the intent! What kind of hateful idiot would spread such a story?"

Of course, this meme is unfair for two reasons.

One, anyone reading this must know that they're just bullshitting[1] for partisan advantage.

Two, anyone willing to allow anyone to believe such a despicable lie shouldn't be put in charge of anything... Medicare is just the beginning!

Oh, ouch, that wasn't very nice, was it? Sorry folks... but it's also true, isn't it?

[1] As always, I try to keep the language family friendly, but "BS" simply doesn't carry the same weight.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

How smart is Obama?

With talk of the drop of the public option, I've been wondering how smart Obama is.

If he's not very smart, then he's actually willing to drop the public option. He's willing to cave. The Republicans will never give up trying to stop him at every turn. Just like Bill Clinton, who folded on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the Republicans will smell vulnerability and use it as often as they can.

On the other hand...

On the other hand, if he's been intending to push substantial health care reform, with the intention of showing that he's willing to work with the Republicans, but only if they'll work with him, he might just be smarter than many of us expected.

He's exposed the lengths to which the Republicans will go - lying about reimbursement for living wills counseling, lying about government control of health care, lying about socialization of our health care system. He's drawn out the batshit crazy - apologies for the language, but sometimes profanity is appropriate - and shown the dishonesty that the Republicans will use for partisan advantage.

He'll have given them every chance to get on board... and they'll have, quite clearly, said "no".

If he gets a good bill passed after all this, he'll look like a hero, and they'll all look like villains.

I hope that President Obama is exactly that smart. But now is not the time to trust him.

Call, write, and e-mail your Representative and Senators. Tell them you *demand* solid health care reform, with a strong public option. Tell them that if they can't lead on this, they deserve to lose their jobs, and you'll do your best to make that happen. And mean it.

If health care reform fails, it won't just be Congress, or the Blue Dogs or the Republicans... it'll be the people who wanted it, and didn't make the prospect of seeing it fail scarier than passing it.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Mammon: the Reagan Years

A lot of people think that Reagan caused a lot of damage to this country, and they're right. He set expectations of military spending so ridiculously high that the US spends more than almost the entire rest of the world combined on its military. He fought to bust unions, and he fought to support the rights of the wealthy to dump on the poor, and he fought to make people believe the very government he was in charge of was completely incompetent. He didn't succeed at that last bit, of course - it took George W. to turn "the government is the problem!" into something approaching truth.

But it wasn't Reagan so much as a part of the Reagan era that caused the most damage. It was during the Reagan era that the worship of money started in this country.

The lowering of the top tax rates were a part of it, but it was more of an attitude than a set of tax brackets. The attitude was that making money was a good and noble thing, in and of itself. For example, if you could sell 100,000 widgets at $5 profit per widget or could sell 90,000 at $6 profit, you should sell them at $6 a widget; otherwise, you're giving up $40,000 in profit. That you could make 10,000 additional would-be widget owners happy is nothing compared to the nobility in taking home an extra forty thou.

"But that's not a terrible thing!" you might say. And it's not... not if widgets are luxury items, at least; if they're some basic necessity, keeping them from 10,000 folks who need them isn't anywhere near as neutral.

Still, the attitude goes beyond "let's find the price-point that hits the profitability sweet spot." It also goes to "if you can get 10 workers to make you a million dollars a year, at a salary and benefits cost of $500,000, you should see if you can get 9 workers to do the same thing. Making a worker happy is nothing compared to the nobility of taking home an extra 50 thou."

And "if you can make a million bucks a year, but have to pay $100,000 in making sure your products are safe and your workers aren't being injured, you should see if you can lobby Washington to cut regulations so you can take home more money. The safety of your workers and consumers is nothing compared to the nobility of taking home some extra cash!"

And so on. Making money is all too often seen as noble and good for its own sake. And if something is good for its own sake, well, then, if it causes a bit of harm, we have to balance the harm it does with the good it does, don't we?

Sure, higher prices, layoffs, and loss of consumer and worker protections hurt... but think about how they help! Think of the money they allow people to make!

This wouldn't be nearly as ironic if the Republicans, who champion this idea, didn't push their Jesus-credentials so heavily. One of the biggest ideas Jesus constantly pushed was that you can't worship both God and money... first and foremost, you have to care about what's right, and loving, and what serves humanity - then you can figure out how to make some cash.

But then, if Jesus showed up at a Republican convention, he'd probably be one of those troublemakers who the police proudly haul away before they can be noisy or visible.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

What is the controversy?

There are a lot of people who speak about the "controversy over abortion". Well, there is one, there's no denying that, but most people don't' really recognize what it is. Oh, I don't mean what people claim it is - there are those who make false claims about all kinds of things, either because they're unable or unwilling to speak the truth.

No, I mean the actual controversy.

The controversy is this: does a single cell, without a brain, without a heart, without lungs, kidneys, liver, stomach, or any other organ, have more rights than we grant to any living, breathing person?

Now, don't get me wrong. If we resolved this controversy, there would be others. There would be questions about moral and pragmatic and legal issues. But at this time, this is the controversy.

Does a single cell have the right to attach to a person, and demand the right to continue to draw sustenance from that other person, even when that other person is unwilling to provide that sustenance?

(Technically, a single cell doesn't attach. However, there are a great many pro-lifers who say that if God, fate, blind luck, or whatever you want to call it, would deem that the fertilized egg would attach, it is wrong - or even "murder" - to prevent it from doing so.)

In any rational, free society, the answer is no. Carrying a baby to term is dangerous. It's not extremely dangerous (it's happened billions and billions of times, after all), but there is a real risk, to both life and health, to being pregnant. It's also uncomfortable, and can cause a variety of other problems.

Since I'm a no-name blogger, I can make this comparison, with little fear of it being twisted by liars: if it was not pregnancy, if it was some other medical condition, say, a tumor, it would only be the most heartless (or most idiotic) people who would forbid a woman the chance to remove that risk and discomfort with a simple and safe operation.

(I say "since I'm a no-name blogger" because if I were someone of importance, you can bet that there would be liars who would insist I just equated a developing fetus to a tumor. In fact, I just used a fictional medical condition as an allegory. Unfortunately, if you follow debates on abortion, you'll see that form of dishonesty used quite frequently.)

Since we would certainly allow a woman to get this operation if there wasn't a fertilized egg, a zygote or a developing fetus inside of her, then the question comes down to whether or not that fertilized egg, zygote, or developing fetus has the right to insist that the woman continue to bear that risk, and burden, despite her unwillingness to do so.

(I hope it's clear that no one else - not even the man whose sperm fertilized the egg - has the right to insist that she continue to bear that risk and burden.)

The pro-life side has an answer to that. Their answer is "it certainly does. From the moment of conception - from the moment it's a single cell, a fertilized egg, invisible (or nearly so) to the naked eye, it has a right to demand the woman undergo the risk and burdens of a full term pregnancy. If she is unwilling to undergo those risks and burdens, too bad."

But is that rational?

If there's any rational basis for when we are people, for when we have rights, it seems to me that it must lie in our brains. Remove a brain from a person, and what's left over is no longer a person, even if it's kept alive artificially. On the other hand, if we met a non-human creature, and realized they had the same self-awareness, ability to think, and dream, and love, and communicate, that we did, we'd consider them to be "people" too (or so I hope). It's the thinking/dreaming/loving/communicating parts of us that makes us people; it's our brains.

And a fertilized egg has no brain. (Literally - unlike those who think that George W. was a great President.)

Even at 12 weeks - and most abortions occur before 12 weeks - there is simply not enough brain matter to sustain life, let alone support what we think of as personhood.

This is not to say that there aren't people who have legitimate moral qualms about abortion (even abortions that occur prior to 12 weeks). People can have legitimate moral qualms over anything. Hell, people have legitimate moral qualms over masturbation. But the question isn't "can (or do) people consider it wrong?" the question is "should it be illegal? Should a free society put people in jail for doing this?"

So, in the end, that's the controversy over abortion. "Should we put people in jail if they refuse to bear the risks and burdens of a pregnancy, based upon our beliefs in the rights of a single cell (or small clump of cells, or even a developing fetus smaller than a peanut)?"

Someday, this controversy will be resolved, and we'll be able to hold sensible conversations on the other issues surrounding it. But until that day, that's what pro-choice folks are fighting against.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

A sample of what's wrong with this country's political climate

Do a search on "health care bill euthanasia" and you'll start to see results pop up where people are claiming that the health care reform bill "promotes euthanasia"

What the health care reform bill actually does is this.

Let's say you want to make our a living will to specify your end of life treatments. Do you want them to continue treatment as long as there's any hope at all? Cool; you can put that in a living will. Do you want them to let you die in peace, rather than keep you alive through artificial means? Cool; you can put that in a living will. You want continued treatment in on circumstance, and want them to stop trying in another? Cool; you can make sure your living will is put together so your wishes are known.

The health care reform bill says that, if you want counseling to help do that, insurance has to pay for it.

Now, in a sane world, anyone who claimed this "promotes euthanasia" would be branded an idiot (for failing to check the facts), or the most despicable form of liar (for knowingly spreading such a hateful lie), and would never be taken seriously again.

In a sane world, such a person wouldn't be listened to if they later claimed that Republicans wanted to cut taxes on the rich - "hey, you were so hideously wrong, or told such a despicable lie, that we can't trust you about anything anymore!"

But in today's world, they can spread the message around, and be listened to, and believed.

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