Black Shards Press – Electronic Gumbo is Our Specialty

Equality in Fact, Law, and Medicine

31.10.2008 (12:31 pm) – Filed under: Health,Medicine ::

Dennis Prager’s comment that equality is not an American value stirred up a few left-wingers like Ali at ThinkProgress.  His aghast reaction, like those of many TP commenters, was based on a superficial reading of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  Neither document guarantees equality in fact, merely in law.  We come into this world with equal legal standing but what we make of it may, does, and should result in very different outcomes. 

For some, certain results can be negative when costs, as in the health care business, are apportioned.  The NY Times says that women are charged more for health insurance.  But must our health care premiums be identical because all men (and women) are created equal under the law?

Prager, whose "right-wing" radio show I have never heard, said this about America’s founding principles:

The French Revolution is not the American Revolution. The French Revolution said Liberty, Fraternity, Equality. The American Revolution said Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

The differences aren’t that subtle.  Life vs. Fraternity, Pursuit of Happiness vs. Equality.  America’s version of human rights is that we have the right to pursue our own successes whereas the French promote homogeneity.  Capitalism vs. Socialism, just as it’s played out.

Part of chasing after success in America is the earning of wealth.  There are certainly other, better things in life than money, but financial success is near the top of most people’s list.  We achieve success by working harder and smarter than the other guy, and by managing our investments and risks.  Freedom demands that we make our choices and live with the consequences.  For business owners and stockholders, that means setting prices for goods and services at profitable, sustainable levels.

It necessarily follows that a company providing services to a demographic that demands more than another group must charge the former more to obtain the same level of profitability across the groups.  So does it cost more to provide health care services to women than men?

The Times:

Thomas T. Noland Jr., a senior vice president of Humana, said: “Premiums for our individual health insurance plans reflect claims experience — the use of medical services — which varies by gender and age. Females use more medical services than males, and this difference is most pronounced in young adults.”

If Noland is correct, Humana and others are entirely justified in charging women higher premiums for health insurance than they charge men.  The only valid counter-argument that doesn’t rely on a derivative of social engineering would be that he’s wrong.

Marcia D. Greenberger, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center, an advocacy group that has examined hundreds of individual policies, said: “The wide variation in premiums could not possibly be justified by actuarial principles. We should not tolerate women having to pay more for health insurance, just as we do not tolerate the practice of using race as a factor in setting rates.”

Not everyone agrees:

Elizabeth J. Leif, a health insurance actuary in Denver who helps calculate rates for Nebraska and other states, said: “Under the age of 55, women tend to be higher utilizers of health care than men. I am more conscious of my health than my husband, who will avoid going to the doctor at all costs.”

That may say something about the long-term health prospects of men who are often unable or unwilling to get time off work to visit the doctor or recuperate during an illness or injury.  The facts support that claim:  men die earlier than women in the U.S. and, to spoof the old joke, it’s not entirely because they want to.  Regardless, women who use more services should pay for doing so.

Recognizing this basic truth, others make the suggestion that women’s health care should be subsidized by men because of the high cost of pregnancy care and baby’s delivery.

Mila Kofman, the insurance superintendent in Maine, said: “There’s a strong public policy reason to prohibit gender-based rates. Only women can bear children. There’s an expense to that. But having babies benefits communities and society as a whole. Women should not have to bear the entire expense.”

Kofman has a point.  However, women do not in fact bear the entire expense of maternity care, etc. 

The CDC says that 63% of childbirths in the U.S. are to married couples, meaning that these women’s health care costs have effectively already been averaged with their husbands.  This leaves 37% of women do pay higher medical costs because of pregnancy and related complications.

Given that society wants to continue to try to hold down the number of out-of-wedlock births – a bold assumption in these troubled times, but still a safe one, I think – simply allowing the market apportion costs per the consumption of medical services would put financial constraints on single women and achieve some of the desired result.

Crystal D. Kilpatrick, a healthy 33-year-old real estate agent in Austin, Tex., said: “I’ve delayed having a baby because my insurance policy does not cover maternity care. If I have a baby, I’ll have to pay at least $8,000 out of pocket.”

I can certainly see why women believe that this is unfair.  But is it?  Saying men and women should pay the same rates for health care is equivalent to saying that the government should transfer wealth from married couples and single men to single women in order to allow them to pay below-market prices for health insurance. 

Nice as such a thing would be to some women, that’s not the purpose of government.

Should Everyone Vote? Really?

29.10.2008 (6:34 am) – Filed under: Politics ::

John Stossel says, “Let me be politically incorrect and say that maybe some people shouldn’t vote.” 

How dare he say such a thing?!  But many Americans don’t know anything about the issues of the day or the candidates themselves beyond the “D” or “R” beside their names.  Of what value is their opinion about government and the national direction?

Stossel quotes Marc Brownstein of the voter registration organizing group HeadCount:

“Democracy is not about taking the most educated portion of the society and having them decide who’s going to run the entire society. Democracy is about every individual having a voice.”

That’s certainly part of the American equation.  But being informed about important matters also counts for something.  As I wrote yesterday, simply voting for Candidate X because he/she gives you a bigger piece of the federal goverment’s giveaway pie is not a good thing.  In fact, it’s a long-term disaster.

Economist Bryan Caplan, author of “The Myth of the Rational Voter“, says it perfectly. 

“This is very much like saying, it’s our civic duty to give surgery advice,” Caplan said. “We like to think that political issues are much less complicated than brain surgery, but many of them are pretty hard. If someone doesn’t know what he’s talking about, it really is better if they say, look, I’m going to leave this in wiser hands.”

“Is it elitist to say only some people should do brain surgery? If you don’t know what you’re doing, you are not doing the country a favor by voting.”

That’s one of the problems with groups like ACORN running around registering everyone who’s breathing.  Not only are they turning in thousands of fraudulent registration forms – as if that’s not reason enough to shut them down – but the majority of the people they’re so proud of signing up to vote either don’t give a damn about voting or don’t have a clue who to vote for based on anything more than what that nice young man from the ‘burbs said while he was signing me up.

Yes, every American who is even halfway up to speed about the challenges our country faces should absolutely get out to the polls next Tuesday and vote. 

But be honest:  if you don’t know who and what you’re voting for, help the rest of us out and stay home!

Obama’s Wealth Redistribution – He Likes It and We Like Him For It

28.10.2008 (9:12 pm) – Filed under: Conservatism,Finance,Liberalism,Politics ::

Chris Coffey says, “Of course Senator Obama wants to redistribute wealth. The real story is that Republicans are still trying to convince voters of such an obvious point just one week before the election.”

McCain and Palin can try as hard as they want to sell that can of Spam as Grade A Beef but it ain’t gonna work.  It’s certainly true that the basis of liberalism is confiscatory taxation and welfare.  The problem that fiscal conservatives have is that too many Americans have come to accept the liberal premise as gospel.  Where have all our principles gone?

I mean that question sincerely because, to the extent that people cast their vote for Candidate X because they will be granted more governmental largess than if the other guy/gal is elected, we have a serious problem with the electoral system. 

Such a voting pattern will inevitably lead to the wrong leaders being chosen because all a politician must do to be elected is promise to spend more tax dollars than the competition.  That’s a recipe for disaster in a country that already has massive entitlement programs and even larger debts that it’s been unsuccessful paying down.

Moreover, the “I-vote-for-big-spenders-because-I-get-bigger-checks” pattern is self-reinforcing.  People who vote themselves a tax reduction in 2008 while increasing taxes on corporations aren’t going to undo that change in 2012 because then they’d be giving “their” money away.  Conversely, voters who are left out of the 2008 redistribution are going to attempt to get a piece of what’s left of the pie in 2012.

Coffey says that this math doesn’t work for Barack Obama or anyone else.  Here’s why:

The good news is that Obama’s plans to redistribute wealth do not add up.  He cannot cut taxes on 95% of working families, provide universal health care and balance the budget, as promised.

The bad news is that we do not really know what Barack Obama will do as president.  Will he increase the deficit even more?  Raise taxes on additional families?  Give us universal health care? Or chart a different path all together?

We do know that if Obama fulfills his spending promises, then he will have to raise taxes on the middle class if he expects to balance the budget. That means even more wealth redistribution.

By then it will be too late for ordinary, productively-employed Americans to stop him.  First Obama will tax the rich and few will complain.  The wealthy ought to pay more than their fair share, after all.  Noblesse Oblige.  But the liberals will come for the middle class after the rich have been bled out. 

This is all for our own good, you understand.  We need the progressive’s entitlements to survive:  universal health care, social security, medicare, welfare, affirmative action, et al – each program is necessary for the country to continue to progress.  Or so they say.

It’s been said that democracy works until the people realize that they can vote themselves checks from the government.  Well, the people have known it for some time now and the politicians have responded in kind:  elections are now a race to see who can gift the most favorable offerings to the most people whilst pretending to be doing the opposite.

What has happened to the idea that we earn our pay according to the value of our labor?  That we’re not entitled to any financial compensation except what we earn?  That other people’s money is theirs by right and we have no claim on it?

This isn’t Social Darwinism or Cutthroat Capitalism – it’s simple ethical behavior.  And what’s right doesn’t change based on where one is in the economic food chain, no matter how much we pretend or how hard the politicians sell it during the campaign.

Uber-Liberal Hypocrites Guillotine Bush

28.10.2008 (7:40 am) – Filed under: Liberalism,Politics ::

After all the left’s gnashing of teeth over comments allegedly made at a Republican presidential rally, the pic below shows the core belief of their far left fringe.  A little over the top, no? 

Even if some moron did shout "Kill him!" about Obama at a Palin event, the elaborate death-contraption these Obama supporters constructed and paraded around Denver is far more indicative of a delusional state of mind than a random bigot’s over-addled emotions.

image

In a way this sickening display is actually appropriate – liberalism embraces the culture of death in its unflagging, unquestioning support of abortion, its repression of Christian expression, and its absolute insistence on wealth redistribution, the outright theft of the results of other people’s work.

That’s the change that’s coming.  Enjoy.

h/t LGF

NYC Caves to Bloomberg

23.10.2008 (5:06 pm) – Filed under: Politics,Term Limits ::

The NY Times says that the New York City Council has changed the city’s term limits law to allow Mayor Michael Bloomberg to seek – and undoubtedly win – a third term.

After a spirited, emotional and at times raucous debate, the New York City Council voted, 29 to 22, on Thursday afternoon to extend term limits, allowing Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to seek re-election next year and undoing the result of two voter referendums that had imposed a limit of two four-year terms.

In other words, the city council decided to reject NYC voters’ demand for changes in leadership.  Hopefully they will be punished at ballot box for their unrepresentative, unwise vote today.

Jason wondered recently what people might actually vote for rather than against.  Term limits is a subject that virtually everyone should agree is a good thing.  I recently wrote a bit that expresses some of my thoughts on the subject.  An excerpt:

Another way to get some fresh blood and increased accountability back into Washington would be to implement term limits.  Frankly speaking there’s no good reason for people like Joe Biden or Trent Lott to make a life’s work out of sitting in Congress.  Serving so close to the center of power corrupts people and we need to be protected from them.  Given the incumbent advantage, the simplest way to realize this goal is for their departure to be made mandatory.

The argument that experience is required to fulfill one’s responsibilities in Washington is fallacious.  Oh, it’s true enough given the effectively lifetime reigns of Robert Byrd and Strom Thurmond, both of whom went senile while sitting in the Senate.  Remove these permanent fixtures and a more meritorious mechanism for distributing power will quickly surface.

There’s no justification to the argument that the quality of government would suffer if term limits were implemented.  Seriously, Congress has what, a 10% approval rating – how much worse could it get? 

America’s two-party system provides an unfortunate advantage to the well-connected when it comes to getting elected and a head start when it comes to staying in office.  By the time the voters are involved it’s often too late to make a difference, particularly if the incumbent is of your party’s affiliation.  What choice does one have in that situation come November?  Zip.

The best way to improve the health of our government is to have new blood pumped into the patient and to do that we may have to bleed some of the bad stuff out.  Why not go easy on the leeches and use term limits instead?

Causal Connections

21.10.2008 (6:18 am) – Filed under: Democracy,Terrorism ::

Dayle Hadden wrote this article for CNN about Congolese rebels’ violent, repeated, and systematic rape of village women that you should all read in order to refresh your sense of horror and outrage at what is being happening in that region, acts and consequences vile enough to make one ill.  Hadden:

Their pain is evident. A few women can barely walk or have to shuffle along with a large stick for support, as if they are very old — and in a way, they are. All these women have been violently raped.

I pass them as they wait to see the doctor. Puddles of liquid have collected under some of the women sitting on the courtyard benches. The smell of their urine hits me.

I catch the movement of balled up rags nervously crammed into their laps as they try to stop the flow.

I walk by with my eyes drawn downward. As I look up, I meet their eyes. They quickly look away, embarrassed that I have seen. I look away as well.

The women’s inability to control their bowels and urine comes from repeated rapes. The medical term is fistula. The walls of their uterus and bladder have been broken from repeated gang rapes by rebel soldiers, objects shoved roughly inside them and even guns fired into their vagina.

“A man with a gun can do whatever he wants,” Cecile Mulolo, the psychologist at Panzi tells me.

It’s 5 AM in Texas and I ought to be asleep.  But this post, feeble as it is, demands to be written.  I went to bed without doing so, needing the rest before another work day, but Hadden’s words won’t allow it.

A continent away, the Taliban’s Muslim terrorists executed a British woman working for Serve Afghanistan, a charity she represented in Kandahar.  Her crime? 

“We killed her because she was working for an organisation which was preaching Christianity,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said.

There’s a causal connection between the two events:  the mad, hateful promotion of self against other, cocksure religious and tribal zealotry that literally demands the death of anyone and any social structure that conflicts with “the way”.

Michael recently published Kourosh Ziabari’s diatribe against freedom of choice in which he decried westerners’ right to choose any religion or none at all.  Too much freedom, he implied, is a bad thing.  He then went on with the pat Muslim harangue about the west’s crimes against Islam:  the destruction of a few Korans, the Mohammed cartoons, etc., that we’ve all become familiar with.

It’s certainly within Ziabri’s rights as human being – inalienable rights, to most of us, though ironically not in his own mind – to hold and right about his opinions.  But they are just that, as any given copy of the Koran is merely ink on paper, and it must be understood that his is very nearly the most gentle method of retribution in the arsenal of the truly intolerant.  There are many others, some horribly cruel, that the enemies of freedom employ on a daily basis.

In response to my return post, Kaspar mocked me for advocating tolerance to the opposition while opposing the changes they desire.  In a way his mocking is justified, but not in the way he thinks.

In the west, we enjoy a prosperous, almost peaceful social order that simply doesn’t exist in other parts of the world.  Our bitter ideological battles, fierce as they seem, are trivial compared to the ludicrous extent to which zealots in the Congo, for instance, or in Afghanistan, will go to purge themselves of the other for fear that their kind will not survive on merit alone.

Unfortunately, it’s only rarely that a news report like Ms. Hadden’s penetrates into our consciousness and reminds us of the violent facts of life that are still predominate in many other parts of the world.

In that sense it is foolish to allow ourselves to be divided by the partisan debates over tax rates and the mechanisms for providing food and energy to our citizens.  There is so little to argue about, in the grand scheme of things, that both the argument and tolerance for those on the other side seem trivial.  In that sense Kaspar was correct to call me on it.

Yet nothing could be more essential than tolerance of the opposition to ensure that democratic and republican forms of government continue to exist and function as they ought.  The collapse of functioning governments leads directly to atrocities in the Congo, in Afghanistan, and elsewhere.  Is it too much to ask for civility?  Or to accept defeat when you are in the minority and don’t get your way on a particular issue, even if your group is slighted, even legitimately?

I can only scowl in disbelief upon reading Hadden’s account of the Congolese women’s shattered bodies and souls.  How can such a thing be allowed to happen?  And how, given the assassination of charity workers in Afghanistan can men like Ziabari trumpet the fanciful moral superiority of their creed?

More than any other words I’ve ever read, Hadden’s article demonstrates the utter necessity of the U.S. – and all other western nations – to act as the world’s policeman in foreign lands such as Congo. 

I’ve never seen it so clearly before, so I had to write it down.

Sarah Palin on SNL…ZZZzzz….

18.10.2008 (11:11 pm) – Filed under: Humor,Media ::

I stayed up to watch Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live, wondering if John was right to fear that Palin would embarrass herself or the SNL team would do it for her.

That didn’t happen.  In fact, the show was a completely humorless bore save for a hilarious two-minute “Palin Rap” by Amy Poehler. 

SNL didn’t embarrass Palin, but they didn’t use her either beyond the inane opening sequence and as a prop for the rap song (the lady’s got rhythm, BTW).  Lame, lame, lame, lame.

Dividing America

18.10.2008 (11:38 am) – Filed under: Conservatism,Liberalism,Media,Politics ::

An oft-repeated refrain is that Americans are more divided than ever before.  Now David Neiwert says that Republican Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann should be censured for saying the media investigate members of Congress who hold anti-American views.  True, Bachmann’s statement is not worthy of a Congresswoman.  But there’s more to consider, as I discuss below.

First, if Neiwert is honest he’d admit that Chris Matthews was obviously trying to taunt Bachmann into saying that Barack Obama is anti-American. 

Why?  Because that’s what he does.  But if journalists were dogs, they shouldn’t be rottweilers like Matthews or Keith Olbermann when we’d be better served by bloodhounds in search of the truth.

Second, the truth – as Backmann ought to know – is that the Congress is unlikely to be harboring any true anti-Americans.  It does include a significant minority of representatives who hold leftist political, social, and economic views that result in policies that are bad for the country.  These people will acquire potentially unchecked power when Mr. Obama is elected president in just over two weeks and the potential for Democrats to do great misdeeds over the next two years, at a minimum, is quite high.  This creates a climate of fear that is at least partially justified.

Third, at a time in which great power is transitioning to the opposition it may seem to conservatives as though the congressional left are anti-American when in fact they are only wrong.  Republicans need to get a sense of perspective on the situation that they themselves created through their own incompetence.

Dave Winer recently wrote that when Republicans “attack people who support their opponents, they’re attacking half of the country they say they love and supposedly put first.”

Dave doesn’t say who is is that is being attacked by Republicans, but if we’re talking about Bill Ayers, Jeremiah Wright, and Tony Rezco, these are people whose relationship with the next POTUS deserves to be understood.  Frankly, it does show poor judgment for Obama to accept a land-deal kickback from Rezco and to accept guidance from and give money to Ayers, a man who has no business whatever molding young minds.

Dave’s piece came out before the “Joe the Plumber” phenomena that’s resulted in left-wing investigations into the personal life and finances of an ordinary man who did nothing more than ask Barack Obama the question that every American has the right to know the answer to, “What does your tax plan really mean to me?”

The attacks on Joe Wurzlebacher are much, much worse than the inquiries, however pointed, into Obama’s relationships with Ayers, et al, because:

  • He’s a simple, ordinary citizen with no defenses
  • Some of the truth the attackers don’t wish to be known was revealed by his question

The latter is telling.  Barack Obama wants to “spread the wealth around”.  That is the truth, albeit one that cannot be said aloud in American politics.  Wurzlebacher got Obama to do that and the Democrats’ immediate response was to rape him media-style for accidentally causing Obama to speak the core of the leftist economic agenda aloud.

Barack Obama is hardly unique in his socialistic views – wealth redistribution is the whole of the base on which leftist politics are based.  But spreading the wealth around can only occur by taking from those who have and giving to those who do not.  That’s the left’s economic policy in a nutshell – the government as Robin Hood – and honest liberals admit as much.

Consider this simplified example:  The government needs $1M in financing for Project X and there are 1000 citizens to provide it.  How to proceed?

  • Option 1 – let the people pay as much of the project as they wish and no more.  If they refuse, the project is killed.
  • Option 2 – tax each person $1000 so each pays a fair share
  • Option 3 – tax each person X% of income such that $1M is raised
  • Option 4 – tax those with the most income at a high rate so that they pay for virtually all of the project and the poorest pay nothing

Which of these options is the fairest?  And remember, be honest with yourself.

Obviously liberals strongly prefer the last option despite its inherent lack of fairness.  But does that mean that all liberals are anti-American?  Of course not, a fact Matthews and Backmann both realize.

Many of leftists love America as much as I do.  That’s sometimes hard to accept, especially when I consider how much their social and welfare policies have done to destroy this country.  But it’s true and deserves to be acknowledged/

Similarly, Barack Obama’s desire to increase the amount of wealth redistribution the government carries out must be recognized if we’re going to tell each other the truth about how America will be governed over the next 4 years.

Unfortunately, the truth is something that’s in short supply in certain circles in this country.  It’s truly regrettable that one such circle is the American media, which has essentially thrown itself in league with Barack Obama and the rest of the liberal left.

It’s notable that Mr. Obama himself is not above trying to spin the media situation, as when he recently attempted to flame Fox News, saying “I am convinced that if there were no Fox News, I might be two or three points higher in the polls”.

I’m sure that’s true.  Without Fox News’ right-leaning coverage there would be no alternative to the liberal media view that dominates in this country.  Given such a monopoly on information dissemination it’s certain that Obama would be doing even better than he is. 

However, the truth is that if media were less ideological and more focused on unearthing and reporting facts than prognosticating Barack Obama would have lost in the Democratic primaries and we wouldn’t be talking about him right now as the left’s political champion.  But he is that champion and much of the media is fighting hard for him to win the presidency.

Witness Katrina Vandenheuvel, Chris Matthews’ side-kick for the Bachmann segment, as she provides a prime insight into how liberal, unfair, and unrepresentative MSNBC is in its coverage.  After Bachmann signs off she said:

Chris, I fear for my country. I think what we just heard is a congresswoman channeling Joe McCarthy, channeling a politics of fear and loathing and demonization and division and distraction. Not a single issue mentioned. This is a politics at a moment of extreme economic pain in this country that is incendiary, that is so debased, that I’m almost having a hard time breathing, because I think it’s very scary. Because this is a country I love, and this woman had no sense of the history of this nation, which is one of struggle, of trying to fulfill the great ideals of this nation, of movements that have brought about the civilizing advances of this country, and she doesn’t even know who Saul Alinsky is — a community organizer who channeled the views of the people from below.

I think Barack Obama is going to win, and he’s going to have a lot of work because there is an extremism unleashed in this nation which you just heard on this program, which could lead to violence, and hatred, and toxicity. And against the backdrop of the Great Depression we’re living through, it could lead — and I don’t use this word lightly — to a kind of American fascism, which is against the great values of this nation, and which people like that are fomenting.

Admittedly it was stupid of Ms. Bachmann to let herself get bullied into saying the media should expose anti-Americanism in Congress. 

But does Vandenheuvel’s diatribe admonish Bachmann for her real mistake?  No, it’s a pure ideological rant that lionizes the glorious social revolution of the left and tars anyone who dares to think otherwise as violent and hateful.  Worse, it is virtually all falsehoods designed explicitly to make murderers out of Republicans. 

Is this a moment of extreme economic pain in this country?  No.  Compared with the Ford and Carter years Americans are fair better off than they were then.

Are we living against the backdrop of the Great Depression?  Are we in another?  No and no.  A much-needed correction of the housing and stock markets took place and we’ll recover.  The truth is that neither our stocks nor our homes were worth what the liars on Wall Street were telling us.  But 6% unemployment is not high, even compared with the Carter years and no one was screaming, “Depression!” then like they are now.

Are Michelle Bachmann and other Republicans deliberately stoking the fires of prejudice, racism, and class warfare?  No.  They simply are desperate to see some sort of check placed on the liberals who are about to control all 3 elected forces of government.

In fact, liberalism is the political ideology that creates class warfare as part of its very definition.  Wealth redistribution, the bedrock on which leftist economics are built, inextricably embeds class discrimination into the movement and the two cannot be separated.

That’s why so much hinges on Barack Obama and the leadership that he may or may not provide America over the next 4 years.  It’s up to him to control the forces of liberalism, the very forces that propelled him, against the odds and all reason, to where he is now.  The great irony is that so little is truly known about this all-important man because his record of public service is virtually a blank slate. 

Obama is a gifted orator and a political cipher, a man who may well not be ready or able to fulfill the duties of the office he’s about to take.  But it’s the state of the Congress and its control by the Democrats that really frightens people, not Barack Obama.

Winer says about conservatives, “if you love America, it seems you must love the people who voted for Gore, Kerry and Obama too.”

That’s true.  Christ commands us to love our neighbors, though they may spite us for it.  This is true even if our fellow Americans are liberals.  But loving them is not the same thing as allowing them to force leftist politics and social agendas on the country.

The best way for Americans to love each other, it seems to me, and to heal the divisions that we’ve inherited, created anew, and allowed others to exploit, is to always tell each other the truth.

The truth is the rock on which relationships and societies can be built, you understand.  Ideologies fail and are swept away by history.  But the truth remains unchanged, obscured at times by the raging storm of events but never altered.  To the extent we acknowledge and celebrate the truth America is a land of hope, justice, and prosperity; to the extent we obfuscate, we are all diminished.

A Hate Letter to the Party System

15.10.2008 (11:15 pm) – Filed under: Politics,Term Limits ::

The American political system is a drag at times like these, when one is about to become disenfranchised in Washington.  Barack Obama will have an all-Democrat, all-the-time Congress to work with and, unlike the Republicans’ little train wreck this far this century, they’re probably going to get a lot of their agenda made into law.

The problem with the result, aside from the obvious liberal, neo-socialist outcome, is that it’s driven by the party system, a corrupt, artificial channeling of votes into pork-laden, least-common-denominator policies preferred by the powerful.  Where can a true maverick fit into our current system now that the national party bosses have a stranglehold on the electoral process all the way down to the local level?

In fact, the 2 major parties completely dominate politics at the highest level to the extent that 3rd party candidates are completely excluded from the presidential debate process.  It’s effectively impossible for anyone not willing to kow-tow to one of the parties to become the leader of this nation.  That’s bad because the best thing that could happen to Washington D.C. is for a true outsider to be elected president with a mandate to whip their sorry rear ends into shape.

Wouldn’t Sarah Palin be great in that role?  She’s not the best person to lead the U.S., particularly with the financial and international issues that we’re facing, but a Palin presidency could result in the bursting of a ego-bubbles on Capitol Hill.  Sadly, that’s not going to happen for at least a few more years.

Another way to get some fresh blood and increased accountability back into Washington would be to implement term limits.  Frankly speaking there’s no good reason for people like Joe Biden or Trent Lott to make a life’s work out of sitting in Congress.  Serving so close to the center of power corrupts people and we need to be protected from them.  Given the incumbent advantage, the simplest way to realize this goal is for their departure to be made mandatory.

The argument that experience is required to fulfill one’s responsibilities in Washington is fallacious.  Oh, it’s true enough given the effectively lifetime reigns of Robert Byrd and Strom Thurmond, both of whom went senile while sitting in the Senate.  Remove these permanent fixtures and a more meritorious mechanism for distributing power will quickly surface.

Washington’s complexity is in large part due to the entrenched powers that are protected by the very complexity that rejects outside interference.  Representatives whose terms are limited have no need to protect their positions – there’s nothing to protect.  The natural response would be to create streamlined systems so that actual work can be accomplished in the little time an elected official has in office.

Sneaking term limits past the U.S. Congress and into law would be akin to pulling a Radio Flyer wagon up to Fort Knox and asking for it to be filled up with gold bullion.  Not going to happen unless there’s a truly special individual willing to make change happen no matter what.

One characteristic of this person would be a fundamental belief that he/she should do what is right at all times, regardless of party affiliation.  The two-party system rejects these people automatically, but occasionally one will slip through.  A real agent of change always votes his conscience and that cannot be allowed in the 2-party system.  Real rebels are not wanted here.

I’ll be voting against Chet Edwards, the Democratic representative from Texas, this fall.  As Chuck points out, he’s somewhat out of touch with his constituency in a very conservative district, and he’s been in office for too long as it is.  But one thing that can be said is that Edwards at least pays lip service to a fundamentally important idea:  voting one’s conscience.

Edwards said any action he takes in Congress is guided by independence and reason, rather than by partisan politics.

Chuck sees this as a problem but I disagree.  Voting one’s conscience is essential in a representative.  Assuming that’s what Edwards has done, his beliefs are out of step with the people in his district, as Chuck says.  But the solution is for the voters to elect new representation, not for Edwards to vote per polls instead of his own values.

Barack Obama claims to be this change agent that’s needed in Washington.  Though his record indicates otherwise there is always a chance that once he’s elected he could turn on the Democratic party that shepherded him into power and rule, as Edwards says, according to his independent judgment and reason.

Lipstick-covered pigs could fly, too.

Our best chance at revitalizing the democratic process in this country is to pursue a Constitutional amendment to limit the terms of the House and Senate as the presidency is limited.  Not only would this churn the waters in Washington but it would have the effect of aerating the parties themselves by forcibly injecting new personalities and values into the parties themselves.  While not as optimal as having a viable 3rd party option to vote for, change within the existing parties would certainly benefit Americans by making elected service a job with limited longevity.

What say you?

Forgotten Purposes

14.10.2008 (11:54 am) – Filed under: Business,Medicine,Stupidity ::

A 61-year-old man faces an early death.  Fortunately, a drug exists that *might* help.  Doctors, recognizing the case is imminently terminal, recommend trying it.  The FDA grants special approval for the treatment.  And money is not an issue.

What could go wrong?

Frederick Baron may be about to find out.

Seems that Biogen is refusing his doctors permission to use Tysabri in his case despite all of the pleading that people – important people – have done on his behalf.  His son Andrew wrote to Biogen president James Mullen:

Though the drug has never been used before in this way, and because time is running out, the head of the FDA, Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach has granted special approval for use of the drug for this purpose but you have personally decided “no”.

Lance Armstrong, who you spoke with on Friday, has also pleaded with you to say “yes” to my father, but you personally said “no”.

President Bill Clinton, Senator John Kerry, Senator John Harkin, Senator Ted Kennedy, Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach and others who you spoke with on Friday and again yesterday on Monday have all pleaded with you to say “yes”, assuring you that there would be no legal risk and no negative consequences to your company if something went wrong, but you continue to say “no”.

Sounds like someone at Biogen needs to remember what the purpose of medicine is, Mr. Mullen.

Frederick Baron might die sooner – sooner than 48 hours?! – if given the drug.  I’m no physician; he might die screaming for all I know.  But if he wants to try it and has the means to compensate Biogen for the treatment, then he should be allowed to do so.  Period.

God bless, Frederick, Andrew, and family.