Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Governor Gone AWOL

The other day I was having a conversation with someone and we were discussing whether or not it was likely that South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford would resign his office. The other person -- a Republican -- took the attitude "why should he resign -- Bill Clinton didn't!"

Yes, both men strayed from the monogamous straight and narrow, but the difference is that Bill Clinton ran his job while doing so instead of going AWOL for a week like Sanford did.

I think he should resign, but it's not because he had an extramarital affair. That is a private matter between him, his wife, and the other woman involved and I wouldn't give a flying fuck who he screws as long as he ran his job.

Rather, I think he should resign because the man disappeared without anyone, including the Lieutenant Governor, knowing where he'd really gone and was incommunicado for that week. He wasn't running the job he'd been elected to do. That is the real scandal.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

An Elitist View of the Health Care Crisis

The other day, I had the misfortune to listen to Neal Boortz ranting about health care reform.

Boortz believes that even employer-provided health insurance should be cut to the bone and not cover any type of routine medical care; that it should be reserved solely for complications from routine medical matters and catastrophic health problems.

As an example, he asserted that one's health insurance should not cover routine childbirth and prenatal care, because people "choose" to have children. He estimated that a garden variety vaginal birth costs about ten thousand dollars nowadays and that if people cannot come up with ten grand over the space of nine months to pay for having a child, then they had no business having children in the first place. He went on to say that with the cost of raising a child to age 18 estimated to be about a quarter of a million dollars (in his estimation), that ten grand is a "paltry" amount.

Where to begin? For one thing, even if his estimate of the cost of raising a child to 18 is anything at all realistic, it wouldn't be that high for everyone and it's a cost that one doesn't have to come up with all at once. Ten thousand dollars is a big chunk of change to come up with in a limited time frame for many people, even those in the middle class,

Boortz betrays his elitism and implies a belief that only those above a certain income level have any business having children at all. He's being rather shortsighted here, because I'm guessing he doesn't expect the little spoiled scions of the blueblooded families he so reveres to grow up to flip the burgers, fix the cars, drive the taxis, and so on.

He believes that people should save their money for routine health care and personally pay for such care out of their own pockets. Never mind that people nowadays are having trouble paying their mortgages and even basic survival expenses in an economy beset by massive layoffs and cutbacks in the employment sector. This might have been a valid argument in 1945 when my much-older brother was born and the entire cost of labor, delivery, and a ten day hospital stay for my mother was a whopping $73, but it's highly unrealistic today.

For more serious illness, he believes that everyone should buy private health insurance with a high deductible; five thousand dollars was his suggestion. Again, he assumes that it's no big deal for anyone to come up with that sum, either not realizing or not caring that this would be impossible for many people. I can only assume that he thinks those who cannot cough up five grand should do the world a favor and quietly crawl into a hole and die.

Boortz also has the curious convoluted belief that government supported health care is "stealing" parts of people's lives from them; in the form of the taxes they pay represented by the time it took them to earn the money that is paid in such taxes. He views it as nothing less than putting a gun to the heads of taxpayers and taking their money. I never hear Boortz make this argument about the taxes we pay to fund the military, for example. I guess it's only an outrage when one's tax dollars go to help the less fortunate. It's fine with him when it comes to things such as the military, though the time spent to earn the tax money that is "stolen" is just the same. It's the fact that it's going to help people that galls him about government assistance with health care costs.

He also went on a tear about his belief that a big reason why GM is going under is because of all the money they have to spend on health insurance for their employees, which in turn makes them less profitable and unable to compete with foreign automakers..

The man blithely stated this opinion, unaware that he'd painted himself into a corner with this reasoning. Did it not ever occur to him that the employees of such foreign automarkers live in countries with GOVERNMENT provided health care and that it would help American automakers similarly if we followed suit with our own health care?

After this point, my head was about to implode from listening to him, so I didn't hear what else he had to say on the subject.


Monday, June 22, 2009

Bigger Government or Better Government?

As part of my habit of monitoring right wing talk radio as a method of knowing one's opposition, I regularly tune in to the Neal Boortz show. As anyone who has read my blog regularly knows, I can't stand the guy. He labels himself a libertarian conservative and his philosophy could be characterized as objectivism in the Ayn Rand vein. But I just call him an elitist, as one of his favorite topics to harp on is what he calls "wealth envy", which is his particular spin on justifying selfishness and his disdain for poor people and others in unfortunate circumstances.

But sometimes the man surprises me. Recently, he's been getting a spate of callers of the tinfoil hat brigade variety who call in to rant about President Obama, saying he "hates America" and wants to "destroy our country."

To my surprise, and to be perfectly fair, Boortz always corrects such callers. He tells them that the President doesn't hate America, nor does he want to "destroy" it, but rather that he's got a different idea from the caller (and him) on what makes America great.

True enough and a perfectly rational answer. It's a shame he's not as even-handed about other topics with conflicting viewpoints as well.

But then he goes on to say that Barack Obama believes that government is what makes this country great, unlike himself and the caller who believe that America is great because of its people and freedom (which he defines primarly as economic freedom, especially from the perspective of the wealthy). He implies that this also means that Obama believes the bigger the government, the better.

I find that highly misleading. For one thing, all politicians, regardless of party, "believe" in government in that they have been elected to it and seek to promote governmental policies that they believe are effective and useful. They "believe in government in that they wish to effect changes by working within the system as elected representatives, instead of through the private sector.

And it doesn't logically follow that because Barack Obama is committing to working through the system to implement his policies on how to make our great country greater, that he would automatically think that simply making it bigger would be his goal. Rather, he wants to work within the system to make government work better and more effectively, rather than simply increasing its size.

It's his perfect right to deride the role of government in our society, but unless the highly unlikely scenario occurs in that we turn into an anarchistic society, we will have a government of some sort. It seems to me that it would be better to talk about ways of improving government, rather than denigrating its role in a civilized society at every given opportunity

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Life Lessons From My Father

What is the most valuable lesson your father taught you?

1. You can put garbage in a closet, but that doesn’t stop it from stinking

2. There are more horse’s asses in the world than there are horses

3. Everything happens for a reason

4. You can work with the devil himself, if it’s to your benefit.(Advice about bad bosses)

5. There’s good and bad in all kinds

6. Those whom you hold a grudge against, own you.

7. It’s a waste of time to try to argue with willful ignorance.

8. Stupid people are always ignorant, but ignorant people aren’t always stupid.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Is It Really a Scandal?

The news is full of stories about the latest political "sex scandal" of the day.

Yesterday, Nevada Republican Senator John Ensign publicly admitted to having an extramarital affair while legally separated from his wife. His admission was accompanied by the usual insincere, crocodile tears statement:

"Last year I had an affair. I violated the vows of my marriage. It is the worst thing I have ever done in my life
," Ensign said.

Spare me the treacly fake remorse, Even among many of those who are much less permissive about sexual matters than I am, having a relationship while legally separates isn't identical to having an extra-marital affair while in an ongoing intact marriage. Though one is technically "still married" when separated and the law would consider it adultery, the de facto reality is that it has already been acknowledged that the marriage has broken down and that divorce is soon likely to occur. To remain "faithful" to a broken marriage is merely to perpetuate a useless fiction.

The man was separated. Obviously, he's not going to be able to get any from his wife. Is he expected to remain celibate while in marital limbo? I think most people would agree with me that this is an unreasonable expectation in modern society.

As sex scandals usually go, this one is pretty tame. He didn't solicit a partner in a men's room, like Larry Craig, nor did he run around on a sick wife, as did Newt Gingrich, John Edwards, and John McCain, nor did visit a sex worker, a la David Vitter.

But like Gingrich, Craig, and Vitter, he is guilty of rampant hypocrisy. Like these men, he is a social conservative, who has made many judgmental statements about the decline of "traditional" marriage, and is a member of the Christian conservative group, Promise Keepers.

But hypocrisy is nothing new in Washington.

This latest sex brouhaha doesn't rate more than a loud yawn from me.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

If the Shoe Doesn't Fit, Change the Shoe, Don't Cut the Foot

I recently read that Chastity Bono, the daughter of Cher and Sonny Bono, has decided to undergo a sex change. While I support the right of everyone to live their lives in whatever way makes them the happiest, I have to say that the notion of a surgical "sex change" makes me feel uncomfortable and frankly baffles me. What I'm about to write won't be politically correct, but is not meant to belittle anyone's experiences or concerns.

While I don't dismiss the concerns of those who are unhappy with the sex they were born as and would prefer to be the other sex, there's also the fact that "sex changes" are a misnomer. Sex change operations do not actually change a person's sex; they merely provide one with the cosmetic outer appearance of the desired sex. According to Wikipedia:

Sex in humans is usually determined by four factors:

  • Chromosomes cannot be changed.
  • Gonads can be removed, but not replaced
  • Hormone status is easily changed
  • Existing sex characteristics can to some extent be changed; existing ones mostly through surgery, non-existing ones can be induced to grow through hormones.
In other words, even with surgery, one would never be fully functional as a member of the desired sex. A man who wishes to become a woman could never become pregnant, give birth, or nurse children. A woman who desired to become a man could never naturally attain an erection, ejaculate, or sire children. This is because it isn't possible for the sex change operation to include implantation of functioning ovaries or a uterus for a male to female change, nor a fuctioning penis, testes, and prostate for female to male changes.

And even attaining a believable outer appearance of the desired sex can be problematic, especially in female to male cases, as Chastity Bono wishes to do. According to Wikipedia, changing a female genital anatomy into an even reasonably male appearing one however is extremely complicated and not successful very often; function is always limited.

The hormonal changes must be maintained by taking hormones of the desired sex indefinitely. If hormone treatment is discontinued, the person's true sex will begin to reassert itself. And this isn't even considering the heightened cancer risk.

From what I've read, people who wish to change their sex are more often unhappy with the stereotyped gender/sex roles that society has assigned to their birth sex, rather than the biological realities of being that sex, per se. We must remember that sex/gender roles -- notions of what is "masculine" or "feminine"' that are not directly related to reproduction -- are largely cultural constructs and not inherent in the biology of being male or female. They vary across history and from culture to culture.

In such cases, where the person simply wants their body to match their desired sex/gender role and has no interest in the capacity to perform in a reproductive capacity as a member of the desired sex, I don't understand why they don't simply shun sex roles altogether and live as they wish to live as an "effeminate" man or a "mannish" female or as an androgyne, rather than violating their bodily integrity for the sake of culturally mandated sex roles.

In other words, if the shoe doesn't fit, change the shoe, don't cut the foot

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Same Sex Couple With Kids Denied Family Discount at Pool

POCATELLO, Idaho – A same-sex couple and their three foster children were denied a reduced admission price to a pool in eastern Idaho because the Lava Hot Springs State Foundation says the five don’t fit the definition of a famly.

Amber Koger and Jeri Underwood say they and their three children were recently denied the resort’s advertised family admission price to the Olympic Swimming Complex at Lava Hot Springs…Mark Lowe, executive director for the Lava Hot Springs foundation, said the state doesn’t recognize gay or lesbian marriage and defines a family as one male, one female and children.

“We are a state agency bound by all the laws of the state of Idaho,” Lowe said.

See the rest of the story here.

First of all, a family isn’t the same thing as a marriage. Lowe may be able to cite the state’s official definition of a marriage, but an official, state-defined marriage isn’t a prerequisite to being a family.

Secondly, does this facility deny family memberships to one parent families, where the parent is single, divorced, or widowed; where no marriage exists at all, state sactioned or not? Would they deny family membership to an opposite sex couple raising children together who were not legally married?

Thirdly, the ones really being punished in this bigoted decision are the children. Lowe may think he’s taking the moral high road by expressing his disapproval of same sex relationships in this manner, but all he’s really doing is preventing some little kids from going swimming.

Fortunately for Koger and Underwood and their children, not all facilities in their area have such bigoted policies.

At the Ross Park Aquatic Center, manager Cindy Robbins said families of all types get in for half price during Monday’s “Family Night.”

“If family members live under the same roof and parents can claim them on their taxes, they are a family,” Robbins said.


Monday, June 8, 2009

Compter Aggravation

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Bluntly Stated

The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."
--John Kenneth Galbraith

They'll have us living for the benefit of our fellow man instead of us living for our own individual benefit!
--Neal Boortz, in reference to liberals and Democrats.

I heard Boortz make the second comment on one of his recent broadcasts, which is but one of many illustrations of what makes the first statement true.. I'm not sure if I remember his exact words precisely, but this is the gist of them. He spoke in a tone that made clear that he found the idea of devoting one's live in service to humanity to be extremely revolting and something to be avoided.

I have to give the man credit for being totally honest, however. Most conservatives will not so bluntly admit their complete disguest for altruism.