Sunday, December 18, 2011

Spare Me

"He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes." Proverbs 13:24

Now that I have small children, and in particular male children, I have been quoted this passage more than once as a sort of pre-emptory strike by well-meaning persons who wish to ensure that I keep my boys in line using physical punishment. What they fail to see is that the passage is clearly not to be taken literally.

"The rod" is not a specific object. There is not a "rule of thumb" regarding the precise thickness and nature of the rod to be applied. Rather, it is metaphorical.

Proverbs 22:15: “Foolishness is bound in the heart of the child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.”

Lamentations 3:1: “I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of his wrath.”

"The rod" is metaphorical while "a rod" is more concrete. Psalm 2:9: "Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel." Exodus 21:20: "And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished." Because the passage specifically references "the rod," rather than "a rod," and then goes on to discuss it in terms of general withholding of discipline, it is clear from the passage itself that "the rod" is simply a metaphor for parental discipline of any type.

What puzzles me is the archaic insistence that this metaphorical rod must only represent physical or corporal punishment, and that spanking is an essential element of God's plan for children. "Oh no," they say, "it doesn't have to be an actual stick. It should be your hand. Or a piece of flexible tubing. Not something that breaks bones, of course. And never in anger. But you HAVE to spank." Okay, if you acknowledge that "the rod" is not necessarily an actual rod, why must it be physical?

Take, for example, Psalm 23, in which the Psalmist states "Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me." Psalm 23:4. Many agree that the rod referred to is a stick used by the shepard to literally knock the sheep back into line when they start to stray. But they are also capable of seeing that God does not have big stick that literally descends from the sky to whack us upside the head whenever we stray from God's path. Instead, they look at the negative consequences of our actions as punishments from God sent to keep us in line. This is my precise point. If God is perfectly capable of using that natural consequences of our acts as a disiplinary tool, and you grant that this is the correct interpretation of "the rod" in Psalm 23, why do you therefore insist that the sole and only correct interpretation of "the rod" in Proverbs is a physical/corporal beating?

I intend to discipline my children. That will not, however, include any form of formal or informal hitting, kicking, or pulling hair. Rather, I will allow the natural consequences of their actions be their teacher. No, I'm not going the extreme of letting them get hit by a car to teach them not to run out into the street. But they will be carried to the door for the foreseeable future until I can trust them to walk beside me. This is acting as much like God as possible. God does not throw huge, literal sticks at us. He simply does not protect us from the consequences of what we do. Have an affair, your marriage will suffer. Stay up all night, and you will be tired. That's the kind of rod being discussed in this passage. I do not need to spank to give my children the Biblical correction they need.

Indeed, physical punishment is often counter-productive in teaching. If spanking has any deterrent effect whatsoever, it's to teach kids "I had better not get caught." That's a far different lesson from "I'd better not do that," and light years away from a understanding of WHY one action is right and the other is wrong. The entire point of parenting is to produce a balanced, functioning adult. I do nothing to advance that goal if I don't teach the child not only how to act but why to act that way. Natural consequences parenting has that lesson built-in. If my child misses a deadline for a homework assignment, I will not be calling the school to beg for an extension. If my child gets booted from a team merely for hanging around with someone who is doing something wrong, I'm not going to argue for reinstatement. If they stay up all night, they'll still go to school. If they wreck their favorite toy, I'm not buying a new one.

I feel it is very important that people within the church push back against these pressures to conform to what is being called the Christian view on corporal punishment. Certain segments, denominations, or congregations are co-opting the word of God to fit their own world view and attempting to impose them as the sole and superior Biblical interpretation. This is wrong. It hurts kids. Because of this particular passage, children are abused or dying each and every day. Even well-meaning Christians, like those I am acquainted with, don't take the time to really think through or research the references, and thus lend support and credence to the teachings which child abusers use to justify their actions.

I was appalled to read of one book (the plastic tubing reference above) in which it was advocated that children as young as six months be struck with the tubing to "teach" them not to go off a blanket. The idea being that this training forms the foundation of an unquestioned obedience to parental guidance. I submit that this obedience is unquestioned because it is not subject to higher reasoning or even an ability to think the matter through. It is instinctive, this cringing away from pain by a being too young to know how it's hands and legs are supposed to work. That is definitive of the concept of cruelty.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Geekyness

I Am A: True Neutral Half-Elf Bard (5th Level)


Ability Scores:

Strength-12

Dexterity-12

Constitution-13

Intelligence-14

Wisdom-13

Charisma-15


Alignment:
True Neutral A true neutral character does what seems to be a good idea. He doesn't feel strongly one way or the other when it comes to good vs. evil or law vs. chaos. Most true neutral characters exhibit a lack of conviction or bias rather than a commitment to neutrality. Such a character thinks of good as better than evil after all, he would rather have good neighbors and rulers than evil ones. Still, he's not personally committed to upholding good in any abstract or universal way. Some true neutral characters, on the other hand, commit themselves philosophically to neutrality. They see good, evil, law, and chaos as prejudices and dangerous extremes. They advocate the middle way of neutrality as the best, most balanced road in the long run. True neutral is the best alignment you can be because it means you act naturally, without prejudice or compulsion. However, true neutral can be a dangerous alignment when it represents apathy, indifference, and a lack of conviction.


Race:
Half-Elves have the curiosity and ambition for their human parent and the refined senses and love of nature of their elven parent, although they are outsiders among both cultures. To humans, half-elves are paler, fairer and smoother-skinned than their human parents, but their actual skin tones and other details vary just as human features do. Half-elves tend to have green, elven eyes. They live to about 180.


Class:
Bards often serve as negotiators, messengers, scouts, and spies. They love to accompany heroes (and villains) to witness heroic (or villainous) deeds firsthand, since a bard who can tell a story from personal experience earns renown among his fellows. A bard casts arcane spells without any advance preparation, much like a sorcerer. Bards also share some specialized skills with rogues, and their knowledge of item lore is nearly unmatched. A high Charisma score allows a bard to cast high-level spells.


Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)

Friday, August 05, 2011

Fresh Law

The Iowa Supreme Court has a couple of new cases up today. IOWA SUPREME COURT ATTORNEY DISCIPLINARY BOARD vs. ERIC K. PARRISH is a typical "don't steal money from your clients by paying yourself out of the retainer before you've earned the money" case. But VAJGRT v. ERNST is an interesting debate on whether punitive damages should survive the death of the tortfeasor.

The basic facts are that a tree fell down across a creek, and there became a concern that flooding would occur. The neighbor who would've been flooded got permission from the landowner to go onto the property and remove the tree while the landowner was on vacation. Instead of just removing the tree, he also took about 40 live trees out. Not cool. But the landowner then waited to file suit until after the neighbor who cut the trees was dead. We have no idea why. Landowner sued for the value of the trees plus punitive (punishment) damages. NOTE: if he'd sued earlier he could've gotten triple damages under the Iowa Code for live tree damage. But that goes away after a couple of years, so he was SOL on that count.

Punitive damages are special damages to punish someone who has done a wrong that is either intentional or very reckless - something where you think they either did it on purpose or it's so obvious that they should have known better. It's where you want to send a special message to never, never do something like that again. Iowa has always held that punitive damages aren't recoverable after the person who did the act is dead. Basically, the reasoning is that the person really isn't going to be doing anything again, and why punish their innocent relatives? This case asked the Supremes to review that rule and consider overturning it. One argument was that punitive damages can also deter other people from acting in the same way and will set an example for the community. There was also an argument that we still allow lawsuits in general against people's estates, so why should punitive damages not survive as a cause of action?

The majority declined to overturn the rule, indicating that they still agree with the rationales for making punitive damages go away upon death. They also pointed out that punitives are not a cause of action in and of themselves, they are just a punishment enhancement tacked on to the main cause of action. So it makes no sense to say they should survive as a "cause of action" when they aren't actually a "cause of action."

The dissent posed a hypothetical in which one person was in a coma from which they will never recover, and another was dead, asked why we allow punitive damages against the one and not the other. They also found the community deterrent rationale persuasive.

My take: I agree with the majority. First, I don't buy the whole community deterrent idea on a practical level. I just don't see some Iowa farmer with terminal cancer saying, "You know, I could sneak in and cut down all these other trees too, but I won't. Because what if I get caught and there's punitive damages and when I die my kids will lose the farm?" I mean, people have better things to do if they know that they are dying. If they don't know that they're dying, why would they think that some obscure "punitive damages after you're dead" rule would apply to them, even presuming they had ever heard of such a thing? Secondly, I do see a difference between the tortfeasor in a coma and the one in the morgue. One is dead and the other one isn't. Simple, bright-line rule.

Finally, the takeaway: why the heck would you wait over two years and until the guy is dead to file suit anyway? It's not like this was a med mal and you just discovered some injury. I mean, seriously. Snooze you lose.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I Call Bullshit

Read this article today:
Researchers at the University of Florida have found that dogs have the intelligence of a 2-year-old. They are capable of understanding the meaning of up to 165 words and gestures, can count to 5, and can perform simple mathematical calculations.

It's further expanded here:
While dogs ranked with the 2-year-olds in language, they would trump a 3- or 4-year-old in basic arithmetic, Coren found. In terms of social smarts, our drooling furballs fare even better.

"The social life of dogs is much more complex, much more like human teenagers at that stage, interested in who is moving up in the pack and who is sleeping with who and that sort of thing," Coren told LiveScience.

Now, I am an unabashed dog person. I've had dogs all my life. I've had some very smart, very well-trained dogs. And, to be honest, I pretty much expected the early part of child rearing to resemble nothing so much as basic dog training, since infants can't speak and probably don't know all that much. You know, be very clear with boundaries, repeat yourself a lot as you try to mime out what you want them (not) to do, and attempt to decipher whether their whining means they are hungry, or thirsty, or need to go to the bathroom / get a diaper change. Upshot: had you asked me before I acquired said toddler, I probably would have agreed with this study, or at least think it was reasonable.

Wow, was I wrong.

Case in point: I've not had the luxury of a fenced-in yard in my adulthood. So every dog, smart or not, has had to deal with being chained. I make the chaining as easy as possible. I attach it with a swivel to a yard stake, or sometimes a tree or pole depending on the yard. I make it nice and long. I put minimal obstacles in the animal's way. I make sure they can come right up to the door. Each and every one of these dogs managed to tangle themselves in some unlikely object, or sometimes around the pole itself despite the swivel or noose. Usually it's a simple matter of unwinding to get the dog loose. None of the dogs ever mastered it. My current dog - a lab/border collie mix - will consider herself "stuck" if the rope gets weighted down under a stick, and she'll refuse to come to the door even if I call her and tell her that she's not actually tangled. I actually have to go out into the yard and physically pick the stick up off the rope before she'll stop barking. So much for the smart breeds. My 18-month-old can wind and unwind himself into a slinky he plays with. He's mastered both winding up the jack-in-the-box and cheating with the latch. He knows how to build towers with Duplos. Hell, if you let him he'll take the house keys from you in the carseat, slide down out of the car, walk up to the door, hike up the steps, open the screen, and try his very best to insert the key in the doorhandle.
Side note: Yes, I've watched him do this. No, it's not the right key. Yet. But he's a little too short to figure that one out. And who the hell taught him how to run the remote? How to open up the oven? The other day he tried on my sunglasses and ran to the mirror to see how he looked. Can you picture a dog, presuming one would tolerate you putting sunglasses on it's nose, doing that?
Another example: The other day, my son spilled some milk from his sippy cup. I jokingly told him to go wipe it up. He went and got a spit rag and did so. This was not taught, other than by mimicry. The kid is pre-verbal, but he not only gets what I'm saying, he does it without having me explicitly show him how to do it. Again, can you picture a dog doing anything like that? Yes, I'm aware dogs don't have opposable thumbs and so probably can't get a rag. But how many times have I said: "Cut that out;" or "If you'd just go in the other room you'd see that your ball is there, stop bugging me;" or "No, I'm not taking you on a walk, get out of my way;" or "You're not stuck, you idiot dog, just go around because I am NOT coming out there in the rain to untangle you?" These phrases that tell the dogs something within their capability that relates to how to solve their own, immediate problem, but I've never a single one understand them as they are spoken in casual "conversation." Granted, you can train a dog to wipe up spills. But I've yet to hear of one who just decides to wipe up a spill because it saw one and you mentioned it should do so, and it knew how from watching you do it before.

Both understanding abstract directions and extrapolating desired actions from mimicry and contextual speech are, therefore, decidedly in favor of the toddler. But what about that whole vocabulary thing?

I totally believe that dogs have a 165 word vocabulary. 100 of those words are various synonyms for the word food, or names of individual foods or phrases like "Did you feed the dog?" At least 50 involve "go" phrases like "go for a walk" or "go outside" or synonyms for playing or toys. About 7 are actual commands - sit, stay, lie, speak, down and maybe rollover or heel. The rest are extraneous things specific to the dog. I had one smart enough to interpret "back off" to mean "back up", and "hang on" to mean stand still and wait a moment. That was my smartest dog - a beagle, surprisingly enough. My kid's lagging a touch verbally from his milestones, he only says a few words. Which I am NOT going to stress over, since there's nothing wrong with him mentally or physically and everybody ends up talking sooner or later. I have a few of those "learn to sign" videos as part of our Baby Einstein (read: baby crack) collection which I haven't really done much with other than let him watch them. I may have repeated the signs once or twice when we first got the DVDs at about six months old, but not with any consistency. My bad, since I've actually taken ASL as a foreign language in college. I'm such a slacker mommy. As for the DVD itself, it's in a rotation with about 20 Baby Einsteins, two Sesame Streets, five Curious Georges, a couple of Thomas the Tank Engines, and four Muppet Shows, as well as unlimited Blues Clues and Caillou on Netflix. So it's not like he sees it very often. Yet the other day, the kid drops his sippy cup, looks up at me, and says "more" while approximating the correct sign for it. He also understands words that refer to his toys, as a dog does. But he doesn't only get them in reference to the toy itself, like a dog might. He gets them in abstract references, like having the toy mentioned in a book and linking it to the actual object in the room. The first one I know of for sure was "balloon." He'd gotten a balloon for Halloween, at approximately 10 months old. We were subsequently reading a story in which a balloon was featured. When we got to that page, he immediately looked up and found his balloon in the far corner of the ceiling. I've yet to have a dog enjoy a good picture book, or get that the two-dimensional picture refers to a three-dimensional actual object in the room. I've had several that decided that doorbell sounds on the television were real, and barked furiously. But I tend to think that's not exactly a sign of intelligence.

No, dogs are not smarter than toddlers. They're not even close. They are warm, fuzzy, sloppy, silly friends who make our lives so much better for their unconditional love. They also have a great deal of intelligence of their own, doggy type. I do believe they have emotions. I do believe they have some abstract thought. I don't believe they think like us, nor can we expect them to.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Great Big Government Poker Game with Our Economy

For a time in my career, I worked in-house for an insurance company. One part of my job was to supervise cases in litigation against our insureds, and decide which should be settled for what amount and which should be taken to trial. So, for example, if Sally hit Joe in a car accident and caused some serious injuries, what should we pay Joe to make it go away? If Fred's defective ductwork caused a carbon monoxide leak that killed Mike, what should we pay for that? If Jane is claiming serious injuries from a fall on Wilma's property, but no matter how you look at it, Wilma didn't do anything to cause her to fall, what's that worth? If Rob is alleging injuries that appear to be in his imagination, what would we pay to avoid a trial?

Settlement negotiations are routine for attorneys, but must be a nightmare for the laypeople involved. By the time they occur, you're usually at least a year or two out from the initial accident that caused the injury. The immediacy of the pain or damage has been softened somewhat by this passage of time. Both parties are a little intimidated by the thought of trial, but both are hopeful that they can reach an agreement that will let them get what they want and get on with their lives. And, basically, they're thrown dead in the middle of an insane poker game between the lawyers without the slightest explanation of the rules. For example, most attorneys know that it costs a certain amount to take a case to trial. Rationally, one should therefore pay anything less than that amount to avoid trial. Unless, of course, you believe that the person is trying to scam you. Then it makes more sense to pay the extra money to go to trial and retain the reputation of a company one should not try to scam, because the plaintiff's lawyer not only will not have collected any fees (most work on contingency) but will be out the amount of cash it took to go to trial. High dollar value cases are more difficult. Plaintiffs are very invested emotionally, and rightly so because they were hurt badly. They are often not able to see the flaws in their case, like the possibility that the person they are suing isn't really at fault or is only partially responsible. In defense work, you often come up with a formula based on what your experience tells you a jury will award. Mine was something like: multiply the medical bills times either three or five depending on the amount of fault. Then proportion it out based on how much fault each person has. Get several opinions from others,including defense counsel, and compare it to the awards in similar cases. Adjust up or down if there are any particularly egregious or exculpatory facts. If everything is pretty spot on, you've got a good number and stick with it. Plaintiff's attorneys have their own set of numbers, usually arrived at in a similar fashion.

You can see by the above paragraph that the ultimate goal is for the plaintiff's attorney to try to get as much money as s/he thinks they will get at trial, minus a tad for trial expenses. The ultimate goal for defense is to pay less than if taken to trial. We're not so interested in hearing most of the things that matter the most to the people actually involved in the accident. This is very disconcerting for them. We also have little "skin in the game" in that we're not the ones who will have to be on the witness stand and have our lives decided by the roll of the dice that is a trial by jury. The consequences of being wrong, while serious, are all figured into our business model. I am a very good poker player with other people's money.

Once at the table, there are a number of approaches. You know that you're going to get to a "middle" point near the number that you've worked out. There are many different ways to get there. Some attorneys attempt to make outrageous demands, trying to artificially move the window so that the middle is close to their best day goal. They start high or low, depending on the side they're on, and refuse to move except in very small increments. The proper response is to go equally as far in the opposite direction and move only as much as they do, keeping the window in the true middle. If that happens, you know you're going to be there all day and you might as well order lunch. Mediators will try to get you to make a big move, hoping for a reciprocally big move. I've found that to be overly optimistic. The negotiator who will start out trying to bully you and ask for the moon will not be moved by perceived capitulation. As a matter of fact, the kind of negotiator who is overtly aggressive is also more likely to get angry if you respond in a calm, statistically sound manner, and make a mistake. I had one who started well over half a million over any reasonable settlement. I couldn't go low enough to be proportionate from the middle. I did go low enough to sound equally ridiculous. He then attempted to raise his demand. I started packing. The poor mediator finally got him calmed down, but it took until nearly ten hours later before we reached the place we should have been, and could have been much earlier but for his posturing.

Other attorneys are all business. I had one negotiation that took exactly three moves. Then we all went home and I enjoyed the rest of the afternoon off. I'm not so sure that the parties were as pleased, though. We got to the number we would have gotten to if it had taken 10 hours. But the people didn't get to process the weaknesses of their respective cases and feel like they fully vented their frustration to the mediator. For me, it didn't much matter since the defendants weren't there and the company doesn't give a damn about processing emotions. But I wonder how the plaintiff's counsel handled it, since emotional satisfaction is nearly as important as the actual cash. The plaintiff may not have felt like their attorney really worked all that hard or advocated strongly for them, and may have wondered if they left money on the table. I can tell you: they did beautifully efficient work, and I wouldn't have paid a cent more. But the clients don't know that. On the other hand, the posturing attorney in the 10-hour negotiations had gotten his clients so worked up about the alleged value of their case that they weren't prepared to accept anything less than their best-day scenario. By the time we were done talking them back down, they were so angry at me that they couldn't be in the same room. We had to wait for them to leave before going to our cars. On some level, anger is just part of the process for people who are emotionally invested in the outcome.

It is axiomatic for negotiations is that if the deal is fair, everyone will hate it equally. The plaintiff will think always the case is worth more than defense. If the attorneys are competent and haven't over- or under-estimated their case, the real value - the likely outcome at trial - is somewhere in the middle between the two. So plaintiff will be taking less than s/he wants. Defense will be paying more. And it will be fair, though no one is happy.

Which brings me to debt ceiling negotiations.

What a nightmare these things have to be. Not just two negotiators, but 535, who run the gamut in negotiating tactics. Some appear to be quite reasonable. They know the consequences of default, they understand where the deals need to be made, and they come willing to talk about what's best for the country and economy as a whole. But over half the politicians involved appear to be trying instead to play the hardball tactic, hoping to move the window in their direction through posturing. They have an additional incentive to do so, since we've got elections coming up. They want to make damn sure their "clients" think they're working very hard for them and getting unfairly stonewalled by the other side. Finally, there is also a rather significant minority of extremist/fringe politicians who appear to confuse themselves with the client. They have gotten their emotions and ego tied up in the rhetoric, and may be absolutely unable to see where the settlement window truly lies. These will be hailed by their more radical constituents as "real (insert party here)s," not like the sellouts who have compromised their principles. When, in fact, they are merely incompetent.

So my prediction: we will go to the absolute last minute, through extra innings and overtime. That will let the "hardball" politicians blow enough hot air to make their constituents think they've moved the window of settlement in their favor. Then a deal will be done which the more realistic politicians could've put through two months ago, without all the posturing and expense of these press conferences and midnight negotiations. The lunatic fringe will go ballistic about the compromises made by the hardballs, calling them no better than hypocrites and actually believing their own campaign fodder. Then everyone will go home and try to put the best spin on what happened so they can get re-elected and we can go through the whole shebang again on another issue.

Because I like to get involved where it is painless, I am one of the geeks who contacts their congresscritters to let them know what I think. I've written the following:

I am writing in regards to the debt ceiling issue currently facing the legislature. As I understand it, there have been several proposals floated from both sides and negotiations have reached an impasse. I won't bore you with my opinion of the relative merits of each proposal, as I'm sure they've been discussed at great length. What is very concerning to me is the rhetoric of intransigence that I am seeing. It seems to me that many of our legislators are more concerned with posturing for the next election than actually doing their jobs. The appearance of being unmoveable on any given pet issue is more valuable to them than actually doing the hard work and reaching a compromise. In my experience, when working with parties that oppose or hate one another or their positions, the definition of a compromise is a deal that "everyone hates equally." It is more than time to make that compromise, before even more serious damage is done to our economy. I realise that some are claiming that default won't be that bad, or that it really will have no effect at all. I believe that you are an experienced enough politician to know the falsehood of that belief. I respectfully request that you reach a compromise with those across the aisle politically. A combination of cuts and raising taxes is in order. Do the deal that everyone hates, and you will have done the right thing.

Respectfully,

This is not so much out of an idea that it will actually do any good - we're going to go to the last minute in this poker game - as a deep desire to talk about something else already. I mean, seriously. If we're going to start next year's campaign already we need to bring on the crazy quotes. I want my "I'm not a witch" commercials. Then it'll be time to pop the popcorn and sit back for the show. . .

No, not really. I'm seriously hoping that we elect fewer incompetents this next time around. Running a government is a serious, difficult business. It demands a cool head, the intelligence to accurately read and understand material on a wide variety of subjects, the experience to know what works well and what doesn't, and the intelligence to know what's best for the country as a whole. Much of the political speech has descended to the lowest common denominator, and is nothing more intelligent than animals chattering in the night, cowering before whoever makes the loudest noise and acts the most aggressive as the leader of the pack. I'd like to think we've evolved. I'd like to think we value wisdom more than posturing. I'd like to think that we want to make ourselves better as a society than the jungle. I'd like to think that the good of the nation is still our highest priority.

Please don't prove me wrong.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Gratuitous Cuteness

I notice I said "boys" but hadn't introduced the younger. Here's Nicholas:


I want this. Seriously.

A flippin' headset for my cell. Will it work with a Samsung Android? Amazon seems to think so.

Vaccines and Hysteria

Bravo to this article:

STIs are not different than other diseases; the only difference is political, not biological. HPV in particular is ridiculous to politicize, since it's so common that it's wise to treat getting it as an inevitability if you don't get the vaccination. Indeed, the most important difference between the HPV vaccination and other vaccination isn't the sex stuff, but the fact that you probably get more individual protection from the HPV vaccination. Most people have measles and whooping cough vaccines, offering the unvaccinated herd immunity. But with the HPV vaccine, there's only 11% compliance, meaning that your unvaccinated kid's chance of getting HPV as an adult should still be treated as an inevitability. Sadly, we'll be seeing 4,000 deaths and 12,000 cases of cervical cancer a year for some time yet.
Disease is disease no matter how you get it.  Cervical cancer is cancer.  It is deadly and it is serious and it is not the least bit sexy.  Vaccines are good, unless side effects are worse and more prevelant than the disease being prevented.   The HPV vaccine prevents a disease, HPV, which is both a disease in and of itself and can turn into cervical cancer for women.  This vaccine has nothing to do about whether or not you are going to have sex at any point in your life.  News flash:  you can get the vaccine even if you NEVER, EVER HAVE SEX.  And we can be that much closer to eradicating one form of cancer.

This whole thing about sexifying the shot puzzles me.  I expect it from the anti-sex lunatic fringe who feel that the only "responsible" sex is between married couples who use no birth control and are financially able to care for any offspring of their wild and wanton behavior.   Think I'm exaggerating?  Check the latest reaction to the idea that birth control should be covered by insurance.  Apparently "consequence free" sex is not, as I had understood, the responsible way to have sex.  Au contraire, "consequence free" sex will destroy our society and makes the baby Jesus cry.  So of course, if you imbibe in that nasty HPV vaccine, you are eliminating one of the serious potential consequences for sex, and that is evil.  Are they by logical extension equating a baby with cervical cancer?  I digress.

Side note:  I once read a chick novel in which a medieval main character was convicted of heresy for attempting to use a rudimentary form of forceps to save the baby and the mother from pain and death in childbirth.  The argument was that God cursed women to pain and death in childbirth and any attempt to alleviate that was to go against God himself.  Sounds remarkably like the reasoning involved in the fundamentalist craptrap, no?
I have no daughters.  I have two baby boys.  These boys will one day have sex.  Shocker, I know.  My job is to make sure they are physically and emotionally ready to have sex before they actually have it.   By protecting them from pedophiles. By giving them "the talk" if D chickens out.  By ensuring that I raise them in a way that is respectful to other people of all genders and sexual orientations and those people's personal boundaries. And, yes, by giving them religious and philosophical instruction about the pros and cons of engaging in sexual behavior.  I also believe that this preparation means protecting them, or helping them protect themselves, from any disease.  It's my understanding that the vaccine is becoming available for boys as well as girls.  If that's the case, I believe it will be added to my son's vaccination schedule, both for their sake and their future spouse's. 

I have no idea what the future will bring for my sons, sexually.   They may choose to have only one or two partners. They may choose to wait until marriage.  They may choose to have homosexual and not heterosexual sex. They may choose to have sex with many different people.  Heaven help us, they may even choose to be priests and have no sex at all.  These choices will be theirs to make and will have nothing to do with the vaccine they got in grade school.  And I will love them with all my heart no matter what.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Disingenuous

Being an attorney in Iowa, I have a bit of a vested interest in how our state legal system is run.  I've been both criminal prosecutor and defense counsel.  I've been in-house defending tortfeasors, and out helping plaintiffs make injury demands.  Right now, most of my cases are family law.  And I can tell you, in general, Iowa's court system is one of the best around. We really don't need damage caps here, because our juries are common-sense.  They give big awards rarely, and when they do they are well-deserved.  They are not afraid to goose-egg a plaintiff who has no case.  Criminal cases are generally brought to trial when the evidence is there to support them, not manufactured out of thin air.  We may not have the death penalty, but when our first-degree criminals go to jail, we don't let them out.  Juries are deliberate and not afraid to acquit if the proof is not there.  In divorces, there is a predisposal to shared care and I've seen as many men get custody as women.  Best interests of the child is the touchstone, and it usually wins out.   The DHS system may not be perfect, but it's tailored as closely to the family's needs as possible.  

So when Bob Vander Plaatz started his campaign to remove the Iowa judges who decided Varnum v. Brien rather than taking it to the legislature to amend the constitution, I had a big problem with that.  I've read Varnum and I've read the Iowa Constitution, and the judges got it right.  Whether you like it or not, provisions in the Iowa Constitution do clearly prohibit laws limiting marriage to opposite-gender unions.  If you want to change that, you need to change the Constitution.  Blaming the current crop of judges for the 1857 language of the Constitution is silly.  Saying that they shouldn't have decided the case in front of them because they should have put it to the legislature for a vote indicates a grave misunderstanding of our governmental structure and the separation of powers.  Claiming that we now need to change how judges are elected here because that is the real problem is, well, ludicrous.  But that's what Mr. Vander Plaatz has pushed as his nearly sole agenda for the past couple of years.  Not the consitutional repeal of the clause at hand, but a fundamental shift of how Iowa makes judges that would create a policization of our legal process to rival nearby states like Wisconsin and Illinois.  Because we all know how well that's working out for those states.

While I'm against the politication of Iowa's legal system, I'm even more vehemently against stupidity. In the now-infamous Marriage Pledge put out by Vander Plaatz' FAMiLY LEADER group, it stated in the preamble: "Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA?s first African-American President."  The group has since backtracked on that particular statement, but notably not because they've come to realize how asinine it is.  Rather, it was because "we agree that the statement referencing children born into slavery can be misconstrued, and such misconstruction can detract from the core message."  Well, "misconstrue" this, Family Leader:
I say nothing of father, for he is shrouded in a mystery I have never been able to penetrate. Slavery does away with fathers, as it does away with families. Slavery has no use for either fathers or families, and its laws do not recognize their existence in the social arrangements of the plantation. When they do exist, they are not the outgrowths of slavery, but are antagonistic to that system. The order of civilization is reversed here. The name of the child is not expected to be that of its father, and his condition does not necessarily affect that of the child. He may be the slave of Mr. Tilgman; and his child, when born, may be the slave of Mr. Gross. He may be a freeman; and yet his child may be a chattel. He may be white, glorying in the purity of his Anglo-Saxon blood; and his child may be ranked with the blackest slaves. Indeed, he may be, and often is, master and father to the same child. He can be father without being a husband, and may sell his child without incurring reproach, if the child be by a woman in whose veins courses one thirty-second part of African blood.
That is a direct quote from My Bondage and My Freedom by the American hero Frederick Douglass.  In reading the book,it is interesting to note that upon the author's first arrival at the plantation proper to begin work at about seven or eight years of age, he is met with several of his brothers and sisters who have already been working there.  Brothers and sisters he is a complete stranger to, because they have never met.  He barely knows his own mother, and is not sad when she dies because she is a virtual stranger to him.  This is the "two parent family" cited as being so much better than today by the Family Leader.  This is not a misconstruction.  This is a travesty. 

But I digress.  The main point of today's rant is the growing boycott of Wells Blue Bunny ice cream.  Why?  Because it turns out that the Wells family are huge supporters of Mr. Vander Plaatz.  From Think Progress

Mike Wells, the president and CEO of the company, was a member of Vander Plaats’ council of advisers during his gubernatorial campaign and public records reveal that Wells family members have contributed at least $456,000 to Vander Plaats and his affiliated organizations and campaigns:
– $184,500 from Wells family members for his 2010 gubernatorial race, his largest contributors.
– $246,000 from Wells family members for his 2006 gubernatorial race.
– $25,500 from Wells family members for his 2002 gubernatorial race.
– $25,500 to the Iowa Family Center PAC, a group associates with the FAMiLY Leader.

Regarding Recent Posts About Political Contributions


Blue Bunny and Wells Enterprises have never donated money to Bob Vander Plaat’s political campaign. Everyone, including our employees, has a right to support political activities within their role as a private citizen. What our employees support personally is in no way an endorsement by our brand or our company.
 Erm, yeah.  Not buying it.  Yeah, I agree that employees of a company can personally support a politician or political viewpoint that might not connote an endorsement of that politician/viewpoint by the company as a whole.  But Wells Blue Bunny is a family-owned business:
Since 1913, the colossally creative artisans at Wells— the largest family-owned and operated ice cream manufacturer in the United States —have been hard at work putting all things chunky, chewy, rich and gooey into their ice cream.
Thus, what the Wells family gets up to politically is entirely funded by the Wells Blue Bunny business, and to call Mike Wells a mere employee is being facetious.  Supporting Wells entails supporting Vander Plaatz.  That's something I just can't do.

So now for the hard part.  The current container of Wells Blue Bunny Premium All Natural Vanilla in my freezer is going to be my last.  The Super Fudge Brownie that's on the shopping list is now crossed off.  I'm going to have to go from buying ice cream made right here in Iowa, to stuff shipped in from Vermont (Hello Ben!  Hiya Jerry!) or Massachussets (Unilever owns Breyers, I guess.).  I'm not going to ask the Wells family to compromise their fundamentalist belief system in order to hawk their ice cream.  But they shouldn't ask me to buy their ice cream given that the profits will be going in part to support causes I despise.  I guess they need to look for their customer base at Bob Vanderplaatz' political meetings. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

My Two Cents

Point #1: There is no evidence that the rabid, violent, political speech of any party caused the Arizona shootings, even if the shooter did listen/read/subscribe to the rhetoric. Correlation does not equal causality.

Point #2: There is no evidence that the rabid political rhetoric of any party didn't cause the shootings, either. Correlation certainly doesn't negate causality.

Point #3: Any attempts to excuse or justify rabid, violent, political speech of any party in the wake of the Arizona shootings is tasteless at best and vile at worst. People have just died, do you really want to use this opportunity to argue for your right to say "ballots or bullets" or hang your opponent in effigy? Really? Shut the fuck up. Idiots.

Point #4: I don't believe in any further legal/criminal incursions on free speech. I believe the first amendment protects even vile arguments.

Point #5: I really don't give a crap if there's been violent language throughout history. I don't care whether one side thinks the other uses it more, or vice versa. I don't care if there has been worse language in the past. This is not acceptable. We allowed lots of things in the past that we don't anymore. Using threats of violence to impose political will is abusive. It is reprehensible. It is evil. I think my leaders should know better. I think my leaders should stop talking that way. I also think they should stop resorting to kindergarten-style "but they said it first" excuses for their behavior. It's time to evolve.

Point #6: I will never vote for, give money to, or otherwise support any candidate, regardless of party affiliation, who threatens personal violence against another human being, either directly or symbolically / indirectly by using crosshairs, tombstones, burning in effigy, etc. If any group or individual supporting a candidate uses these tactics, that candidate must immediately disassociate from that group/individual and refrain from taking any further support, or else I will consider that the candidate approved the threat. I will never allow a candiate to excuse or attempt to justify such speech. I will likewise never support a candidate who attacks another human being based on their race, religion, or gender. If I can't find a political leader who can manage to run a civil campaign on the issues and support using the justice system and the rule of law to address wrongs, I will vote for a minority candidate with no chance of winning. If a candidate who has used such speech in the past apologizes fully and makes recompense without any reservations, excuses, or equivocation, I might consider voting for him or her again, but will factor in the incident as a huge lapse in judgment that might indicate unfitness for office. Absent such an apology I will not support the candidate, no matter how appealing the candidate might otherwise be.

If enough people agree, eventually we'll get most of this reprehensible behavior winnowed out of the system.

Any takers?

UPDATE - July 2011 Post-Oslo:

How about now? And you wanna extend it to bloggers?

Seriously, what will it take for people to start to learn that words do have power and to be responsible for the rhetoric that spews forth from their keyboard, mouth, or publicity manager? If you're going to take the position that certain segments or people in society should be killed, you should comprehend what that means and that there are many people out there who might just take you up on it. I realize that it's not worse than some political eras of the past. But I am hoping for people to become better human beings, not constantly clawing down to the lowest common denominator.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Not Cool

Target is making fun of homemade Halloween costumes. Way to alienate your customer base!

We're not going out trick-or-treating, since Christopher's not old enough to eat candy. But we're going to dress up to hand the candy out! He might be going as a biker - I'd have an excuse to buy him a teeny-tiny leather jacket for winter and to try to do his curls into a duck's ass. Or, more likely, he'll wear the awesome Superman onesie I got him over the summer with some blue tights and maybe even red boots. Doesn't he just look like a baby superman with the dark curly hair and those blue eyes? Either way, I'm going with real clothes and not some plastic suit, thanks.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Better Dialogue, Less Insanity

I was going to embed the very humorous ad Christine O'Donnell put out denying her alleged witchery. But hell with it, I'm skipping straight to the Holy Grail.

Perspective

Yesterday we got another political flyer on our door, this time "comparing" the Republican and Democratic candidates for the state house in a way totally skewed in favor of the sender (go figure): 

D:  Jesus, they both look young.
Me:  I'm sorry, honey.  You want me to tell those kids to stay out of our yard?

Monday, October 04, 2010

Gratuitous Cuteness

Stupid

Why, oh why, do people believe that their religious views have any bearing whatsoever on what our civil code should encompass? Why do they fail to comprehend that any sort of theocracy is a very bad idea, particularly to those citizens who don't practice your faith? Do they not understand that if we codify one faith, we can also codify another? How about the idea that another religion might eventually outnumber your own and you may find yourself utterly f*cked?

If you want to tell people about your religion, fine. Go out on a street corner and preach away.  Invite them to church or temple or mosque. Give out religious literature,candies or trinkets. But don't be so very stupid as to try to make any of its tenets the law of the land, or to make indoctrination in school or prayer to any deity mandatory. And I really don't care what religious or historical figure you believe thought it was a good idea. You're either wrong about what you think they thought, or they were wrong in thinking it.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Hide and Seek

Yard signs cropping up everywhere, politicians dominating the news cycle - it's that time again.  While I haven't actually been posting all that much here, I have been commenting on news sites and driving myself crazy keeping up with the latest political madness.

But there's a new trend that I find by far the most annoying:  facebook proselytizing.  See, I use facebook mostly to keep up with old friends and get invites to get-togethers.  I read blogs or websites for my news and debates.  I don't like crossing the streams, which is why I de-linked the blog from FB.  But some of my friends are more, erm, enthusiastic in their political views.  And apparently think that they should share all kinds of links, many of which make my stomach do flip-flops with their inaccuracy. 

To be fair, I've commented on a few of these.  Usually the ones I agree with, and usually something benign.  But in general, I'm vehemently against politics on my wall and I'm getting more and more annoyed with it.  In my opinion, it's rather like inviting someone over to your house for a dinner party and springing an Amway pitch on them.  Particularly if the friend reading it diverges from your core beliefs.  I mean, would you walk up to some friend in the street and start trying to convert them to your religion?   

This is made worse, in my opinion, by the way that politics basically IS becoming a religion to many people.  Questioning the primary tenets of the party platform is heresy.  Those who disagree are evil and should leave the country immediately.  It's a cultural war for them.  For me, this is doubly so because I believe in balance so everybody hates me.  A balance of free enterprise with reasonable regulations and social responsibilty will often work to maximize benefits for all.  The question then is only one of what would be best privatized and what would be best handled publically, and which party is willing to do what.  Neither approach is inherently good or inherently bad.  Neither is essentially "American" or "Unamerican."  None of it is worth vilifying the other side or getting angry about.  It's just what works.  Unfortunately, I see that level of civility in discourse as almost nonexistant in today's rhetoric.  I see lots of spin and very few facts.  I see lots of anger and very little listening.

Which brings me back to the facebook posts.  If you're going to put up something that purports to fact-check the other side while ignoring your own side's many transgressions, or put up partisan posts that are openly antagonistic, it annoys me.   Perhaps one should think before posting:  would this offend my (conservative/liberal/religious/atheist) friends?  Would I walk up to them on the street and say it to them, using this language and this tone?   I'm not saying you need to be silent, just polite.  These are your friends, after all.  If you wouldn't say it to them on the street, don't put it on their wall. 

Meanwhile, I'm making ample use of the HIDE button until after the elections.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Very Merry Unbirthday

Somebody is six months old today.

We celebrated by going to our very first Kindermusik class and having his very first popsicle for dessert.  One happy little boy, though he was too absorbed in the popsicle to smile at the time:


Thursday, February 04, 2010

So . . . Does it work in real life?

Kris is busy and their new baby needs rocking. Oh my!

Kris' baby was born just 6 weeks ago. He is crying, crabby, and will get very loud soon without any rocking. Baby wants to grow up big and strong some day and just needs a little help getting started.

Kris would love to rock him but must get dressed for her hearing at 1:30, write her report to the court for tomorrow, clean the house for guests tonight, change the sheets in the crib that have been peed on, feed the dog and the cat, and find a client who will have a warrant for her arrest if we don't get the plea in by Monday.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Shameless Plug for Votes

Just for fun, I entered Christopher in the America's Cutest Last-Minute Tax Deduction contest.

He is now apparently a finalist (one of ten), and will win a $5000 savings bond if he gets the most votes. So . . . anyone who happens to think our child is the cutest, please go vote for him!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!!!

I've Been Busy


Here's my latest project - a collaboration that took many month's work - enjoying his first visit from Santa yesterday. Christopher James arrived on the 23rd - Christmas eve eve.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Couldn't Resist

Last night in our final baby class, they passed out these Cabbage Patch Kids while we watched a video on swaddling. It came time for the break.

Instructor: "You can use the restroom, but be sure to take your doll with you and to hold it safely."

Me: (Raising an eyebrow) "Okay, if this is supposed to be 'Baby Think It Over' . . . you're a little late."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

REM PLZ?

I understand that pregnancy can make you tired. I understand that pregnancy can make you frenetically wired to get the house in order. What I don't understand is how it can simultaneously make your mind race so badly that you feel you need to get up and do something at 3 am, and so tired that you nearly fall back asleep before you can open the bedroom door, so you say f*ck it and get back in bed. After using the restroom (AGAIN), of course.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Scene from Baby Class

The instructor is summarizing the relaxation and massage techniques we've reviewed during the session, and how they apply to labor and delivery. "Think of the contractions like waves on the sea. You CAN ride above them, almost like riding on a surfboard. These techniques will help you on that board . . . if you believe."

I look over at D to see how he's taking this, and notice him surreptitiously and silently clapping his hands in his lap. After a snort of laughter (rapidly suppressed) I join him: "I do believe in fairies! I do! I do!"

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Bueller? Bueller?

The pre-birth class I've had to sign up for has us doing this "baby dance" thing, which supposedly helps shake the kid down (?!). Anyways, you’re to stand with your feet hip-width apart, hands on hips and rotate your hips in a circle. Naturally, as soon as I saw it I started doing the Time Warp.

Nobody got it. I also asked Don if I could have a Hippety-Hop instead of just sitting on a birthing ball.



Again, nobody got it. When asked what I was most looking forward to about the kid, I said: "It's all about the toys." Instead of laughing, the instructor asked me very seriously to recount a memory of a cherished childhood toy.

Jebus, don't these people have a sense of humor? They act as though we can flunk the course and not be allowed to give birth with the rest of the class.

It's going to be a looooooong six weeks.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Freaking Hilarious

While I'm sitting at home with this stupid bug, I thought I'd be productive and work up a tentative birth plan. Then I found a better idea from Let's Panic: a mad lib birth plan.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Adventures in Pregnancy - flu shot edition

So, I've done a bunch of research on flu vaccines recommended for pregnancy, since I definitely want to get one. I already feel like I can't freakin' breathe and don't want the flu - swine or regular - on top of it. After looking through the CDC and the FDA as well as the anti- vaccine sites and the anti-conspiracy sites debunking them, I come to the personal conclusions that: 1) Concerns about squalene are probably crap, and it's not being used in any US vaccines anyway, so who cares? 2) Concerns about thimerosal are likely also crap, but there's a thimerosal-free vaccine especially for pregnant people and young kids, so might as well take that anyway. I mean, if they can tell me "better safe than sorry" and blithely prohibit a bunch of things I really want to do with zero evidence it will effect this baby negatively, well, I can say it right back when it comes to dubious claims of medical risks that are probably crap. Can't I?

So I set out to call around and find a single-dose flu vaccine, the regular kind so I can get it out of the way by the time we can get around to the H1N1 - the sources don't seem to be able to make up their mind as to whether they can be taken contemporaneously. I call the local clinic first, 'cause it's right down the road. Here's how that went:

"I'm looking for flu vaccines."
"We have a clinic this Saturday from nine to noon, you can just walk right in."
"Great. Do you know whether they have the single-dose, mercury-free ones? I'm in the second trimester of my first pregnancy and I'm just trying to be extra careful."
"It's . . . they have the regular kind. Oh, or we could give you a nasal spray. That might be what you're looking for."
"But isn't the nasal spray a live vaccine? I thought you weren't supposed to get that when pregnant."
"Then it must be the other one then."
"Okay. Um, thanks. Bye."

I do presume that no doctor would have given me the spray after seeing my 'condition.' Still, that's a tad troubling.

Next I call Walgreen's in Iowa City. Not only does the pharmacist know what I'm talking about, she can tell me the brand and manufacturer of the vaccine, and yes it's Thimerosal-free. I've got a 2:30 appointment.

Friday, August 14, 2009

What a Coincidence!

(Blog Post) According to the website Think Progress, Chuck Grassley has stated that "I base my decisions not on polls but on town meetings and mail” when it comes to allowing a public option in health care.




So I went to his website to see when he's holding a meeting in my neck of the woods, so I can put my two cents in. Huh. Apparently there are no meetings in Eastern Iowa during this session break, he's confining himself to the very conservative counties out west. Perhaps this is because the polls show that 56 percent of Iowans favor a public option? Mr. Grassley: why don't you just give it up, place your fingers firmly into your ears and say "LA LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU?" It would actually be more subtle.

News Flash

(Blog Post) Going Vegan causes women to lose their bellybuttons!!



Geez, guys, couldya lay off the Photoshop? There's gotta be a support group.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Healthcare OpEd Fail. Hilarity ensues.

"Investors Business Daily", ran an editorial, on July 31, 2009, regurgitating several erroneous statements regarding the supposedly abysmal state of the UK healthcare system, and how the public option will mimic it by compelling seniors to submit to a counseling session every five years about alternatives for end-of-life care.

The best part? This quote:
People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn't have a chance in the U.K., where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless.




PS - Professor Hawking pointed out that he is, in fact, a natural-born British citizen and "I wouldn't be here today if it were not for the NHS," he told us. "I have received a large amount of high-quality treatment without which I would not have survived." This prompted the Investors Business Daily to remove the sentence from the article and issue this informative correction:
Editor's Note: This version corrects the original editorial which implied that physicist Stephen Hawking, a professor at the University of Cambridge, did not live in the UK.
Yep. 'Cause that was all that's wrong with the article . . .

Hey, at least they didn't refuse to believe his birth certificate.

PPS - I swiped the Double Facepalm from this comment on the issue in physicsforums.com, because it made laugh so hard water came out my nose.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Okay, Now I'm Getting Frustrated

I've really been trying not to politi-blog. Basically, being preggo means that whenever I get tense, I get an incredible stomach ache. So my "side notes" have mostly been focused on the alien in my stomach, or other daily trivia.

But . . . I hate misinformation. I hate blind sloganing - Two legs good, four legs baaaad! And I truly despise people of any political persuasion who knowingly spread false slogans and propoganda in order to confuse an issue. Our entire fucking democracy is dependent on informed, independent voters. So I'm going to suck it up, down a bunch of Tums, and blog.

To get an idea what I'm talking about go look at Politifact.org's healthcare page. Seriously, go. I'll wait for you.

On the first page alone, I count six "pants on fire," seven "false," one "half-true," three "mostly true," and two "true" statements. Thirteen outright lies, and only six statements with any level of truth in them. In fact, it weren't for one old guy from New Jersey who racked up one "true" one "half-true" and one "mostly-true," there would only have been three statements with any truth in them on the entire freaking page.

And these are not minor lies, either. They're flipping doozies. But before I go further, I have some bias I need to disclose. I've worked inside the insurance industry as a legal advisor. I've also worked for the government as an attorney. So I have some inherent knowledge of how each of these systems work, and some inherent biases formed by my experiences with each of them. Why is this relevant? Well, if you take away all the propoganda, we're trying to decide if we should rely solely on private insurance companies to supply health care insurance to the masses, or add a government option. That's the bottom line.

So let's look at some of this misinformation that's floating around. Palin's claiming that if we add a government option, there will be "death panels" who decide whether we get lifesaving treatment paid for, or are told to go screw ourselves because we're not productive enough. Let me think through what that might look like:
A roomful of high level bureaucrats discusses a claim, say a drunken high-school student who is rendered a quadriplegic in an auto accident. They'd probably discuss in cold terms how many wheelchairs and vans and meds this kid will need. Someone will point out that it would cost millions less if he'd just died. They'll examine the language of the coverage to see if there's any way to reduce his recovery - a loophole of some sort? It will be noted whether the kid got good grades before the crash - can he reasonably expect to get some kind of job? Or was he a blue-collar type that won't work in the future and just be a drain on society? Maybe we can work that angle? What if we can prove it was self-inflicted harm? Does that work?
Yeah, I can see it. Clearly. See, I've been in a room like that one, discussing a case like that one, and trying to convince insurance claims and underwriting VP's that we really do not have any loopholes and this kid is entitled to his benefits or the company will be in a shitload of trouble. On another case, I've had screaming middle-aged men in my face telling me they don't care what the law is, we never intended to cover that expensive of a loss. The best part? The company I worked for, which also had lots of good people who were NOT assholes and so I'm not going to name it here, is a NONPROFIT. Their policyholders were their owners. In theory, this gave the recipients control of everything, and should have acted as a check on this very type of behavior. Nice idea, in theory. Not so much in practice. The insurance industry is also regulated up to the eyeballs, and there are huge penalties for wrongful denial. And yet this continues. In a non-profit. I should note that the right prevailed in both my examples. But it was not certain and not easy. You wanna bet how much worse it gets in a for-profit company? Take a look at some of the bad faith verdicts handed down against insurers. You will see some of the most egregious behavior, on a par with big tobacco or any of the other industries that intentionally try to cover crap up in order to make a profit.

My point: Although Politifact correctly points out that Palin is lying, it calls her idea a "sci-fi scenario". I disagree. To some degree, it is very far-fetched. But in another sense, it is exactly what is happening now. Not with the public option, with private insurance. Because that's the way the industry is set up, folks. It is NOT DESIGNED TO ENSURE HEALTHCARE, but to INSURE.

Insurance as an industry started with just liability. Technically, it was people in China who shipped goods downriver who decided that if each of them put some of their goods onto ten different boats, instead of all onto one boat, they'd minimize their risk of loss. As a business, it is designed to provide coverage for uncertain, unusual events: a car accident, a lightning strike. If a bunch of people pay in premium during the many times when nothing is going on, there should theoretically be enough money to cover them when something wonky does happen. If you've got one guy who is being too risky - sending all his goods in boats with leaks - you want to exclude him out from the group because he'll always be getting payouts and never put enough in to cover it. It's branched out to auto, home, farm, and so forth, but the theory is always the same. A bunch of prudent people facing no known losses will put in premiums when they don't need to with the idea that if an unintended, rare, freak loss occurs, there will be enough money to cover it.

I know this seems like remedial insurance 101, but it's important to remember: INSURANCE IS NOT DESIGNED TO COVER CERTAIN, REGULAR, KNOWN, AND SURE LOSSES. Like getting old, getting sick, having babies, and dying. We are looking to Insurers to Ensure our healthcare is there whenever we need it. That is not what they do. You are asking a bear to be a duck.

Why are there "death panels"? To exclude people who are, in a sense, medical leaky boats. Get them out of the group. This is true even if you are a nice, middle-class, responsible person who pays large premiums, because you can't possibly pay enough premium to make up for the losses paid out. And, no, the companies don't care if you've been a loyal customer for twenty years, and always paid on time, and (blah-blah-Ginger). There's sixty gagillion more people who are also regular payers, so don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out. Besides, by the time they get done denying your behind, you've probably missed more than your alloted sick days, so unless you qualify as disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act and you can prove a reasonable accomodation can be made to allow you to work, well, you're fired. Say buh-bye to "Middle class."

My very long point is that having worked for both Government and Insurance, and not having an incredibly high opinion of either, it is a no-brainer to me that the public option is necessary in healthcare. We can't keep asking Insurance to be what it isn't.

I will address other concerns later, this post is already too long. But to short-cut it:

1) A Public Option will bankrupt private insurers! Like public universities have bankrupted all the private colleges? Like public buses have bankrupted taxi services? I can go on and on with this one.

2) It will make waits too long! Do you want to wait eight hours for simple care? You do realize that what you're essentially saying is that if poor people can go to the same docs you may have to wait your turn? I don't take well to snobbery.

3) If they can't make a big profit, Doctors will leave! Yeah, in droves. They'll all move to Europe. No, wait, Canada. Erm, Mexico? Seriously, here's the point: lots of lawyers do public defender work. We don't get paid jack compared to the bigshots in large firms. But we're paid much better than most of you working at lower-level white collar jobs. We're not going anywhere. If they did the same to the docs, they wouldn't go anywhere either. And BTW, it's not necessarily the dregs of the profession, either. I pulled a B average, but I'm not in a big ass firm. I want a life, thanksverymuch.

4) Economic principles will cover this in a market system! Healthcare costs are naturally limited by what people can afford to pay! Medicaid picks up the slack! Holy crap, are you out of touch. Firstly, free market only works on non-essentials. Take food, for example. In an absolutely regulation-free market, if there were a serious shortage there would be no limit to the price of food that vendors could charge. Prices would go up and up, and the number of people who could afford food would shrink and shrink, until eventually everyone else had died off and a surplus was re-established that way. Even if one of the stores tried to take a larger slice of the market by dropping prices, they'd eat through their supplies in a heartbeat and go under. Competition be damned, there's no limit to price. Medical aid is a similar commodity. If you're dealing with serious diseases, it is not optional, but essential. People will pay whatever they have to in order to stay alive, until they can't afford it and die. There is no free market.

I'll take my Tums and go off to my hearing now.