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Category Archives: Politics

Responsible Health Care

There’s been quite a bit of hoopla over the last … forever … about what to do with the rising cost of health care and what to do, if anything, for the people that cannot afford it themselves. Now, I am not a Libertarian. I think Ayn Rand was a hack and that Objectivism is teenage angst masquerading as legitimate philosophy. I tend to think that the answer to the second question I mentioned is basic tax and spend “nanny state” liberalism. However, I’m very much in favor of the notion of being responsibility-minded, particularly when it comes to our personal health care, and I wanted to put to paper some ideas I’ve been kicking around that might help lower costs.

Fire Your Physician

That might be a better title for the plan, but it doesn’t have to be that extreme. But the fact is that most of us are perfectly capable of doing most of the things a primary care physician does on our own. Fact is, I bet most of us have a story (from personal experience or from someone we know) catching the doctor reading WebMD (kudos, WebMD). Most of what a primary care physician does is help diagnose the issue and most of our issues are very easy to diagnose (or require some basic lab tests that can effectively tell you the diagnosis). Additionally, physicians write prescriptions.

In Mexico, however, some of those functions are filled by pharmacists and locals can come in and purchase the relatively mild end of the prescription drug spectrum without needing to see a doctor. If I know that I need to take an antibiotic, I can walk in and get one and the friendly pharmacist, who studied all of those drugs to get that job behind the counter, can help me select one. In the US, pharmaceutical education is practically wasted on retail where you can really only ask them about side effects and instructions. Interestingly, in the US, you do get a decent number of people that walk into drug store and ask questions like, “What should I take for this?” or “What does this rash on my butt look like to you?” or “Do you think this is herpes or genital warts?” The answer is always, “I can’t help you. Go see a doctor,” even though they’ll later comment about the poor guy with “the worst case of genital warts and such a small penis”. That they didn’t know the answer is not the reason that they can’t help you.

I’m not suggesting that we don’t need physicians and diagnosticians, but that we don’t need them for a lot of the doctoring we get. Wouldn’t it be interesting if you could doctor yourself for minor non-emergencies and check-ups? What would happen if labs and pharmaceuticals catered to you, specifically, and you could bypass the doctor’s office if you needed to? What if you could just visit a tech and an x-ray machine, for instance, to see if something is broken or sprained? Would the doctor’s office change, at all, in terms of its service to the people it needed to cater to? What if preventative medicine were pushed through better education and better physical access? And what if a base-level health plan catered towards those needs and emergency needs only? Would it be more or less affordable?

 
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Posted by on 2012-07-08 in Politics

 

The Abortion Debate

Assuming that No One is Pro-Choice and Pro-Life and that you are interested in forming an opinion on the subject, you ultimately need to make a decision about which camp you want to belong to. In my mind, this involves determining first what the parameters of the discussion really are. There are a number of issues that get brought up, but not all of them are truly relevant as to whether or not someone ought to be pro-life or pro-choice. So, we need to frame the debate.

Philosophical Issues

Abortion primarily gets discussed around a small number of basic moral and metaphysical issues. In my mind, these are fairly straightforward questions, though the answers might get tricky.

  1. Is the fetus alive?
  2. Does a fetus have a “right to life”?
  3. Under what circumstances is it morally permissable to kill a living person in the womb?
I think the pro-life position requires that you answer those questions as “Yes. Yup. And few-none.” Moreover, I think the pro-choice position requires that you answer just one of those questions in nearly the exact opposite of the pro-lifer.

Policy Issues

The policy issues are issues about what should be done about it, if anything, once you’ve made up your mind. There are a good number of policy issues involved in this topic. These are things like the following:

  • How would we enforce an anti-abortion law without violating the mother’s right to privacy?
  • What would the punishment for getting an abortion be?
  • Won’t this cause back-alley abortions and harm the health of women?
Personally, I think these kinds of issues are things you should care about after you’ve decided which camp you fall in. I jumped the gun and outlined my policy stance before talking about any of this.

Why I’m Pro-Life

First, I think it’s nigh impossible to determine a point at which the developing child is not a living, human person that doesn’t create damnable circumstances if carried out to its logical extreme. For instance:

“You have to have been born to count!”

Oh? Why would the location of a person relative to their womb change what they are? If we stick the baby back in the womb, can we still kill it or is it just a one-time deal? What about Cesearian or surgically-removed premies? Do you have to pass through the birth canal? It seems odd that we would have such rigid constraints here.

“You have to be able to live on your own to count!” ”You have to be viable!”

No infant can live on their own. Arguably, most people can’t live on their own. I don’t think that makes it ok to kill them. “Viability” doesn’t seem to pan out to me because newborns are increasingly viable as medical technology advances. Surgeons have successfully performed surgery on premies in utero and premies have increasingly improving survival rates as time goes on. So, to say that it’s alright to kill someone just because, in the event that they *did* have an issue, we haven’t developed the technology to make them viable seems morally and metaphysically problematic at best. Effectively, you’re saying that we’re should count more and more things as living beings as the centuries progress. Technological prowess shouldn’t make it morally permissible to murder the elderly and young children.

“You have to be a person!”

What, exactly, defines a person? While you’re busy building a definition, I’d like to point out that you’re likely going to find that either the unborn exhibit the same behaviors you’re describing in utero (and that we’re continuing to discover a number of different things about the unborn as time goes on) or you’re going to describe someone much older than you intended on doing (e.g. a toddler, possibly some adults). Also, keep in mind that this is a moral/philosophical debate (which should be prescriptive) and not a debate about what the law currently is (which would be descriptive). Really, “personhood” doesn’t solve any issues so much as it just moves the problem and muddles the conversation.

“It’s my body!”

The problem is that it isn’t *just* your body. Pregnancy does a number on a woman, but why would the torment of pregnancy give the woman license to kill? (And, if it does, at what point does it stop? Husbands should tremble in fear of this argument.) Or, a stranger version of the question, how many organs would I have to donate to someone before I could kill them (because it’s my body)?

If you buy into the first bit, I think most of the basic policy issues are actually fairly easy to work out. When the life of the child has to be weighed, things become less muddled. For instance, take the “rape” concern. What if you had consensual sex with someone, got pregnant, had the child, and then got raped by the same person? Moreover, what if the child looked just like your rapist? Rape is a terrible crime, but that wouldn’t give you license to kill the child. You have to be compassionate to both parties when you acknowledge the existence of the child.

Additionally, if you accept the above, the practice of abortion becomes legally problematic. Why is it legally acceptable to kill the unborn but not the born? Why do we protect the rights of only some children and discriminate against the others simply because of their age?

Anyway, that’s more or less my 2 cents. Keep it civil in the comments.

 
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Posted by on 2012-03-30 in Abortion

 

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2012 Election Predictions

It’s just before Super Tuesday for the RNC primary and I feel confident enough to lay down some predictions / strategies. Romney is going to take the popular vote and will likely be the RNC candidate. Ron Paul is trying some sneaky business with the delegates, but I don’t think it’s going to work out.

In spite of that, I spent some time with a coworker speculating about how the election might look with each of the candidates as the RNC nominee and what kind of narrative the Obama candidacy needs to paint to win.

Mitt Romney

This should be all about class warfare. Who’s going to fight for the 99% and who represents the 1%. Point out Mitt’s tax rate compared to the tax rate of his secretary. Point out that political power is reserved for the rich. Tie yourself to Occupy.

Don’t get dragged into a discussion about how you’re basically the same person. The best that can accomplish is to drive down a voter’s desire to go to the polls and it cuts both ways.

Rick Santorum

Women’s issues, among other things. Scare the hell out of any progressives or moderates to get them to the booths.

It’s going to be easy to alienate a number of religious conservatives here. Focus on the issues, not the values.

Newt Gingrich

I keep writing him off, and he keeps surprising me. I still think he’s down and out. I don’t have much here except it seems like this is the candidate you need to beat a Republican on family values.

Ron Paul

I think this one is actually tricky. You can’t come right out and call him a whackadoo nut. You have to subtly point to it and that’s difficult to accomplish. Additionally, Paul is easily the least hypocritical long-term politician I know of. Obama has made several concessions and his administration has had a number of snafoos. That said, Paul will likely frighten quite a few progressives / moderates.

Paul would want to paint a narrative of Obama stripping freedom while pointing towards his beliefs. He might point to the drone attack on an American citizen. He might point to the individual mandate. He could point towards the recent inclusion of contraception on religious hospitals as an attack on religion. There’s actually quite a bit of story to spin here and it could resonate well with the low-government and social conservative groups and with moderates. Additionally, Paul has a series of rabid supporters.

As far as my interest in politics as a spectator sport is concerned, this is the match-up I’d like to watch. It would make for a *very* interesting election cycle.

 
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Posted by on 2012-03-05 in Politics

 

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My Pro-Life Policy

Mississippi just defeated a “personhood” amendment 58% to 42%, an amendment that’s fairly popular with some anti-abortion groups and has reared it’s head in other states in prior years (only to be defeated). As a policy bill, it was terrible. So terrible, in fact, that the National Right to Life Committee didn’t support it. Lots of smart people have pointed out, in mainstream media, the amendment’s gaping flaws (e.g. too vague, potentially criminalizes too much (including miscarriage), will be defeated by the Supreme Court, etc.), so I won’t repeat that here. Instead, I’d like to float a different policy for pro-life/anti-abortion groups. So, let’s ignore, for a moment, whether or not pro-life is a good position and just assume that it is. The question is, simply, what kind of policy should we propose if we want to stop abortion?

Oppositional Support

I’m going to lazily refer to a gallup poll from 2002, but most of this is probably consistent with about every conversation you’ve had on the topic. Most people are against abortion as a form of general contraception. Most people support the choice for abortion in at least some cases — including one or all of rape, incest, or death of the mother. Moreover, many of the popular reactions to attempts to ban abortion fall into women’s health concerns or, more generically, women’s rights concerns.

So, if you want to get support from people who believe in choice, you have to construct a policy that at least handles rape, incest, death of the mother, health concerns, and women’s rights in a preferable way. Additionally, you can’t lose the pro-lifers that brought you there in the first place.

The Policy

Make abortion a medical issue, governed entirely by medical ethics boards (preferably state medical ethics boards).

Sure, it could be flushed out more and made more complicated. I’m sure there are hidden problems to explore and clever ways of avoiding them. But, the basic idea should be sufficient for my purposes. It has the following effects:

  • It (nearly completely) removes abortion from the political arena.
  • It puts a woman’s health front and center.
  • Privacy concerns are already addressed by the medical community.
  • It removes the criminalization of doctor’s and patients for making tough decisions.
  • It reigns in abortion “as a contraceptive” by allowing local boards to punish irresponsible doctors. Egregious offenders (read: doctors) could potentially have criminal charges brought against them.
  • Local government is better at handling moral differences and moral conversations.
  • The medical community is better suited to handle biological and philosophical issues related to human life. This empowers them to make difficult decisions.
  • It unwinds the historical changes that put us here in a natural way.

Some Basic Problems

So, what about rape and incest? Those aren’t explicitly handled above.

Well, as far as they affect the woman, they fall into the “health” category. “Doctor” in this case should include a medical psychologist (or a related occupation).

What about stopping abortion? This doesn’t really do that. Isn’t that the point?

Sort-of. There are difficult moral concerns at play here that need to be navigated carefully. Sure, this is a system that can be beaten. But it would significantly dampen the 1 million+ abortions each year that happen for non-exceptional reasons. That’s the real goal that should be focused on before all else. Realistically, you can’t stop abortion and you can’t make an unbeatable system.

Obviously, it needs more work. I won’t even pretend I treated this subject properly. And, clearly, you won’t like it if you aren’t convinced of the underlying position and premise. But, I think it’s miles beyond a “personhood” amendment.

 
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Posted by on 2011-11-09 in Abortion

 

Born This Way

Herman Cain opined on The View Oct. 4th, 2011 that homosexuality isn’t a choice and, for some reason or another, wanted to reenact “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2011/10/04/335586/herman-cain-show-me-the-science-that-being-gay-is-not-a-choice/). I’ll leave it to other people to debate the merits of the scientific evidence in addition to whether or not “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was a good policy — the Pentagon and Department of Defense seemed to want it gone (http://www.defense.gov/home/features/2010/0610_dadt/), if that tells you anything. The problem here is that debate about the scientific merits of choice towards sexual preference aren’t fruitful for a number of reasons.

Before I get into that though, I feel the need to give the obligatory “most of my friends are gay” caveat. Personally, whether or not someone is gay is about as relevant to me as whether or not they like cheese. What I mean is, I like knowing facts about the people I interact with and care about, but I don’t base the whole of my interaction with those people around those facts (unless they make me).

It Doesn’t Solve the Moral Issue

The moral issue isn’t about aspects of your personality. It’s about what you do. Since I don’t know any science, I’m going to make up a dangerous and mostly unrelated analogy. If you were born a sociopath, it still wouldn’t be ok to murder people. Being gay isn’t like being a sociopath, but the analogy loosely applies and, since this is my blog, I’ll allow it.

Since it doesn’t solve the moral issue, it remains sexually deviant to those opposed to it. Even if you proved (WITH SCIENCE!) that the behavior had a natural cause, it would be seen as a disease. Maybe some gene therapy could cure it? Maybe someday we can go around giving everyone their “gay” vaccine? Maybe we abort gay babies? Science is a double-edged sword in this debate that doesn’t really create the outcome most people intend when they use it.

Determinism Isn’t That Great

In philosophy, determinism is the idea that you couldn’t do otherwise. Science (SCIENCE!) has this nasty habit of boiling everything down into a deterministic ideology based on chemical/physical reactions. Really, that’s the aim of science. Poke, observe, repeat, enjoy. As a tool, it does amazing things. But what it does for philosophy is remove our ability to be seen as, or maybe even just be, people. We become reactions to the things going on in the natural world.

This has all manner of terrible implications. It removes guilt (why is what you do your fault?). It removes morality (why does nature care about right and wrong?). It removes knowledge (why do chemical reactions care about truth?). And with epistemological nihilism goes everything else, including the science (SCIENCE!) that got us here in the first place. Some would argue that this creates philosophical room for theism (http://energeticprocession.wordpress.com/2011/05/17/the-other-side/). Obviously, that kind-of undermines the initial argument in the first place.

Did You Have a Point in All of This Rambling?

I think we have a choice in a number of things we do. I think some people are gay, some poeple are straight, some people are bi, and some people are just horny and/or confused. I would venture that the “cause” is probably rooted in a series of constant biological, psychological, and choices we make on a regular basis that all feed back into each other. But, your sexuality probably isn’t whimsical. It’s not like picking your major in college. I’d buy that I couldn’t change my sexuality (and I don’t really want to). Even so, it isn’t sufficient to think that science solves the problem.

 
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Posted by on 2011-10-05 in Politics

 

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No One is Pro-Choice and Pro-Life

Sounds obvious, but, when the subject comes up, I frequently hear, “I’m pro-choice, but I personally think abortion is morally wrong.” I think people that say this are expressing a contradiction and/or being ambivalent about what they believe.

If you feel that the pro-choice position is morally justifiable, then any person who has an abortion cannot be morally culpable for their action because it wouldn’t be morally unjustifiable death (i.e. murder). Therefore, by being pro-choice, you have decided that abortion is acceptable and ceded to one side of the debate.

A similar example can be given with Southern slave owners. Southern slave owners didn’t want everyone to have slaves. They weren’t after mandatory slavery. People who wanted slaves could own them, and people who didn’t want slaves didn’t have to. If you think that this view of slavery is alright, then you implicitly believe that slavery is alright. Abolitionists felt that slavery was immoral and unconstitutional.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t people who object to abortion for non-moral reasons or only specific cases (e.g. genocide). Nor is it to say that the moral question itself is decided or that the abortion issue should be decided on moral grounds. It merely argues that for a pro-choice position to be morally good position, abortion has to be morally justifiable within the bounds of that position.
 
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Posted by on 2011-09-04 in Abortion, Politics

 

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