Uncommon Sense

November 29, 2011

Sharia Law Hypocrisy

Filed under: Politics,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 1:20 pm
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While focusing upon political corruption I cannot stop commenting on hypocrisy. (I know, I’ll work on this obsession.) The source of this comment is there is yet another scare about “Sharia law” being implemented in the U.S. (Sharia law is the law of law of the Koran, Islamic law). While I believe these “fears” are part of a general campaign to keep people in a state of anxiety and fear in order to be able to manipulate them electorally, there is more than a small measure of hypocrisy. The self-same people decrying the “implementation” of Sharia law in the U.S. are also all in favor of having the Christian Bible be the font of legal wisdom in this country. (Remember the “Post the Ten Commandments in the Courthouse” movement?)

Christians revel in simplistic thinking. I asked a Christian relative of mine whether our laws should be based on The Bible and the answer was an unhesitating “yes.” Then I followed with, “so you endorse slavery and the selling of children” Horrified, the Christian said, “No, no, of course not!” “So, you think the person who caused an accident resulting in some poor person losing an eye, should pay by having one of his eyes put out?” “No, no, of course not!” “Well, these are not only sanctioned in The Bible but regulated,” I said. “But that is in the Old Testament,” she complained. So, I asked “Do you own a Bible?” Answer: yes. “Is it the literal word of God?” Answer; yes. “Does it include the Old Testament?” Answer: Uh. . . . And these are the same people who are horrified by the flat out lie that Sharia law is being implemented “here.” (“Here” always being someplace far enough away that you can’t check for yourself.) And, even though it is also the same God we are talking about here. For those of you who didn’t know, the God of Islam (Allah in Arabic) is the God of Israel and Abraham and Jesus. Muslims revere Jesus as a prophet and claim there is no conflict between Judaism and Islam, for example, and not really any with Christianity, either.

And Christians are fond of saying, all of Jesus’ protestations to the contrary, that the New Testament preempts the Old. But, doesn’t Islam then preempt the New Testament? It is several centuries more current. Same God, different policies, same argument as to why modern Christians do not live by the inerrant word of God in the Old Testament. No?

I have noticed that the commandment to not bear false witness against your neighbor doesn’t extend to people Christians do not like. And logic and reason aren’t given much play in those circles, either.

November 28, 2011

The Corruption Papers, No. 3

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 8:37 am
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I was watching a local Public Television special yesterday on what the city I now live in was like in the 1940’s and 1950’s. I was struck by how much the American People in the 1940’s were involved in the war effort. All kinds of things were rationed during World War II: food (sugar, butter, meat, etc.), gasoline, tires for your car, and more. Scrap drives were held to collect strategic metals. People even collected bacon grease which was reprocessed to make munitions lubricants. And, war bonds were sold. Service groups ran war bond drives. Hollywood celebrities headlined war bond drives. War bonds? Yep, the public lent money to the government to fund the war.

What does this have to do with political corruption, you ask? What is corruption but a politician doing something other than the people’s will for personal gain (money, re-election, etc.)? During the Bush administration two wars were initiated that not only weren’t paid for but weren’t even placed in the federal budget. What if we required all war efforts (actual wars, police actions, everything involving active military involvement that isn’t a humanitarian relief effort) to be paid for with War Bonds? If the public didn’t approve of a war effort, they wouldn’t purchase the bonds that would finance the effort and it would rapidly cease. It isn’t unknown for politicians to lie to the public about wars but there would be a political price to pay for doing so, as people will feel extorted (directly rather than indirectly).

War Bonds could be sold during peace time, but the money could not be spent or lent to other governmental bodies, just saved for a future war effort. Since these bonds would be interest bearing, stockpiling funds generated by them by the government would be counterproductive. Do realize that the military budgets have enough wiggle room that a war effort could be launched out of the budget alone. But a sustained war effort would require a lot of war bonds to be sold. No longer would an unpopular war drag on and on so Congress could make sure that their military industrial complex donors could make even more money from that war.

In fact, I am tired of hearing politicians braying “What the American people want is . . . ” usually in the service of their campaign donors. Opinion research is sufficiently well developed that we could have official polls determining what “the people” actually did want done. Then if the politicians did otherwise, we’d know clearly to get rid of them. I know, I know, direct democracy is fraught with all kinds of problems. But surely, a highly structured poll about wars, the economy, and other hot topics, to give Congress its marching orders can’t be any worse that what we have now.

Can it?

November 25, 2011

Can You Spell Corruption, Boys and Girls?

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 9:18 am
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Mr. Rogers (of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood) could really spell things out with great clarity and simplicity. I envy the skills required to do so. But the attempt must be made: the topic for today is political corruption.

Imagine going to a hair parlor for a haircut and after you describe what you want, you doze in the chair only to wake at the end with a haircut completely different from what you asked for. Angrily, you ask what the heck is going on and your stylist tells you glibly that your spouse had offered her a generous tip to cut your hair the way she wanted, not the way you wanted.

How do you feel?

Imagine sitting down with your lawyer to open a nonprofit corporation to do some work you had in mind only to find out that the lawyer actually went ahead with forming a for-profit corporation instead. Bewildered as to how he could have made such a mistake, you find out that your business partner paid the lawyer to do what he wanted instead of what you wanted.

How do you feel?

Imagine going to a doctor for some minor plastic surgery only to see at the unveiling that something quite different from what you requested was performed. Shocked, you inquire to find out that your parents doubled the surgeon’s fee to fix some things about you that had always bothered them.

How do you feel?

The above may seem silly, but if the three scenarios had actually happened, I imagine a divorce, law suit and possible disbarment, and parental divorce/disownment to follow shortly. The behaviors of the three service providers are serious breaches of ethics and the law and could have serious consequences. So, why do we allow our politicians to accept money from people, people they do not represent, and then let them vote on issues that affect those self-same people? This is political corruption and it is built into our current system of politics.

The founders of the Constitution, if James Madison and Thomas Jefferson are to be believed, were seriously concerned with the corrupting influence of money on the legislative process. Currently there is no serious effort to do anything about it. And the efforts that are being made are efforts to secure transparency, that is the find out whose money is being given to whom. Most of these efforts are probably misguided and certainly ineffective.

As I have stated before, there are only two things that need to be done to fix the majority of the corruption by money in politics:
1) Require politicians who have received political contributions from corporations which have a substantive interest in a piece of legislation to recuse themselves from the vote, and
2) Limit direct fundraising by candidates to the boundaries of their political districts (same for issues legislation). Anyone or anything located outside of those boundaries, wanting to speak using money in a political campaign must clearly mark their materials (brochures, TV ads, whatever) with “Paid for by Outsiders” in big, block letters.

Too often interest groups collect money (and often launder it by transferring it to another political action group), call themselves something innocuous like “Mothers Against Crime” or “Moms for Apple Pie,” and then flood a campaign with money. The forms identifying the source of the money show the innocuous name, a post office box address and, really, nothing more. This is how Americans for Prosperity has raised 95% of its millions it pumps into political campaigns from three anonymous billionaires, who remain anonymous.

Efforts to identify the people behind these organizations has been hampered by laws bought through a politically corrupt process. So, just tell me whether the funds come from within my political district or from without, please. The money coming from without is likely to be a form of influence peddling, so I can evaluate those messages differently from the ones paid for by my friends and neighbors.

More on this in subsequent posts.

November 21, 2011

Even More Republican Perfidy

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 11:24 am
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I have written a number of times on the topic of hypocrisy in politics and I have to again. (I just can’t stop myself.) It is truly amazing that Republicans have as a core principle to “get the Federal Government out of people’s lives” yet whenever they have federal power what do they do? Exactly the opposite. While droning on about how the Federal Government should leave most things to the states, our current batch of GOP ideologues in the House of Representatives has a bill making a law that would require all states to honor concealed carry permits granted by other states, “concealed carry” referring to the ability to carry a gun on your person concealed from view.

Think about it. The vast majority of the states already have laws on their books allowing for the concealed carrying of firearms. But some of those persnickety states won’t allow people from other states to use their permits when they travel. Drat them. This is a typical Republican “race to the bottom” strategy. In effect, the state with the lowest standards for granting a permit would drive down the other state’s standards. And I am willing to bet that some state, facing one of their frequent financial crises, will look at such permits as a profit center and start granting them to residents of other states. Currently, for example, since there is no state income tax in the State of Nevada (along with other pro-business provisions) it is very popular to incorporate a business in that state. Their rules only require a post office box and a person designated to act on your behalf in the state. There are multiple businesses offer their services making it cheap and easy to set up a business in Nevada no matter where you live. So, Nevada could, if they haven’t already, granted concealed carry permits to its own residents and anyone who owned a business in the state. If that were done, Nevada’s concealed carry requirements would become those of any state which recognized the permits of other states because if youe states restrictions were too great, you could oppen up a business in Nevada (for less than the price of a handgun) and then get a permit from Nevada that your state would be required to honor.

Why are Republicans doing this? It is a general strategy of theirs. Pass some innocuous bill on the federal level to bind the states to one another and a “race to the bottom” begins. Consider during the health care debate one Republican idea was to “allow more competition into the health insurance business by letting insurance companies sell policies across state lines.” More competition is good, no? In this case, no. Every state has it’s own ideas about how insurance businesses are to be run: how much can be charged, what things need to be covered, what forms need to be filed, etc. The requirements for purchasing insurance are stated fairly generically in their laws, then they regulate the businesses so that they are doing what they want. If insurance companies are allowed to sell across state lines, then the companies with the cheapest policies (and usually poorest coverage) would drive out the companies with better coverage and higher prices, a classic race to the bottom.

So, why would this be a general strategy for Republicans? What’s in it for them? Ah, now the right question is being asked. Who stands to benefit from these changes? If you answer “Republican (and Democratic) corporate masters” you are on the path to wisdom. Republican ideology (the Federal Government is bad and the less of it we have the better) always takes a back seat to making money for their big donors. For example, the Federal Government shouldn’t intrude between a doctor and his patients (unless the patient wants an abortion). The Federal Government shouldn’t interfere in foreign disputes (unless munitions dealers and military contractors can make a great deal of money). How many more can you come up with?

You see, it is all about political corruption, not political hypocrisy, which I must write more on as this is the only real problem facing us politically. No matter what problems face us, through our various government agencies, our ability to deal with those problems can be trumped by political corruption. Isolated corrupt politicians can be tolerated, but now it seems as if corrupt politicians are the majority. If we don’t deal with it and soon, there will be little left in the way of will that hasn’t already been paid for and, trust me, you and I didn’t pay for it.

November 20, 2011

Health Care, What to Do? What to Do?

Filed under: Economics,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 10:31 am
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Since we are experiencing the years of electioneering prior to a presidential election (hardly seems reasonable) I expect we are going to hear Republican thunder about the repeal of “job killing Obama Care” the whole time. Apparently “baby killing Obama Care” didn’t pass the focus group sniff test.

As usual, many people will use a great many words but actually say quite little. What needs to be said is this: the American people clearly want affordable health care for themselves and compassionate care for those unable to pay. The problem here is nobody is defining “health care.” Currently, destitute folks turn up in county hospitals (government run) or emergency rooms of private hospitals and we all pay for their care through higher costs at those medical facilities from those of us who can and do pay. But nobody is talking about the level of care people are getting. People who cannot pay get no exotic treatments or fancy surgeries. They often get patched up and shown the door with the hope that they will darken the door of another facility next time. Even when they get the best advice and all the help they need, it doesn’t mean they will be served well.

One of the benefits that the Veterans Administration health system shows is that when a system adopts a patient for life, their care goes up significantly in quality. The attitude of the care givers is: if we don’t do a good job this time, this patient will be back on our examination table in short order. In other words, it pays to provide good care, just the reverse of what the pro bono care given to indigent people indicates. And the VA has demonstrated that, in more than a few cases, a more expensive treatment is the most cost effective (in that the patient returns for more care less often or not at all).

So, what kind of care should government provide? What are the interests of the general population? Obviously, people who cannot afford health care can spread infectious diseases and put us all in jeopardy. People who are sick and cannot work draw government assistance. People who can’t care for their children tax local systems of care giving.

I am going to argue that “the government” as the representative of all Americans interests should provide “basic health care” for all citizens. That’s right . . . everybody. But before you go “But, . . . but. . . .” let me explain. The key word here is “basic” in basic health care. I think everybody should be protected from infectious diseases as a matter of public health. That means immunizations, flu shots, treatments for colds and flu as well as tuberculosis, STDs, etc. are of these would be covered. This is good policy. As an example, when I was a member of Kaiser Permanente in California, I used to make it from the medical center parking lot in to get a flu shot and out in less than 10 minutes. They set up a quick process and charged not a penny extra for this service because it helped keep their costs down during cold and flu season. Just one bout of pneumonia saved would pay for a whole lot of flu shots. This is a form of preventive medicine.

Basic health coverage would cover all prenatal and post natal care for women as well as most childhood diseases for the children. And kids fall and break bones, so such are covered also.

What wouldn’t be covered are exotic surgeries, for example. Have the bad luck to have Siamese twins, you’ll have to pay out of pocket for surgeries to separate them because such would not be covered under basic health care provided by your neighbors. Have an exotic cancer that requires exotic drugs and treatments. It is sad and not covered under basic care.

Need a hip transplant surgery? Not covered. AIDS, not covered. Have really special needs? Not covered.

Now I may be starting to sound ogre-ish, even to my own ears. But this is the way of things. Sad things happen every day, but society as a whole doesn’t have any interest to protect individuals, only the population as a whole. We all have an interest in making sure that future generations grow up healthy and whole so they can take over our democracy, but no one particular individual, no matter how “special,” is needed. What? What if that kid needing a special operation is the next Gandhi? Well, what if he is the next Hitler? Society has no special interest in individuals, but does so in whole groups.

Now, with basic health care covered, the rest of the system can go to town providing “supplemental” care. Rich people have always had the best health care available to them. They should have all they can afford as far as I am concerned, but this would not be an income tax or corporate tax deductable expense as it is a luxury. People of even modest means may be able to procure supplemental insurance to cover health concerns not covered by government provided basic coverage.

So, have I stirred your health care pot? Do we all have enough of an interest to provide health care, basic health care, to all citizens? Can we do it without breaking the bank? I think we can if we focus on basic health care.

November 18, 2011

SCOTUS to the Rescue?

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has decided to hear whether the Affordable Care Act, aka Obama Care, is constitutional to the substantial applause of conservatives. “SCOTUS to the rescue” is their battle cry! This action by the high court was expected as a great many state’s Attorney’s General had brought that question to federal courts and conflicting opinions have been rendered by those lower courts.

The primary question (yes, there are more than one) is whether the Congress has the right to compel U.S. citizens to purchase health insurance. I will leave the question of what is left of the Affordable Care Act if SCOTUS says “no.” Right now I want to look at what powers the Congress already has, the context of the debate, as it were.

The constitutional power most applicable is in Article 1, Section 8 which states that Congress has the power: To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof. This is referred to as the “Necessary and Proper” clause by Constitution geeks. I have already spoken on how the Founders: a) were not in favor of small government, b) greatly exceed their mandate to go as far as they did, and c) were very leery of limiting the actions of future Americans, so I will not reiterate those points here.

According to the Constitution, Congress can legally (by being confirmed by past SCOTUS rulings on their actions):
1. Require you to pay for a government-run retirement program (Social Security).
2. Require you to pay into a government-run health care insurance program (Medicare).
3. Require you to pay income and other taxes.
4. Require you to serve in the military (various “drafts”).
to name just a few requirements. Military drafts, in effect, are confiscations of your person! If you fail to comply with the requirements of a draft, you can end up sitting out the associated conflict in jail. This basically is assuming total control of your person.

Requiring citizens to purchase health care insurance is small potatoes compared to these. I must add that the argument that “the fine for not buying insurance is so minuscule as to be negligible” has no merit because once a fine has been accepted, Congress can increase it to any amount they wish. So, don’t bother making that argument.

In a country in which you must purchase insurance to be able to drive on government-built roads and bridges, and you must buy multiple insurances (mortgage insurance, fire insurance, earthquake insurance, flood insurance) for a bank to give you a mortgage, I would find it passing strange to find that Congress could not do what the states and private businesses do every day.

Also, consider that Congress could pass a tax on all citizens to cover the costs of health care services for the indigent (which cannot be denied by law). The insurance requirement is essentially the same thing.

The argument of “if the federal government can make you buy something from a private vendor, like an insurance policy, they could make you buy anything” is totally specious. There must be a compelling interest for the government to take any such action. In the health care situation, the health care segment of the economy has grown to almost 25% of all economic activity. This threatens our viability as a nation and government action is needed, the government being the representative of “all U.S. Citizens.” Since we got into this situation by letting “the Market” do its thing, it looks incredibly irresponsible to adopt the position that “the Market will fix what is broken.”

And the really scary question no one is yet asking is: What are the repercussions if SCOTUS decides Congress does not have that power? How does it affect all of the above situations and how does it affect the Congress into the future?

All of this aside, we are losing focus on the issue of affordable health care. German citizens have comparable health care to what we have, yet pay half of what we pay. What are we to do? I will answer that question in my next post.

November 16, 2011

Evidence Based Decision Making Redux

Filed under: Economics,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 8:59 pm
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Two posts ago I made a plea for political decision making based on evidence. Today we got some useful evidence. Dr. Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University was testifying in front of a House of Representatives subcommittee. He pointed out that the real wages of a single male worker in the U.S. peaked in 1973. (Republicans often point out that household income continued to increase after that time but that was primarily driven by more and more spouses going to work.) Dr. Sachs also said that manufacturing employment in the U.S. peaked in 1979 and since then we have lost 8,000,000+ manufacturing jobs.

Republicans have claimed that manufacturing jobs have declined for three reasons:
1) the high cost of U.S. labor (due to those dratted Unions I’ll bet)
2) the cost of complying with government regulations, and
3) high business taxes.
So, is there evidence to apply to these assertions? There is!

Many people are aware that China is the leading global exporter of manufactured goods, but do you know which country is #2? It is Germany. Germany made a major commitment to manufacturing some time ago and is now the #2 exporting country of goods it manufactures . . . and
1) the cost of German labor is higher than in the U.S. (and is less productive, too)
2) Germans have at least as much, if not more, government regulations in force than do we, and
3) business taxes in Germany are higher than they are here (the real taxes, not the rates).
So, Germany, unlike China (in that it has a market-based economy so it compares to ours) provides us with an example that indicates that the Republican assertions may be less than useful (or self-serving, or made up on the fly, or lies, . . .).

Germans collect less in income taxes and more in business taxes than do we. The trend in this country has been to collect a smaller share of federal revenues in the form of business taxes and more from middle class taxpayers for quite some time.

Could not we emulate the Germans or even ourselves of 30-40 years ago and get back into significant manufacturing activities? Or is it the case that the “job exporters” have been sending so many jobs overseas for just a marginal increase in corporate profits instead of looking at the long term health of this nation’s economy and investing in us, rather than in foreigners?

U.S. workers are the most productive in the world. We can make goods the rest of the world wants to buy. The workers making those goods will need goods and services, too, benefiting companies that take the path Germany has taken even more by also being customers for those goods.

Or does ideology, even faux ideology, trump reality still?

It Is Not About the Ideology

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 10:23 am
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The current NBA lockout tells us everything we need to know about our current state of politics. On one side of the labor divide in the NBA are the Owners, generally quite wealthy individuals. On the other side are the Players, athletes who make from hundreds of thousands of dollars per season to millions of dollars per season. The two groups are often referred to as the “Billionaires” (the Owners) and the “Millionaires” (the Players). It is also probably no surprise that the majority of those affiliated with political parties in both groups are registered as Republicans.

A fundamental plank of Republican ideology, having near sacred overtones, is the sanctity of markets. If markets are unfettered, the best results occur. End of story, if you are a Republican, no? So, let’s see what the bargaining positions of these two groups are. The Players want a free market for their services. They bid out their services and let the market decide their value. The Owners, on the other hand, well, are in favor of—there is no other way to say it—a regulated market. They want more regulations in place that limit what they can pay for players.

Hunh? The fatter cats want more regulation? How can this be? Republicans are against anti-business regulations. Bad! Bad!

Don’t be fooled by the Republican’s (or Democrat’s) ideological smokescreens. It is not about ideology. It is about . . . money.

Politically our national political dialogue is about everything but what it should be about—corruption. We send representatives, in our place, to take care of our collective business. We expect those representative’s motivations to be to serve our interests. Instead their motivations are money. Money to get re-elected or money to line their pockets, it is the same thing. This is the very definition of political corruption. And the country’s monied interests have the finest government that money can buy, and because it is their money and not ours, our interests are not even close to being served.

There is only one solution to this problem, a line clearly needs to be drawn between honest political contributions and influence peddling. The line has to be simple, easily understood by the voting population, clear and definite. I suggest that that line needs to be the boundary lines of political districts. The Supreme Court has declared corporations to be people and money to be a form of free speech, but influence peddling is still illegal. Using political boundaries solves myriad campaign finance problems. Why should someone who doesn’t live in my city have the right to bribe my mayor? Yes, I say bribe because it is a proven psychological fact that people receiving “gifts” always feel the urge to reciprocate. So, someone from another city giving money to a mayoral candidate in my city is, whether he desires this or not, undermining the responsibility that candidate feels to his constituency, the people who live in his city. Candidates for mayor of a city should only be able to accept donations from people who live in that city, people whom the mayor will represent. People from outside the city should not be trying to buy influence with my mayor.

But what about free speech? People from outside the city still have free speech rights, absolutely. They can hire a hall in the city and then deliver speeches. They can walk from house to house arguing for their candidate of choice, they can create political ads for broadcast in the city. But all speeches, all literature, all ads must be clearly labeled “Paid For by Outsiders.” The information people need to evaluate political messages is based on the speaker’s motivations. If someone is working very hard to get a candidate elected and that candidate won’t represent him, one has all of the critical information needed to evaluate that someone’s contribution. Outsiders do not get to coordinate their campaigns with “in district campaigns,” either.

I would further add that if corporations are to be “people,” they have to have some of our limitations in addition to our advantages. My political districts are determined by my “primary address.” Inside all of the districts overlapping with my primary residence I am an “insider.” If a political district doesn’t overlap, I am an “outsider.” So, too, should corporations be limited. Their primary residence shall be that of their corporate headquarters. So, I can freely contribute money to any presidential candidates, U.S. Senate candidates in my state, U.S. House candidates in my congressional district, and all of the state and local candidates for all of the offices in my district. Corporations have the same benefit. Unions have the same benefit.

And outsiders can have their say, just from the outside.

November 14, 2011

Wanted: A Change of Heart and Mind

Filed under: Economics,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 1:21 pm
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Many pundits believe that our national level politics haven’t been at loggerheads this much in the last 125 years. We have political parties who ignore public priorities and public sensibilities and get hammered in polls and elections, yet persist in their delusions that the “The American Public wants (what we want) .”

What is needed is a change of heart and mind by one and all.

An example of a change of heart I can offer involves looking back to the end of World War II. There was a pervading sense of “we are all in this together” that allowed a great deal of progress to be made in our economic and social lives. We used that, along with a battered world economy, to build the biggest middle class the world had ever seen. I don’t think such a change needs a world war to launch, but there must be, I believe, significant shared effort and shared sacrifice. Such efforts build team spirit.

A change of mind is also sorely needed. I would like to see rational decision making adopted as a major theme of political discourse. If someone or some party claims that, for example, “tax cuts are the only way to climb out of a recession,” they should be ready to present evidence for that claim, not just argument, but evidence. All of those interested could submit evidence and then people could weigh that evidence to see if it holds water. People who aren’t capable of weighing the evidence can be helped by independent bodies which can.

Currently our national politicians want the exact opposite. (Evidence, I don’ got to show you no stinkin’ evidence!) As an example, you may have noticed that every economic indicator we hear about gets “revised” three to four months after it is announced. The stimulus package proffered by the Obama administration was considered a “low” estimate of what was needed for the as then construed problem. Somewhat later we find out the recession was about twice as bad as was first estimated, so the “stimulus” was helpful but rather ineffective because it was way too small. Had we known the real extent of the problem, the debate might have been different.

Not long ago a bill was introduced to reform our system of economic indicators using Canada’s more accurate system as a model. The cost of implementation was minimal. The bill, of course, went nowhere and we still have the old, very flawed system. Politicians like it that way. If an indicator supports something you support, you crow about it. If it doesn’t, you wait a few months and the revised value comes out and you have the opportunity to crow about the revised value. There is no commitment to reality.

Time magazine pointed out that the summer riots in London should have been expected because of the wealth disparity in England, indicated by a Gini Coefficient of 0.38. The U.S. Gini Coefficient is far worse being near, or maybe now on the high side of, 0.50. Will it take an economic meltdown involving the dollar losing its status as the international currency? Will it take riots?

What will it take to change your heart or your mind?

November 11, 2011

Was I Too Hard on Republican Anti-Abortion Extremists?

Filed under: Politics,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 10:12 am
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A comment about my last post (A Great Puzzlement) claimed that I may have been too hard on Republican anti-abortion extremists. The argument was: We can’t know God’s plan for the baby created from a rape. That baby may be the next Einstein. We shouldn’t interfere with God’s Plan. They are just being good Christians.

That baby might be the next Hitler. So what? My argument is that the effort is not supported either by holy writ or even by logic. If you accept the logic above, basically that it is God’s will that the baby be born, then you should also accept the following:
1. We should not cool our houses in summer or warm them in winter because God made summer hot and winter cold for reasons. We should not interfere with God’s plan.
2. We shouldn’t modify our foods (by selective breeding, etc.) to increase yields of plants and animals as God made those plants and animals the way he did for a reason and, since we can’t know God’s plan, we should not interfere.
3. We should not heal the sick and injured. God wanted little Jimmy to break his leg, so setting the bone and putting a cast on it is interfering with God’s plan for Jimmy.

Must we worry when we grab an umbrella for a walk in the rain that we might be thwarting God’s plan? He made it rain, maybe to wants me to get wet? Maybe he wants me to get sick and die! You can see that the argument is ludicrous. And why can’t we know God’s plan? He certainly hasn’t made any effort to explain it. How do we even know there is a plan if it is, indeed, unknowable? How can we possibly know it is unknowable? (There is something I don’t know, but I can’t know it because. . . ?)

What people who make such arguments miss is this is not about the baby. It is about the mother. An abortion doesn’t prevent a woman from having a baby they want at a later date. I can’t imagine that a baby a woman is coerced or forced into having is going to experience much, if any, maternal love as it grows up. The odds against that child are extremely high. A woman who is supported by loved ones and who receives help and guidance may come to love a man in the future and bear children that get to grow up in a loving home. A women enslaved to a fetus will likely be scarred for life.

Hey, I’ve got an idea. If men were forced to bear such children, would they insist on bearing the child? What a silly hypothetical you say. It is easy to test this. Why don’t we ask women the question? Have a national plebiscite on the question “If you are raped and get pregnant, should you be forced to have the child?” Is there any doubt about the outcome? Is there any doubt that men are more likely to resist being forced to do something than are women?

Why are Republicans hell bent on subordinating a mother’s rights to those of an unborn child? Ah, here is crux of the matter.

Conservatives basically believe that human beings cannot be trusted, that our baser instincts will overwhelm us if there aren’t societal/institutional restraints in place. Conservatives in the South lived in fear that African-Americans would rise up and attack the white majority as payback for slavery. The fact that nothing even close to this has ever happened to the contrary, that fear still exists. The U.S. is becoming a majority-minority country. There are more Latino-Americans every year. The Tea Partiers are fearful a Black President will confiscate their wealth and give it to people with black and brown skins.

People steeped in fear and clinging to the past, want desperately to keep things they way they were. More white babies, fewer brown, please. And they are willing to stomp all over women’s rights to do it.

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