Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Get On The Horn: 23 Dems Against the Public Option.

John Adler (N.J.), Jason Altmire (Pa.), John Barrow (Ga.), Dan Boren (Okla.) Rick Boucher (Va.), Allen Boyd (Fla.), Bobby Bright (Ala.), Travis Childers (Miss.), Jim Costa (Calif.), Henry Cuellar (Texas), Parker Griffith (Ala.), Frank Kratovil (Md.), Betsy Markey (Colo.) Eric Massa (N.Y.), Jim Matheson (Utah), Charlie Melancon (La.), Walt Minnick (Idaho), Tom Perriello (Va.), Earl Pomeroy (N.D.), Heath Shuler (N.C.), Bart Stupak (Mich.), John Tanner (Tenn.), Gene Taylor (Miss.)

Big Tent Democrat at TalkLeft does a nice little run down of the 23 Democrats who have announced their opposition to the public option in health care reform. Catch the discussion for insights.

And I don't have to tell you what to do if you live in one of these states: You can find representatives' telephone numbers here.

More analysis at The Hill.

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Making a Stink: Robert Reich on the Public Option.

Robert Reich gives a run down of the public option. 150 seconds on video: What is it? Why do we want it? Who opposes it and why? How do we make sure we get it?

Now email the president. Call your Senator. Call your Representative. And tell your neighbor!


Just Say Know: Faith-Based Sex Ed Online.

Religious Institute unveils it's new online sex education guide. Read up and let me know what you think! From the press release:
"Growing numbers of clergy and people of faith believe not only in promoting abstinence, but also in providing youth with full and honest education about their sexual and reproductive health," said Rev. Debra W. Haffner, executive director of the Religious Institute. "Abstinence-only programs that withhold potentially life-saving information from our children in the hope that they will delay sexual activity are not only ineffective, they are morally wrong."Just Say Know, available at www.religiousinstitute.org, is designed to empower clergy, religious and lay leaders to become advocates for comprehensive sexuality education in their congregations, denominations and communities. The guide provides theologically informed arguments for sexuality education, resources for use in worship services and congregational settings, and tools for advocacy at the local, state and national levels.

The new guide is intended to help religious leaders and communities capitalize on the growing momentum toward comprehensive sexuality education nationwide. Nine major Christian and Jewish denominations, the National Council of Churches and the Unitarian Universalist Association have all adopted policies supporting comprehensive sexuality education in public schools. A majority of Americans of every faith, including Roman Catholics and evangelical Christians, also support school-based sexuality education.

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Oh Nos! The Mennonites Are Against Israel Too.

At The Institute for Global Jewish Affairs, Dexter van Zile warns that the Mennonites are betraying their Jewish brethren and their "activist organizations" like Mennonite Central Committee must be closely watched.

His basic points?

*Mennonite-supported peacemaking institutions have been at the forefront of the effort to discredit Israel to audiences in North America. These institutions portray Jewish sovereignty as the cause of conflict and suffering in the Middle East and downplay Muslim and Arab hostility toward Jews and Israel.

*The prescription for peace offered by these activists-especially those affiliated with the Mennonite Central Committee and Christian Peacemaker Teams-is for Israeli Jews to abandon their insistence on maintaining Israel as a sovereign Jewish state and acquiesce to a one-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. This prescription fails to take into account overwhelming evidence that a Jewish minority would not be safe in a Muslim- and Arab-majority country in the Middle East.

*Mennonite expressions of hostility toward Jewish sovereignty and indifference to the plight of Jews in Arab- and Muslim-majority states are ironic and hypocritical. Mennonites enjoy safety and wellbeing by virtue of other people's willingness to engage in acts of violence. Israeli Jews enjoy no such privilege.

*Mennonite anti-Zionism is emblematic of an inability to deal with the reality of evil and the power needed to confront it.

The last two points are basically a theological attack on Mennonite pacificity. The first two points are basically the same charges pitted against any group or individual who wishes to broker or support peace between Israel and Palestine.

Van Zile starts off his article with the premise that Mennonites are uniquely positioned to understand the challenges of Israel because during and after the Radical Reformation they suffered greatly under the church or governmental authorities of the countries in which they lived. The wandering Jews and the wandering Mennonites may have persecution and displacement in common, but the whole Zionism thing makes the comparisons a hypothetical game. WWII does too.

I think what Van Zile is really saying to MCC and other Mennonite organizations who are working diligently to bring peace to Israel-Palestine is, "Your religion is weaker than ours 'cause we have big US guns we're not afraid to use and our very own country. Now back off and don't tell us what to do with our Arabs." Becoming and helpful to the peace process, isn't it?

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Great News: Silent Light on DVD.

Read my April review of Carlos Reygadas movie, Silent Light at KillingtheBuddha, then run out to buy it on DVD.
Silent Light’s critics come in two distinct camps: the fawning elite with endless patience for Reygadas’ opening five minute shot of the heavens giving way to a mystical sunrise, repeated at the close like a stage curtain used to mark the viewer’s transformation to another world and back again; and those with disdain for Reygadas’ “artistic wank” and heavy references to Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1955 classic, Ordet (The Word), which showed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music last month. The New York Time’s Manohla Dargis dishes over-the-top raves and tacitly sidesteps Silent Light’s theology. So does Martin Scorsese. No one, it seems, knows what to make of the film but that it is beautiful.

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Review of a Review: The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia.

(Whereby I use every possible chance to drill down on my peeves about common writing about euthanasia and assisted suicide.)

Metapsychology reviews a new edition of Neil Gorsuch's The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia. From the review, my comments un-italicized, interspersed:

The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia is worth reading just to catch up with the current state of play on these issues of deep social concern. More importantly, Gorsuch argues for a number of well-defined theses relating to the debate. Among these, some of the most important are:

1) Legal historians are wrong to suggest that the law has increasingly legitimized suicide over the past few centuries. Rather, changes in law reflect the identification of suicide as a symptom of mental illness and a recognition that posthumous "punishments" meant to deter suicides merely add to the suffering of bereaved families.

We wrongly - and exclusively - link desire for suicide to mental illness because we live in a culture that extolls not "going gentle." No one in their right mind, in other words, would want to end their life.

More importantly, we live in a culture that holds pain and suffering as redemptive. Writes commentor dfrost (#12) about the NYTimes article on Baxter v Montana, the assisted suicide case that was heard by the Montana Supreme Court on Wednesday, "We have free will but it is limited [and] we do not have the will to overule HIM, in HIS decision of how long we live. Why would anyone want to [condemn] themselves to etermal damnation. HE only permits what we can bare in our lives." All well and good perhaps, if you're a believer and forced to explain all natural phenomena, particularly the bad, as god's will.

Another mistaken commenter, ck (#22) writes, "It is against every fiber of the human soul to snuff out a life no matter what it is facing." A quick read of human history would dispell this misunderstanding. Or perhaps, a quick read of Of Mice and Men or some Chekhov. Her narrative may be more sweet and kind than the actual, but it is alas, a false narrative.

Another commenter, William Loughborough, #13), referring to the dying Robert Baxter who suffered with leukemia for 12 years and is a plaintiff in the Baxter v Montana case, writes, "Harsh as it seems, the plaintiff had plenty of other methods to end his life without forcing doctors to join in the furthering this sad undertaking." Tom (#67) agrees. "Granted," he writes, "there is suffering in life, especially in terminal illnesses, but that is part of life. When we start opting out of that aspect, it sends a destructive signal to society." What that destructive signal may be, I have no idea. "And yes," he continues, "if I ever find myself in that situation, I want to be able to hold out until the disease ends my life." Sounds like moral superiority to me. And an unrealistic understanding of what end of life can be like.

Like pregnant women, I suspect, the dying are expected to find violent, inhumane relief for their suffering outside the medical profession. In other words, the medical profession has no obligation to control suffering. If suffering does not reside in the medical realm, and one is not a believer attributing it to the God realm, where does suffering reside?

Just where the medical profession and the religious would rather put it, in the legal realm: suffering is punishment: redeeming, inescapable, and legal (ending suffering is illegal). Suffering is punishment, and as Garret Keizer writes, "pain is fundamental to justice, which makes perfect sense if justice is conceived as nothing more than a system of punishments and rewards."

Yet, ask anyone about those who lept from the World Trade Towers rather than burn to death and you will encounter equivocation. A majority of Americans, when asked in 2005 during the Terri Schiavo case if they for themselves would have wanted the removal of nutrition and hydration tubes as the court ordered, answered a resounding yes. Powerful personal stories that resonate with society.

Maybe, to better understand the assisted suicide movement, we just needs a new narrative.

2) Once euthanasia and assisted suicide are accepted as legitimate options for terminally ill patients, there remains little rational basis for keeping anyone from seeking euthanasia or assistance in committing suicide.

How so? Death with Dignity has very strict requirements: the terminal patient must be within 6 months of death; they must be of sound mind; they must self-administer the medicine. A doctor's responsibility becomes writing a prescription. The doctor is even forbidden under Oregon and Washington's laws, from mentioning assisted suicide.

Let's be clear: euthanasia is "mercy killing" of those deemed a burden to society. It is a term which implies the Holocaust or what municipalities do to stray dogs and it is a term that has no place in this discussion. (Unless you want to talk about "pulling the plug" or "principle of double effect" which doctor's seem to have no problem with because they are the ones making the decision, not the patient. See below.)

And the only thing assisted about assisted suicide as pertains to the Oregon and Washington laws is the doctor's writing of a prescription. The burden of death lies with the patient, not the doctor. I see no difference from a terminal, suffering patient having access to necessary medications (as is currently only obtained illegally or through a doctor) and a person standing on the roof of a 60 story burning building. Death comes; pick your method.

This "slippery slope" argument is unfounded and jerry rigged to suit the argument just as "respect for human life" has been employed for abortion, the forcing of a woman to have a child against her will. The premise is that once we begin to determine what life is worth, we lose our moral compass and prioritize certain groups to society as more important than others. The real premise underlying this is that we already prioritize the importance of lives in society: women and the ill and the poor unwilling suffer pain because they are low on the list and because they, again from Keizer, "are roundly condemned for their escape from 'responsibility' but truly feared for their escape from jurisdiction."

3) Regulation of euthanasia and physician assisted suicide in the Netherlands and in the State of Oregon (where physicians are allowed to prescribe lethal drugs to assist in suicide) is shockingly haphazard. Reporting procedures are practically worthless and in Oregon the law makes no serious effort to keep patients suffering from treatable depression from receiving lethal drugs for the purpose of suicide. Despite the decriminalization of euthanasia in the Netherlands, in many cases doctors do not go to the trouble of following official procedures in performing euthanasia. More generally speaking: by definition, euthanasia and physician assisted suicide are matters of life and death, but when decriminalized they have -- astonishingly - invited much less concern for malpractice than do normal medical procedures.

This is a sad and misleading trope from the "anti-choice" camp. In the ten years since Oregon has legalized Death with Dignity, every hospice, palliative care, and pain management medical entity or university has watched Oregon like a hawk. Add to that the pro- and anti-choice factions and you have a state health care system that is as transparent as possible. Not that there haven't been errors. But Oregon is recognized as having one of the best end of life care systems in the world. Detractors of course deny this. They are opposed to ending suffering.

4) Many of the great legal and ethical quandaries surrounding euthanasia and physician assisted suicide cold be better dealt with in terms of a principle of the "iviolability-of-life," which rejects any intentional killing of human beings (including suicide) but which also accepts the legitimacy of some actions that might bring about the death of human beings as an unfortunate - but expected -- secondary consequence. Here Gorsuch is arguing for the classic "principle of double effect," which, under certain circumstances, allows people to act so as to gain a desired positive effect even though they are aware that their action will also bring about an unintended additional negative effect. More specifically, Gorsuch holds that the right of the patient to refuse treatment because it is painful, futile, etc. can trump the fact that the patient will die more quickly without the rejected treatment. He is, however, skeptical about the power of custodians to make such decisions for legal incompetents.

It is precisely the "inviolability of life" and the "principle of double effect" that I believe will lead the Montana Supreme Court to determine that death with dignity is constitutional and not prosecutable under the homicide laws in that state, a state that places dignity, autonomy and independent rights as inalienable.

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Conservatives Banking on "Culture of Death" to Perpetuate Their Beloved Culture Wars.

What do you do when your "tried and true" political and social issue loses its efficacy? Cultural conservatives desperately need to bring back the passion they lost when a majority of Americans accepted that abortion was a woman's right.
Sure, abortion will always be "the sexy" anti-choice issue. What's more exciting than promoting policies that get women in trouble and then punishing them for it??
After all, stem cells are boring (and research was again made legal under Obama) and cloning is too sci-fi to get worked up about yet. But euthanasia? You can't pin something as cute as those little foetus feet to your lapel, but you sure can rile up the elderly. Keep our greatest generation squirming by telling them that the world is ending and that their government is going to kill them like Jews in Nazi Germany!? Politically priceless!
It's a stragegy that lets the Republicans unite the little base rumps yet remaining of their party: the social conservatives, the fiscal conservatives, and the neocons. Who cares if it takes some nasty lies, a weak conscience, and moral ineptitude? It's for the supremacy of the Republican Party! (I love it that the nostaligic have to tout Reagan in yet another article in this same issue.) Social conservatives get a new front to shore up the "pro-life" platform; fiscal conservatives get to rail against bureaucracy and "deep debt" of future generations; and the neocons get to hang with the patriot/militia types and their guns, exclaiming American superiority over all other nations.
I know, I know, what would you expect from the pairing of the dramatic, fear- and gloom-mongering Wesley J. Smith and the so-right-we-have-to-question-its-continued-relevancy National Review? I recommend you wait for the article to go online. I refuse to give them my money. But you can get a glimps of what Smith spouts at his blog, secondhandsmoke.
I've been in a pissy mood lately. And I've perhaps without restraint jumped into a few too many spats with friends or relatives of friends about health care reform. "The evil ignorance," I proclaim in my anger and frustration. "But he/she deather/birther/patriot/skinhead/gun carrier/uninformed-independent-voter/rabid-uninformed-conservative-with-an-inkling/deeply-concerned-but-uninformed-faithful really believes what they are saying!" is the reply. And I believe that everyone should be forced to hitch hike across Kenya....
I don't give a fuck what others believe. There are facts in this fight for health care reform. And they don't bode well for those who yell abortion and death, rationing and "freedom."
Until we stop allowing "belief" to cloud fact, we will be allowing desperate, lying or misinformed Republicans to frame all fact - and our future health and prosperity - out of the debate. Call me pissy, cantankerous, irritable or foul-mouthed. I don't care.
We can not afford to be nice any more. Honest, firm, patient, civil, yes. But lies and false "beliefs" have no place here. Someone needs to tell the emperors they have no clothes.

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Height of All Self-Importance: 9.11 Catholics Against Obama Care Campaign

Surely it's a sad joke. Of course no one would try to usurp September 11th, a day when we mourn those who died in Manhattan, to prevent 50 million Americans from having health care coverage?
From one of my favorite "Catholic Moms," this trite, self-absorbed, dramatic, and untruthful "grass roots movement!" to end the impending horrors and destruction of:
*health care coverage for all
*lower insurance payments for struggling families and business
*decreased bankruptcies due to health crisis
*more affordable and accessible health care and reproductive services for women
*reduced burden of health care costs on the government
*reigned-in unnecessary testing, treating and medicating as perpetuated by a profit-driven industry
*greater choice for seniors of how they die
*return of health decisions to the patient and doctor from profit driven corporations
*Americans laughing at and not taking John Voight or Mike Huckabee seriously
Yes, let's dedicate September 11 to the continued destruction of our moral, social, and ethical fabric?! To our economic downfall?! To lies and slander and theocracy?! And to the diminisment of our personal rights?!

For the rational I refute this one sentence (because the wacky text below will make any other points for me): Rosemary Bogdon quotes Jean Heimann: "Mandated abortion, health care rationing, and euthanasia are not health care."
Indeed! And thankfully, there is no such thing in any of the proposed health care bills. Such nonsense is pure partisan fear mongering perpetuated by the power-and-money motivated and the wilfully stupid.
Abortion is currently covered by 83% of insurance companies. Abortion is never mandated, in fact, because the right to abortion is based on a woman's right to choose what to do with her own body. Duh.
Health care is certainly rationed when 50 million Americans are kept without it and corporations make their decisions based on profit. That's what opponents of health care reform want. They say they don't want rationing and what they mean is they don't want the poor, ill, infirm, and disabled to have equal access to health care services.
A senior's decision to not have extreme, artificial treatments to prolong their death is their right. Euthanasia is illegal in the US. Death with Dignity is legal in Oregon, Washington, and Montana - a patient must be diagnosed as terminal, mentally sound, and must self-administer the medication. Death with Dignity is not end of life counseling. And that section of the bill, article 1233, has unfortunately been removed from reform anyhow.

Catholics Against Obama Care!!!
Beloved Catholic blogger
Jean Heimann of Catholic fire has started a grassroots movement called
Catholics Against Obama Care

Today Jean has sent out the following press release:
Catholics Against Obama Care set September 11 as Day of Prayer and Fasting for defeat of Health Care Reform

For Immediate Release

(September 8, 2009) Catholics Against Obama Care is calling Catholics as well as those of other denominations to participate in a day of prayer and fasting on September 11, 2009, for the special intention that Obama health care reform be defeated.

Catholics Against Obama Care acknowledges that Catholic Church has always advocated health care reform; but Obamacare, as delineated in the HR-3200 Bill, is not health care -- it is death care. Mandated abortion, health care rationing, and euthanasia are not health care. Obamacare is government control over people's lives and, as Jon Voight points out the removal of a person's free will. Voight said in an interview on Fox News with Mike Huckabee, "They're taking away God's first gift to man -- our free will and no man no matter what his title, even if he's president of the United States, has the consent of God to decide he's God."
I'm not sure what free will Jean Heimann is referring to when she obviously doesn't believe in religious freedom, personal autonomy, or individual rights.

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Las Vegas in the Rear View Mirror.

My friend Angela is out in Vegas and responded to an email with tales of swimming pools in the desert and weddings in the sun.

From my reply to her reply:

Ah, my very favorite drive in the world is from Vegas to LA at about 3 in the morning. Nothing compares to ascending out of the desert bowl that Vegas slumps and primps in, albeit brightly, and climbing into the high desert. All those lights and glitz in the rear view mirror?! And then just straight empty dry dark desert for miles and miles until you hit Joshua Tree where the climbing is good and the ground is covered with granite kitty litter. And then Palm Springs where the architecture is good and the sprinklers keep every lawn artificially emerald. Ah, then you pass the dinosaurs on your right and the outlets on all sides and then the crazy 10 drops your disoriented ass into the belly of LA. Or rather, incorporates you into one of her vital arteries. It's a trip I will always love!

Vegas has been an oasis to me at times. Even while living here and visiting LA, I've flown to Vegas for the cheap flight and rental car - and the drive. I was in Vegas - at the Flamingo actually! - when Frank Sinatra died. And more than once I've skipped out of life and dropped into a Motel 6 there. Air conditioning, take out, TV. Better than anywhere else I have yet found, you can contemplate your own loneliness when holed up in Vegas without being lonely. All those people around you, filling up that desert bowl, even when your shades are drawn and you can't see them, having a glorious time or a shitty time, losing money, winning money, getting married, hustling, getting hustled. Artificial lights 24 hours a day. It's a microcosm of all human drama. And then when you've learned something about yourself or run out of money for the hotel room, or just tired of trying to make sense of anything, you hop back into your car and head back over the mountains to the edge, the Pacific, the sprawling city with red air and broad thoroughfares.

It's no secret that I've been west coast home sick all spring, summer and now fall. Maybe I need to check fares to Vegas? I do have a birthday coming up (think Marfa, TX last year). Anybody else in?

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