Sunday, December 20, 2009

Kristmas Karma

Every year around Christmas, for the past 7 years or so, and some years before that (ie. before and after I thought I could possibly be cool), I make it a point to watch Home Alone. Sure it's silly and not especially deep, but it's enjoyable, reminds me of my childhood, and it's good escapist fun.

Having already accomplished this tradition for 2009, I was pleased this morning, whilst snowed in from the Blizzard of '09, to find Home Alone 2: Lost in New York showing on ABC Family. It's a pretty good sequel, so I sat down to watch it.

Amongst the absurdity of the situation, screenwriter John Hughes works in his take on the 'True Meaning of Christmas'. Kevin feels remorse for how he has treated his family. His new friend, the pigeon feeding homeless lady tells him that a good deed "cancels out" a bad one. More than that, good deeds count double on Christmas Eve! Which religion's holiday are we celebrating again? Such shallow spiritualism is hardly new, but it brought my attention back to the following blog post my sister-in-law pointed me towards:

BenandJacq in the Blog: Santa Claus.

It's a short post, but very worth reading.

On a foundational level the story of Santa and the story of Jesus are exact opposites. Santa gives based on how good you are. Jesus gives based on how much you admit your inability to be good. And that might be confusing to my child.

None of how much the world celebrates Christmas should be surprising. In fact, you could almost say that turnabout is fair play. When a majority of "Christmas traditions" are non-Christian, either secular or of pagan origins, it's not much good to complain the world is co-opting our celebration when Christians have clearly co-opted much of theirs. Fighting back against the "War on Christmas" is a waste of time. Don't expect the world to be anything it's not.

On the other hand, don't overreact, by wholly minimizing Christmas like the Puritanical or Parliamentarian Protestants (to be fair, the type of behavior associated with Christmas in their time would likely make the most libertine of modern secular Christmas celebrators blanch). The Incarnation of God in flesh is a tremendous and crucial miracle for the redemption and reconciliation of mankind. Lets stop these cultural battles and tend to our own homes, taking care to keep the joy and thanksgiving to be found in Christ's birth first in our hearts.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Preventable Legislative Errors

Flipped over to CSPAN to see one of the HR-3962 supporters going on about preventable medical errors (in opposition to GOP tort reform efforts - which I'm not really a fan of myself, btw). They're the sixth bigger killer in the country, costs billions of dollars, etc. Curiously, he didn't mention what forcing fee-for-service down provider's throats had to do with the issue.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Fear the Reaper

I used to think Palin had gone off the deep end. Death Panels? Whatever one might say of the political position of a majority party having to respond to the Facebook post of a quitter ex-governor of a sparsely populated state, the death panel comment was over the top. Right? I mean, there wasn't anything in the healthcare reform bills that actually established such a thing. The mandatory (?) end of life counseling for seniors doesn't quite fit the bill.

At least that's the line I bought the whole time now. Then I found a link to this article on the Locker Room:

Obama's Health Rationer-in-Chief

A number of excerpts are worth pointing out:

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, health adviser to President Barack Obama, is under scrutiny. As a bioethicist, he has written extensively about who should get medical care, who should decide, and whose life is worth saving. Dr. Emanuel is part of a school of thought that redefines a physician’s duty, insisting that it includes working for the greater good of society instead of focusing only on a patient’s needs. Many physicians find that view dangerous, and most Americans are likely to agree.


True reform, he argues, must include redefining doctors' ethical obligations. In the June 18, 2008, issue of JAMA, Dr. Emanuel blames the Hippocratic Oath for the "overuse" of medical care: "Medical school education and post graduate education emphasize thoroughness," he writes. "This culture is further reinforced by a unique understanding of professional obligations, specifically the Hippocratic Oath's admonition to 'use my power to help the sick to the best of my ability and judgment' as an imperative to do everything for the patient regardless of cost or effect on others."


"You can't avoid these questions," Dr. Emanuel said in an Aug. 16 Washington Post interview. "We had a big controversy in the United States when there was a limited number of dialysis machines. In Seattle, they appointed what they called a 'God committee' to choose who should get it, and that committee was eventually abandoned. Society ended up paying the whole bill for dialysis instead of having people make those decisions."

Emphasis mine.

Then there's what the column author grimly calls the "Reaper Curve"

In the Lancet, Jan. 31, 2009, Dr. Emanuel and co-authors presented a "complete lives system" for the allocation of very scarce resources, such as kidneys, vaccines, dialysis machines, intensive care beds, and others. "One maximizing strategy involves saving the most individual lives, and it has motivated policies on allocation of influenza vaccines and responses to bioterrorism. . . . Other things being equal, we should always save five lives rather than one.

"However, other things are rarely equal—whether to save one 20-year-old, who might live another 60 years, if saved, or three 70-year-olds, who could only live for another 10 years each—is unclear." In fact, Dr. Emanuel makes a clear choice: "When implemented, the complete lives system produces a priority curve on which individuals aged roughly 15 and 40 years get the most substantial chance, whereas the youngest and oldest people get changes that are attenuated (see Dr. Emanuel's chart nearby).

Dr. Emanuel concedes that his plan appears to discriminate against older people, but he explains: "Unlike allocation by sex or race, allocation by age is not invidious discrimination. . . . Treating 65 year olds differently because of stereotypes or falsehoods would be ageist; treating them differently because they have already had more life-years is not."

Don't worry, Geezers aren't the only ones who aren't as worthy.

The youngest are also put at the back of the line: "Adolescents have received substantial education and parental care, investments that will be wasted without a complete life. Infants, by contrast, have not yet received these investments. . . . As the legal philosopher Ronald Dworkin argues, 'It is terrible when an infant dies, but worse, most people think, when a three-year-old dies and worse still when an adolescent does,' this argument is supported by empirical surveys." (, Jan. 31, 2009).

Babies? Meh.

Folks, this is the ideological impetus for the type of health care reform being sought. Whether you feel this kind of philosophy has merit, it definitely smacks of the sort of bureaucratic panel that Palin mentioned.

Also, I think Palin did accomplish something in bringing the issue up: she put it in everyone's minds. She forced the Democrats to denounce the concept, not just as being absent from their plans, but something they viewed with equivalent disgust. So when the next round of healthcare reforms are being proposed*, anything remotely approaching a death panel will be jumped all over.

* What, do you think they'll stop with one new law? Did you think Iraq was going to be a quick expedition to remove Saddam, install a pro-west democracy, and get out?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday, August 14, 2009

The face of 'Hate Groups'

Apparently we're to believe that it's William Kostric. According to ABC News, at least.

ABC News and "Scare Quotes"

Mackey provided eight "reforms" he argued the U.S. can do to improve health care without increasing the deficit.

Contrast that with:

The president's remarks today, to be delivered to about 1,300 attendees, will focus on health insurance reform and the uninsured.

Meanwhile, supporters of health care reform have upped their rhetoric.

Urging Americans to keep going on reform, the former president -- whose own efforts for health care reform in office were unsuccessful -- expressed confidence that a bill will pass, even if the GOP is not on board.

So for ABC, when you support government centric healthcare reforms, they're reforms. When you support market based healthcare reforms, they're "reforms".

Any doubt that ABC has an institutionalized bias on the issue?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

President unveils religion reform platform

Washington – The President took to the podium today to announce an ambitious new plan to provide a “public option” for religion. Citing statistics about the growing number of unbelievers in America, President Obama made his case standing amongst leading congressional Democrats. “America has long been a nation that looked to a higher power for guidance,” the President began. “But for too long now, private religion has been failing average Americans.” The President stated that the number of unbelieving Americans has risen to at least 35 million. Millions more, he says, have only minimal agnostic coverage. “The number is rising at an alarming rate. Private religion has had its chance to make believers out of this country, but it has failed.” The President stressed that the public plan would exist alongside private religion, competing with it. “If the private religions think that competition works, then we welcome it! If you’re satisfied with your current religion, you will be able to keep it!”

Key congressional leaders behind the proposal admit that things will have to change for private believers. Chris Dodd, a Democratic Senator from Connecticut and chair of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, says that the private religions will have to bring themselves under a unified tithing system. “Americans deserve justice, and God’s regressive flat-tithe keeps money in the hands of the super-rich.” Under the Senate version of the plan, private religions will have to implement a progressive tithe structure approved by the Board of Religious Practitioners and Examiners, headed by the President’s new Religion Czar. Dodd also promised to go after those who seek the protection of offshore tithe shelters, such as those popular in Israel and the Vatican City.

Among the most controversial proposals in both houses’ version of the plan is a religion mandate. All Americans must either currently have private religion, or enroll in the public plan. President Obama has moved to assuage those concerned by pointing out that anyone not quite as spiritual can enroll in plans such as “Secular Obamaism” and “Green”, and stresses that his Attorney General has informed him such a plan would therefore not be in violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.

The desired timeline for getting such a plan passed is tight. Democrats in Washington argue that there are escalating social costs to a growing population of unbelievers. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, stated, “Many Americans find themselves without the moral grounding a good religion gives them. Trapped and helpless in a dark and confusing world, they turn to preying on their fellow man. But what if, before they pulled the trigger of their pistol, they stopped to consider the greenhouse gases the burning gunpowder would produce?”

It remains to be seen whether a plan can come together in time for the August recess. There are still changes being made every day, and the last modification came when Congressman Mike Thompson, a Democrat from California’s 1st Congressional District, inserted a requirement that all communion wine in the country must contain alcohol. When asked if members of Congress would be required to find religion under the same choice of plans, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said that members of Congress already have their own religion.

Summarizing his push, President Obama said he wanted to remind Americans of one of the principles on which the nation was founded. “Religion has always been considered a natural right. Since the first pilgrims escaped from persecution centuries ago, this nation has espoused that every American can have religion. Now, with the public finally ready to step up and provide this right for others, Americans will get the religion they deserve!”