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There’s been a lot of talk about “fake news” since the election. So much talk that “fake news” no longer means “fake news” but “biased articles we don’t like.” Personally, I don’t have a problem with fake news. I can tell when news is fake, and if you can’t tell when news is fake, then I don’t have a lot of confidence in your ability to deal with real news, so I give up on that score. I have even less of a problem with biased news. I expect unbiased news reports about as much as I expect Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and Donald Trump’s spiritual advisor to walk into a bar. I assume that reporters are biased; I factor it into my analysis of their reporting. What bothers me more than fake news and biased news is crap news, i.e. “news” about stupid crap that doesn’t matter to anyone and drowns out issues that are actually relevant to people’s lives.
A prime example of crap news is whatever dumbass thing the President-Elect just tweeted about that makes no difference to anyone but only shows what a dumbass jerk he is. WE ALREADY KNOW HE’S A DUMBASS JERK. THIS ISN’T “NEWS.”
The crap news that is bugging me right now is this business about Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, saying that schools need to have guns on campus to protect students from grizzly bears. All the liberals are like, “OMG GRIZZLY BEARS THAT’S SO STUPID,” and all the conservatives are like, “OMG THAT’S A GROSS DISTORTION OF WHAT SHE SAID,” and really, both of them are correct, but the most correct response would be “OMG EVERYONE SHUT UP ABOUT GUNS AND BEARS SHE CAN’T GIVE A COHERENT RESPONSE TO A RELEVANT QUESTION ABOUT FEDERAL LAW REGARDING STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES”—but that last one is more than 140 characters, so good luck.
I have four kids, three of whom are still in public K-12 schools (the fourth is at a public community college) and two of whom have disabilities. I’m as interested in the success of my disabled children as I am in my other children’s, and I’m grateful to be living in a day and age and society in which we’ve collectively made efforts to ensure that disabled students get appropriate educations. However, I am not naïve about the limitations and drawbacks of the current system under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. I am totally open to new and different policy proposals for ensuring that disabled students have access to an appropriate education.
From what I’ve read, i.e. what I’ve managed to glean from reports that aren’t obsessed with her unnatural fear of grizzlies, Betsy DeVos’s general philosophy seems to be that the federal government should have less control over education and states and locales should have more. That is a general philosophy that I happen to share. No, I’m not some kind of wacko who thinks school districts should just hold bake sales and hope for the best. I’m neither a purist nor a fanatic, but I am skeptical that the federal government, as far removed as it is from most citizens’ lives, can effectively micro-manage the educations of all students. Just a healthy skepticism, that’s all I have, not a partisan axe to grind or a political hobby horse I want to ride.
The fact is that my family does just fine under the status quo. We’re above-average in terms of income and financial resources; my husband and I are both college-educated; one of us is a full-time caregiver. We have many advantages over other families, particularly when it comes to providing for the needs of our disabled children. We can supplement our children’s public education. We can afford to live in a good school district with good schools. We can afford private therapies for our children with disabilities. We can afford babysitters to watch our kids while we go to endless IEP meetings and fight with the school district over what services they’re going to provide. We can take time off work to go to these meetings. If push comes to shove, we can afford to hire a lawyer or advocate to help us navigate the process of getting our kids the services they’re legally entitled to. The federal government doesn’t need to change anything on our account.
Unfortunately, there are hundreds of thousands of families in this country who don’t enjoy the same advantages we have. Whatever their neighborhood school is, no matter how awful, they’re stuck with it. Whatever the school district offers in terms of services for their disabled children, no matter how inadequate, that’s what they’ll get. These are the families who aren’t being served by the current system because they don’t have the resources to navigate it. So yes, I’m very interested to learn how a “federalist” (i.e. local) approach to education would benefit students across a spectrum of needs. I’m philosophically biased toward federalism and local control to begin with, so you don’t even need to work that hard to sell it to me—but you do have to sell it. You can’t just say, “Leave it up to the states,” like it’s some Jedi mind trick. That doesn’t even work on me, let alone all the folks who think “states’ rights” is just another way of saying “slavery” or “segregation.”
I’m not super-convinced that anyone in Washington really wants to have a substantive discussion about education policy, though. I haven’t seen reports of any particularly substantive questioning of Betsy DeVos by anyone in the Senate. I see that she can’t explain what she plans to do (or not do) to improve the lot of American students, but I also see that some dumbass from Connecticut wanted to spend his five minutes asking her what she thinks about guns in schools WHEN IT’S NOT THE EDUCATION SECRETARY’S JOB TO KEEP GUNS OUT OF SCHOOLS OR PUT THEM THERE, REGARDLESS OF WHAT SHE THINKS. Honestly, does anyone think Sandy Hook could have been prevented if the Secretary of Education (whoever he/she was at the time) had just been more pro-active about keeping guns out of school? I meant that to be a rhetorical question, but just in case anyone’s raising their hand, let me just say NO GRIZZLY BEAR OR PSYCHOPATH HAS EVER BEEN STOPPED BY THE SECRETARY OF EDUCATION. Whether or not there should be guns in school or no guns in school is certainly debatable. By all means, have that debate. MAYBE IN YOUR STATES OR LOCALES, WHICH ARE IN CHARGE OF GUN LAWS.
I should probably not call the senator from Connecticut a dumbass when I’ve never met him and he’s probably a perfectly lovely person who happens to feel strongly about gun control for understandable reasons, but golly, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and not everything can be about gun control.
I should also probably note that Trump talked on the campaign trail about banning gun-free schools, as though this is something the President should even be able to do, let alone actually do. To this I can only say NO PRESIDENT HAS EVER BEEN STOPPED BY THE SECRETARY OF EDUCATION AND THIS COUNTRY REALLY NEEDS TO HAVE A COME TO JESUS ABOUT EXECUTIVE POWER. FORWARD SLASH RANT
The reality is that it probably doesn’t matter who the Secretary of Education is if this is the level of discourse we’re going to have about education policy. A meaningful discussion of the most important issues will take longer than the 45 seconds the public is willing to spend on it. SO FINE JUST TALK ABOUT BEARS.
I was going to call this “Vote Trump or Baby Jesus kills this puppy,” but I didn’t think the post could possibly live up to that title.
So I’ve been pretty bummed since the Indiana primary. I didn’t realize I was entertaining any vestiges of optimism in my soul prior to the point when Ted Cruz dropped out of the presidential race. Ted Cruz was the source of my optimism, ladies and gentlemen. What has this world come to?
Of course, John Kasich is out now too, but whatever. Do you know, 2016 was supposed to be the first presidential election where there was going to be more than one candidate left standing by the time Oregon’s primary rolled around, and I was actually going to have a choice between (or among) two (or more) candidates? Now all my dreams are officially dead.
Just kidding. Most of my dreams died ages ago, but I’m sure I still have one or two lurking in the old subconscious. Of course, I won’t know what they are until someone or something finally kills them, but they must be there, because if this election has taught me anything, it’s that things can always get worse.
Back in September or October, Mona Charen said something on her podcast like, “If the United States chooses Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as their nominees for president, we’ll have proved that we’re not a serious country and are probably unfit for self-government.” And I thought, surely it will not come to that. Well, that’s what Mona Charen herself thought, and look where we are now. I know a lot of you gentle readers are Hillary fans. Some of my best friends are Hillary fans. Some of you may even be my best friends. I will acknowledge that Hillary has government experience where Trump has none. I will also acknowledge that she appears to be, for the most part, mentally stable. I mean, as far as I can tell, which is more than I can say for some presidential candidates I know. I won’t pretend those two things aren’t assets in her favor. But good Lord, what a pretty pass we’ve come to when millions of Americans are voting for someone strictly on the basis of her not being demonstrably insane.
It’s not that I dislike Hillary on a personal level. It might be pure contrariness on my part, but I never got why people hated her so much–except for the obvious reason, of course. I have to admire her moxie. Not to mention her chutzpah. And I don’t find her voice shrill or her laugh annoying. I would much rather spend an hour shooting the breeze with Hillary Clinton than with Barbara Boxer or Harry Reid. (I don’t have strong feelings about Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer.) Unfortunately, she’s thoroughly corrupt and a congenital liar. I don’t think she murdered Vince Foster (or anyone else), but there’s not much else I’d put past her. As I’ve said before, probably in this very e-space, I’d feel like the veriest chump voting for her. But I still feel less sick to my stomach about her winning this race than the alternative.
Of course, the likelihood of Donald Trump winning the general election is so small that it’s hardly worth considering. But that isn’t stopping many Republicans from hitching their wagon to him, on the off chance that they can prevent a Hillary Clinton presidency–as though a Hillary Clinton presidency were the worst possible thing that could happen to this country. In my opinion, would Hillary Clinton be a bad president? Yes. Would she be worse than Barack Obama? I don’t know. Possibly, possibly not. As Hillary might say, what difference at this point does it make? When the alternative is Donald Trump, who is a) an emotionally unstable, volatile, unprincipled bully and b) not remotely qualified to hold any governmental office, let alone be leader of the free world, Hillary Clinton looks less like Satan’s very own begotten and more like a necessary evil. Or maybe just an inevitable evil. (I don’t mean “evil” in the Satanic sense, but just the generic, it’s-an-expression sense.) Say what you will about Hillary, but you can’t argue that she’s less qualified to be president than Donald Trump. You might think she’s a worse person with worse ideas, but you can’t say she’s less qualified. (Personally, I don’t see how one can argue that she has worse ideas, since who really knows what Trump’s “ideas” are?)
But as I said before, Trump isn’t going to win this election, even if he had every single Republican on his side (which he won’t, because he won’t have me). Elections aren’t decided by loyal Republicans. They’re decided by the kind of people who thought Mitt Romney was too mean to be president. Not to mention that Donald Trump seems to be the one person in America voters dislike more than Hillary Clinton. I never thought I’d see the day when anyone would take that honor, but here we are, and congratulations to him. I guess.
I’ve heard some Trump supporters say that they don’t even actually want him to be president; they just want Republican party leaders and/or “the people in Washington” to know that they are angry and fed up with business as usual. To which I can only say, what are you, twelve? By this logic I should start a write-in campaign for Hitler, so people will know I’m REALLY upset. Because I am. I really am.
In fairness, I’m not convinced Trump himself wants to be president. I believe he’d like to be elected president, but as for doing the actual job, no, I don’t think he’s interested. I would not be surprised to learn that he plans to pick someone competent as a running mate, and then on the off (very off)-chance that he is elected, he will come up with some excuse to resign and let the non-crazy person take over. But I don’t care who his running mate is. I don’t care if Abe Lincoln or Ronald Reagan himself resurrected from the grave and agreed to be Donald Trump’s running mate. Any Republican politician who endorses Trump is dead to me. Chris Christie–dead to me. Marco Rubio–dead to me. Nikki Haley–dead to me. Abe Lincoln and Ronald Reagan–already dead, but in theory, extra dead to me. (I should not imply that Lincoln or Reagan would necessarily endorse Donald Trump, but who knows these days? Calvin Coolidge, I’m sure, would not endorse Donald Trump. But they don’t make them like Calvin Coolidge anymore.)
Ben Carson (never officially alive but now quite officially dead to me) has said that even if Trump turns out not to be a good president, “it’s only four years.” (That should go down in political endorsement history.) Interestingly enough, that’s how I think of a Hillary presidency now. It’s only four years. I mean, probably. It could be eight, but whatever. What’s the worst thing that could happen? Rephrase: What’s the worst thing that could happen that we can be sure wouldn’t happen on Trump’s watch? The question is unanswerable.
The time to pick a side is over. Better to get your affairs in order and hold your loved ones close.
So apparently the whole world’s gone crazy. Just kidding, it’s only about a third of Republican voters across America who have gone crazy, and I’m not sure “gone” is the appropriate word. They are just revealing the full extent of their crazy, letting their freak flag fly at full staff. Do you know how difficult it is to say “freak flag fly”? I even say it wrong in my brain as I’m typing. But that’s not the point. The point is that a third of Republican voters are a) straight up racists, b) complete loony toons, or c) racist loony toons. I mean, I always knew there was a faction of racist loony toons in the GOP, but I always figured that the percentage of genuine loony toons in either of the two major parties couldn’t be above 15 percent, and I reckoned that the Republican platform was too wussified to satisfy most racists, especially the loony toon variety. That’s what third parties are for. I mean, if I were a racist (who was also a little cuckoo), I would not settle for some pansy Republican, even if he did work for Pat Buchanan once. I guess that just shows what I know about American racists—or rather, what I knew about American racists. Now, thanks to Donald Trump, I know a lot more. Thanks a lot, Donald Trump. Thank you for curing me of my ridiculous obsession with democracy!
So. There’s that. It’s an interesting time we live in, isn’t it? I didn’t think I could be more depressed than I was on Election Day 2012, but oh my goodness, how wrong I was. I wish I could go back in time and enjoy this second Obama administration more because January 2017 is looking more and more like a f***ing nightmare.
To tell you the truth, I am not really afraid that Donald Trump will actually become President. I find that highly unlikely. As I was telling some friends the other day, elections are decided by people who thought Mitt Romney was too mean. I realize that Hillary is not popular, but she does have a couple things going for her: a) she probably isn’t a racist and b) she doesn’t send out drunk tweets at 3 a.m. insulting whoever pissed her off that day. I’d say that’s enough to give her an edge in the general election, even if she is a chick. In fairness, it’s entirely possible that Donald Trump isn’t actually a racist but just plays one on TV (and radio and Twitter and all public platforms). Also, he might not actually be drunk when he’s on Twitter. It’s probably just his personality, which I think has its own entry in the DSM-V. But that’s neither here nor there. What is here and also there is that Donald Trump is an unstable narcissist and a bully with stronger-than-average totalitarian instincts. He’s wholly unsuitable to be President in terms of both character and temperament, not to mention being deficient in relevant experience—unless he’s planning to bribe two-thirds of Congress just like he’s been bribing politicians his whole career. Which might actually be his plan. It would not surprise me. But only because I’m completely incapable of being surprised anymore. Not after Chris Christie endorsed Trump the other day. Put a fork in me, America, because I’m done. As Jar-Jar Binks used to say, MY GIVE UP. What more can happen?
My son, who’s been very interested in this election, kept asking me who I’d vote for if Trump and Clinton were the nominees. At first I just said, “I hope it will not come to that (please, God).” But since it’s started looking more and more like that’s exactly what it will come to, I’ve said I will either vote for nobody or I’ll vote Libertarian, WHICH I HAVE NEVER DONE BEFORE, mainly because third parties are for loony toons and dreamers, and a dreamer I am not. (I take it back—partly. I did vote for a Libertarian once, for state senate, I think. He didn’t win, so whatever. Voting in Oregon is sort of pointless.) That answer is most disappointing for Mister Bubby because he knows as well as I do that voting third party is a waste of franchise—poor-spirited and not a little bit masturbatory (though I don’t use the word “masturbatory” in front of my fifteen-year-old son—I’m genteel that way). But I don’t know what else to do. I won’t vote for Donald Trump, and I won’t vote for Hillary Clinton. I am physiologically incapable of doing either. It makes my soul hurt to think about it.
I know what you all are thinking—well, the Democratic portion of y’all, anyway: What’s so bad about Hillary? Well, I’d like to say she’s not that bad. Compared to Donald Trump, she seems downright Reaganesque. But she’s not actually Reaganesque. She’s actually Clintonesque, which is not a recommendation. Might she be the lesser of two evils? Well, worst case scenario, door #1 or door #2, maybe Hillary is the lesser of two evils, but here’s the thing about Hillary: while she is neither a racist nor suffering from a form of mental illness—two of the more underrated virtues in our time—she is still nakedly corrupt and a congenital liar and should probably be in prison. No, we won’t argue about it. To tell you the truth, I have always kind of liked Hillary, on a personal level—never enough to vote for her, naturally, because her politics do not align with mine, but I’ve always believed (and continue to believe) that a lot of the animosity toward her is born (at least in part) of old-fashioned misogyny. She doesn’t have her husband’s charisma, but I kind of find her lack of charisma charming in itself. I know what it’s like to live in the shadow of one’s more-charismatic husband. (Not that I would ever compare my husband to Hillary’s husband because my husband is not an incontinent creep.) So I’ve always had a soft place in my heart for Hillary. Even after all I’ve learned about her over the years, I still have a lingering fondness for her. I can’t help it. (Just as I can’t spend five minutes watching Bill Clinton work a room and not find him perversely charming, in a ya-big-galoot kind of way. Certainly not in any other way. ::shudder:: ) If I’d had my druthers in 2008, Hillary would have been the nominee, and not because I thought McCain could beat her (although I think he probably could have), but because I thought she would make a better President than Barack Obama. (A low bar, to be sure, but without low bars, how much would I be able to achieve in my own life? Low bars are underrated.)
But after all these years, I think I know Hillary pretty well. I know what she is. I don’t trust her not to do things that are unethical and/or illegal. If I voted for her, I wouldn’t be able to complain about her later (almost inevitably) abusing her power (as 99.98% of politicians are wont to do, but especially the ones whose last name is Clinton) because I knew what she was when I voted for her and I was basically asking her to abuse my trust. Not to pre-blame the victim (that would be me), but I like to fancy myself cleverer than that.
I know many of you gentle readers are Hillary supporters, and I don’t begrudge you your Hillary support. We see the world differently. When Hillary abuses your trust, I will not blame you. I know that’s a real load off your mind. You’re welcome. I’m hardly under the illusion that the Republicans I’ve voted for have never abused my trust. I just didn’t know beforehand that they would do so. That would be the difference. At the risk of sounding like a self-indulgent third-party loony toon, it’s the principle of the thing. You shouldn’t be upset with me. At least I’m doing my part to siphon votes away from the Donald. For that you should be eternally grateful (if you’re not a racist loony toon).
Interestingly enough, I do not feel a great deal of animosity toward Donald Trump. He sickens me, but a lot of people do that. I’m not angry with Donald Trump, who’s just being himself. I’m angry with everyone who voted for him. Because seriously, what the hell, people? WHAT. THE EVERLOVING. CRAP. This isn’t the freaking circus. For the first few months, before the voting started, when it was just polls telling us Donald Trump was the Republican front runner (mostly because every Republican and his/her dog decided to run for President this year, so the basically-sane, non-racist vote was split 37 ways), I was merely confused. Baffled, that is. I did not get it. I assumed Trump supporters were just, I dunno, deluded, or possibly not very smart. (That may well be the case.) But I’m of a different mind now. I think Trump supporters are less stupid than they are destructive. They’re pissed off at any number of things—immigrants particularly, but also the bad economy and stagnant wages and whatnot–and they want to watch the world burn. They can vicariously live out their worst fantasies via this racist-blowhard-slash-dirtbag. It feels good to them. (It is also not a little bit masturbatory, not that you’ll catch me saying as much to my fifteen-year-old son.) But that doesn’t make it less gross.
Well, that was a load off my chest. I hardly know where it came from. After four years of political apathy, this post has been quite an emotional workout. And possibly very offensive. I’d blame Obama, but that joke isn’t funny anymore. Actually, I think I should blame the low-carb diet my husband talked me into doing with him this month. That’s a long story, but suffice it to say, I’m on Day 3 and I pretty much hate everyone now. Everyone, but especially salad. (You know what else I hate about Trump voters? THEY ARE PROBABLY EATING BREAD RIGHT NOW.) It’s not as bad as the liquid diet I was on after the jaw surgery. I’m not hungry, just extremely unfulfilled. I have a lot more to say about that, but it’s getting late and I’m just going to pull the trigger on this thing, even if it’s wrong. Maybe I’ll see you tomorrow. If you don’t see me tomorrow, possibly I have died inside. Died a lonely, bitter (and probably still ten pounds over my ideal weight but nevertheless probably not racist) Republican. Gentle readers, adieu.
“I think it’s also important to know that some politician put a tax of $5.85 on a pack of cigarettes. So they’ve driven cigarettes underground… But then some politician also had to direct the police to say, ‘Hey, we want you arresting people for selling a loose cigarette.'”–Rand Paul on the Eric Garner case
[If, for some strange reason, you are not familiar with the case of Eric Garner, the New Yorker who died after police used a choke hold to restrain him because he was resisting arrest, you may read about it here.]
I must tell you from the outset, Rand Paul is not my homeboy. I can’t say I have strong feelings about Rand Paul either way. Does he sometimes make libertarianism look ridiculous? Well, most libertarians do that. But I don’t think he’s particularly ridiculous in this case. Some people think his above statement was an absurd point to make, given that a man was killed. Someone dies, and you blame taxes? Sure, it sounds stupid when you say it that way. But I think it is an astute point, especially in light of Eric Garner’s last words, addressed to the police officers who were arresting him for the crime of selling untaxed cigarettes:
“Every time you see me, you want to mess with me. I’m tired of it. It stops today. […] I’m minding my business, officer, I’m minding my business. Please just leave me alone. I told you the last time, please just leave me alone. Please. Please, don’t touch me. Do not touch me. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.”
Garner was certainly breaking the law. The police had the authority to arrest him. Technically, he didn’t have the “right” to resist. Regardless of whether or not he was right to resist arrest, why were the police arresting him? Because he was selling untaxed cigarettes, quelle horreur. And why was he resisting? Because the cops had a history of hassling him (which cops have a tendency to do to people who are breaking laws), and he’d reached his breaking point. “It stops today.” If you’re going to call Rand Paul’s comments ridiculous, then Garner’s resistance was also ridiculous, by that standard. You might argue that it shouldn’t matter, given that we’re dealing with a question of excessive force by the police, but actually, it does kind of matter.
The police have fairly wide latitude when it comes to handling crime suspects, for the sake of maintaining public order. If you can’t use force, even deadly force, with an arrestee, you’re not going to be able to detain dangerous criminals. Even if a suspect doesn’t appear dangerous initially, the cops can’t predict if or when he (or she) will become dangerous. Police officers put themselves in danger when they try to apprehend and arrest people. They do it every day. They deal with the worst elements of society every day. They have a proctologist’s view of the world. It’s no wonder they tend to take a hostile stand toward the public at large. If they didn’t, probably more of them would be killed than already are every year.
I myself have mixed feelings toward the police. I understand the difficulty of their position, and I appreciate that there are people willing to risk their lives to keep the community safe. On the other hand, we are trusting these people with a crapload of power–and people with a crapload of power can’t always be trusted not to abuse it. It’s a double-edged sword! (Or something like that.) I’ve had perhaps more than my share of encounters with police officers, and no, I’m not talking about traffic tickets. They were not pleasant. (Except for maybe that K-9 officer I met at the boys’ cub scout camp.) When a cop thinks you’ve committed a crime, they approach you as they would any law-breaking scumbag. They do their best to intimidate you. Some of them are probably just jerks. (I can think of at least one incident from my personal experience that would support that hypothesis.) But I can’t ignore the fact that police officers always have to be prepared to deal with violent offenders, and being prepared also makes you a big meanie.
With all that said, here’s the point: The more things that are illegal, the more crimes will be committed. That’s just arithmetic, kids. The more crimes there are, the more people are going to be put in dangerous situations because the potential for violence is inherent in nearly every police-citizen interaction. There are people who are authorized to deprive you of your liberty, at least temporarily, and then there’s you, not particularly keen on having your liberty curtailed. Are you going to resist? Not unless you want to get hurt, I guess. Are there any circumstances under which you might resist, and risk getting hurt? How oppressive does the government have to be before you start resisting? “It stops today.”
The average law-abiding citizen doesn’t think much about the power the police wield because they don’t expect to be subject to it. And if you’re generally law-abiding and belong to a racially and economically privileged demographic, you probably won’t be (aside from the occasional traffic ticket). But the more things that are illegal, the more crimes will be committed. The more crime, the more police intervention, and the more police intervention, the more potential for violence–and the more potential for the police to overreact and to abuse their power. And the more potential for tragic misunderstandings and accidents, which do happen. So shouldn’t it stand to reason that in addition to police officers being properly trained and following the rules and not being racists and so forth, we should minimize the number of situations where a police officer has to intervene?
Cigarettes are bad for you, which I guess is why we tax them so heavily–or rather, why politicians can get away with taxing them so heavily. Never mind that cigarette taxes fall disproportionately on poor people and minorities. I mean, we’re talking about people’s health here! But Rand Paul is right–the high taxes have created a black market for cigarettes, which means they’ve created more crime. More crime–even non-violent crime–means more victims of police malfeasance. I know I keep saying it, but it keeps being true. There was no reason–that I can see–why the situation with Eric Garner should have escalated as quickly as it did. But I also think there’s no reason that a mother should be put in jail for letting her nine-year-old play at the park by herself. I’m kind of an anarchist, I guess.
Racism may have been a factor in Eric Garner’s arrest. I’m not a mind-reader, so I won’t speculate on how much the police officers in question had against black people. What I do know is that we give police officers a lot of leeway to use force on suspects because we don’t want them holding back when force is really needed; that gives a lot of cover to police officers who use excessive force. Is it possible to restrict their use of force without jeopardizing public safety? Well, I hope so, because putting a chokehold on a dude selling cigarettes is just nuts. But what do you do with someone who’s resisting arrest, even if what they’re getting arrested for is kind of trivial in the grand scheme of things? At what point are you permitted to use more forceful means of restraint? If it’s better to let them go than to risk hurting them, what’s the point of the law in the first place?
At this point in time I feel mostly bored with politics and political discussions. Who’s running for president again? Just kidding. I am just barely keeping up with the news. I mainly just know what is going on at the Facebook. I assume Facebook will tell me if any major tragedy strikes. Also, if it’s someone’s birthday. I don’t know what the rest of the world is doing, but on the Facebook people are, apparently, still hung up on the birth control issue, i.e. the government mandating that employers pay for insurance that covers contraceptives. Did I say that even-handedly enough? Because I don’t want to make anyone mad before I’m ready.
As to whether or not insurance companies should cover birth control, my opinion is “whatever.” The health care system in this country in 2012 has a lot of problems. I tend to think that this is not the one most deserving of my attention.
I took birth control pills for a few months back in 1997. Was taking them when I got pregnant with my first child, actually. Ha ha, what a funny time to look back on (now). As I recall, my insurance company paid for them. I mean, I had a $10 co-pay, so I assume my insurance company paid for whatever they cost above that. It’s possible that the cost of the pills was $10 even, but that seems unlikely. If my insurance company hadn’t paid for them, I might have been pissed. Because, you know, it’s medical. What is medical insurance for if not to pay for a medical expense? If I have to get a doctor’s prescription before I can buy them, how is that not a medical expense? So yeah, I get the outrage. However, it’s been a lot of years and a lot of dealing with insurance companies, and I’ve faced the facts of life:
1. Insurance companies don’t want to pay for anything. (That much is a duh.)
2. We’ve become dependent on a system of health care where a third party is supposed to pay for most things, which has increased the amount of things we expect to be covered but also the amount of things insurance companies try not to pay for.
3. The more things insurance companies have to pay for, the more expensive insurance gets. Your personal feelings of indignation over what ought to be covered don’t really enter into this equation.
So this is actually a complex problem, the whole health care/insurance thing, and far too complicated for the scope of this blog post–or any blog post of mine. If I wanted to write about the complexities of the health care and insurance industries and how government relates to all of that, I would hopefully not be giving that skill away for free. So pay me some money and I’ll give you my opinion on how we should manage the health care/insurance thing. Meanwhile, whatever.
No, all I want to write about here is the personal irritation I feel about how people have framed this debate, especially as seen on the Facebook, which hosts lots of indignant people with strong opinions who think their logic is unassailable. This isn’t for money or a good grade that I can put on my transcript, so I’ll just make a list of arguments that bug me.
1. Insurance companies pay for Viagra, so why not birth control pills?
On its face this seems outrageous. I mean, why should old guys whose penises have stopped working still get to have sex? It’s called Mother Nature, dude. Survival of the fittest. Deal with it! I mean, stuff like hearts and livers and kidneys and even gall bladders should be expected to work properly, but your penis? Really? You must think a lot of yourself. Newsflash: No one cares if you never have an orgasm again as long as you live! (Except maybe your wife, but then, what is she doing with an impotent jerk like you?)
Actually, there’s a reasonable explanation for why insurance companies would pay for Grampa’s Viagra but not Suzy’s birth control. Note: I only said it’s reasonable, not that you’ll like it. The reason is that Viagra (and other drugs designed to treat erectile dysfunction) helps a man’s body work the way a healthy man’s body works. If a man can’t get or sustain an erection and it isn’t due to some psychological problem, he has a health problem. Not one he’s going to die from, but one that
he may feel he’s going to die from will seriously impact his quality of life. By contrast, birth control pills (and other hormone-based contraceptives) make a woman’s body work in a way that healthy women’s bodies aren’t supposed to work. A healthy woman is supposed to be able to get pregnant. IMPORTANT NOTE: I did not just say that a healthy woman is supposed to get pregnant, only that she is supposed to be able to get pregnant. A woman who can’t get pregnant has a health problem. Not one she’s going to die from, but one that, if she wants children, she’s probably not going to just shrug at and say, “Oh well.”
Viagra treats a health problem. Birth control pills, while perfectly safe (for most women), are not generally associated with treating a health problem. Of course, they can be and often are used to treat health problems. VERY IMPORTANT ASTERISK–more on this in a moment. (Patience, grasshopper.) But getting pregnant is not a health problem. It’s not a disease. Have we forgotten that chapter of feminism? Healthy women who haven’t gone through menopause can get pregnant. Of course they might not want to get pregnant, which is where birth control pills come in, but for the woman who is taking the Pill for contraceptive purposes, she is not attempting to make her body work the way it’s supposed to but attempting to make it not work the way it’s supposed to.
Believe me, mes enfantes, I have no moral or philosophical problem with contraception or people using contraception to their hearts’ content. I’ve used it myself. Religiously. I think it’s the best thing since sliced bread and the internet. Access to birth control is good. Access to indoor plumbing is good, too. Couldn’t live without either one. Can’t imagine why anyone would want to.
Of course, there are non-contraceptive uses of birth-control pills. If you believe the Guttmacher Institute (and you may not, but whatever), the majority of birth-control pill users take them for non-contraceptive purposes, including reducing menstrual cramps and other “side effects” of menstruation (including migraines) and treating endometriosis and even acne. These are all health problems, so in principle, health insurance that purports to cover treatment for endometriosis and chronic pain related to menstruation and, yes, even acne ought to cover birth-control pills. You will get no argument from me there. No, absolutely none.
But–and here I finally reach my point–this line of logic doesn’t lead to arguments about an old man’s Viagra. Why on earth would you bring up Viagra unless you were just really upset that insurance companies enable beyond-their-prime men to have sex while perfectly healthy young women (who deserve to have sex and are a lot more pleasant to think of than impotent men) are not receiving any assistance with enhancing their own sexual experience (by not having to worry about getting pregnant)? The implication is clear: Viagra is only covered because the evil insurance companies care more about letting dirty old men have sex than allowing healthy young women to have sex and not worry about getting pregnant. Well, probably they do, for the reasons I just mentioned above.
But if you want to tout hormone-based contraception as a medical expense, maybe you should keep Grandpa’s sex life out of it. Don’t imply that you’re begrudging him his Viagra. For an effective argument, you might try something like “They cover insulin for diabetics and Prozac for people with depression–why not birth-control pills for women with endometriosis or chronic menses-related pain (or even acne)?” And of course, since there are women whose health and even lives may be threatened by a pregnancy, you could also say, “They pay for my grandpa’s pacemaker, so why not my birth control?” (A bonus to this approach: When Rush Limbaugh accuses you of being a slut who wants the taxpayers to pay for your slutty sex life–which he probably still will–he’ll look even more like a jerk.)
Of course, an insurance company can decide it doesn’t want to pay for birth-control pills to treat endometriosis or any other health problem because insurance companies have the legal right to suck. But as I said before, that’s a separate issue. Not for this blog post (which is discussing annoyance with rhetorical tactics, not outrage at injustices).
2. Covering birth control is cheaper than covering pregnancy and childbirth and health care for the resulting children.
True. But not a good argument for providing everyone with free birth control–because generally speaking, people don’t get pregnant because they lacked access to contraceptives. Unplanned, unwanted pregnancies are usually the result of people a) using contraceptives incorrectly or b) playing Russian Roulette with their fertility because they couldn’t be bothered with using contraception. Don’t let your own prejudices run wild with this last sentence. I’ve known married, middle-class women who engage in “b” with alarming frequency. Fortunately, those women could afford to have more kids, financially and emotionally (although the “emotionally” part was more eventually). If you’re a woman of limited resources, you really have no business with “b.” If you become pregnant, I blame you, not your insurance company or the government. And here I go off on a bit of a tangent–but only a bit, because I can’t tell you how many times I have seen comments like this on the Facebook: “I’d rather pay for birth control than for women getting pregnant to collect more welfare.” First of all, that person is revealing kind of an ugly streak. Second, they don’t seem to understand human nature very well.
I never find myself wishing that my tax dollars had gone to pay for someone’s birth control instead of her full-blown pregnancy and resulting baby because as the wording of “b” makes clear, you can offer someone contraception–even free contraception, contraception that may reside in their very own home a few feet away–but you can’t make them use it all the time. I don’t feel sorry for myself because my tax dollars are going to be spent on this woman and her child; I feel sorry for this woman and her child because she made an unfortunate choice that significantly increased their chances of living in poverty for several years if not the rest of their lives. I assure you my tax bill can handle your poor choices; I’m not sure you can.
So there’s one reason I don’t like that argument. The other reason is that we’re talking about insurance companies (so far), not the government. First of all, most people just don’t seem to get how insurance companies work. Without getting into issues that are beyond my pay grade (i.e. blogging for free), let me break it down for you: The more things (procedures, drugs, etc.) that insurance companies have to pay for, the higher premiums they have to charge (unless they want to go out of business, which most don’t). The more insurance companies cover the cost of these things, the more insulated consumers become from the cost, the higher the cost gets. If insurance companies have to cover all kinds of contraception at no additional cost to the consumer (aside from higher insurance premiums), there will be no incentive for drug companies to lower their prices or to stop them from going up. If the customer doesn’t care what it costs (because she’s not paying for it) and the insurance company can’t refuse to pay for it, why shouldn’t the drug companies charge as much as they want? And don’t think for a minute that they won’t. (Or have we forgotten this chapter of capitalism?) This is especially sucky news for the uninsured, but also sucky news for the insured because (can you guess why? I’ve already mentioned it) they will pay higher premiums.
Second of all, I don’t want to live in a society with the mentality that paying for contraception makes dollars and sense whereas paying for pregnancy and babies should be avoided. Pregnancy and babies are really important to humanity, even if not everyone wants them at every stage of life. I’m not jumping on the bandwagon that says they’re too expensive and insurance companies shouldn’t be such chumps. (If people are allowed to get hysterical and claim that opposing the contraception mandate is a slippery slope to Handmaid’s Tale territory, others of us should be allowed to get hysterical and claim that the mandate is a slippery slope to a world where only rich people are allowed to have children.)
I haven’t even touched on the issue of religious freedom, which is in fact a relevant and important issue, but it seems to be lost in the effort to point out how hypocritical and stupid insurance companies are for not covering birth control. But I don’t have time for that. (Technically, I don’t have time for this, but I’m bored and want to avoid work.)
Here’s my bottom line: Why are we spending time arguing about a government perk that serves already-employed, already-insured people who probably can already afford their birth control? Most forms of contraception are not that expensive. Yes, there are fancy-dancy versions of the Pill for women who for some reason can’t take the cheaper versions, but most forms of contraception serve most women well and are not that expensive. To make birth control pills even less expensive and increase access for those who don’t have insurance, they should be made available over the counter (with pharmacist screenings for safe use), as is already done in several countries. Not only would the increased price awareness among consumers lead to competitive pricing, but women wouldn’t have to pay for the doctor visit necessary for a prescription. Poor, uninsured women win (along with all the other women who would like some birth control pills). (Of course, a woman who needed birth-control pills for non-contraceptive purposes would still need to see a doctor to know that she needed them.) Another plus: Rick Santorum would have to get elected and go full Handmaid’s Tale/Third Reich on us in order for the public to lose access to birth control pills. (That is not nearly as likely a scenario as Facebook would have you believe.)
Well, I could probably go on, but I’m already at 2,425 words and the kids will be home soon. So I guess this concludes this edition of Inflammatory Friday. Next week: Abortion!*
So I was reading this story last night, and the more I think about it, the more ticked off I get.
High school students and college-age adults have been complaining to District officials that the free condoms the city has been offering are not of good enough quality and are too small and that getting them from school nurses is “just like asking grandma or auntie.”
So D.C. officials have decided to stock up on Trojan condoms, including the company’s super-size Magnum variety, and they have begun to authorize teachers or counselors, preferably male, to distribute condoms to students if the teachers complete a 30-minute online training course called “WrapMC” — for Master of Condoms.
Why does this story make me so angry? It’s not because I’m against teenagers using condoms if/when they have sex. Heck, they can use condoms for whatever they like, as long as, you know, they’re not constructing bombs out of them and hijacking planes or something. I admit, however, that I have never been a big fan of giving free condoms to kids. I was never really particularly against it–historically, I’ve had bigger fish to fry–but neither could I muster up the enthusiasm to particularly support it, and this story demonstrates exactly why.
The rationale for distributing free condoms to students is to encourage them to protect themselves against sexually transmitted diseases, especially HIV, if/when they have sex–and conventional wisdom says, “Let’s face it: the kids are going to have sex. No one should have to die because they had sex. Therefore, we should make it as easy as possible for them to have protected sex.” There’s only one problem with this rationale, and it’s this: You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it put on a condom.
If there’s anything teenagers are better at than risky behavior, it’s making excuses for their risky behavior. First it was that they had to schlepp all the way to the store to get the condoms, and after all that trouble, you had to pay money for them. WHAT’S UP WITH THAT? So well-meaning grown-ups made the condoms available on school campuses for free, and now what? The condoms aren’t the brand they like, and the people giving them away aren’t cool enough. (Oh, and they’re too small. Of course!)
“We thought making condoms available was a good thing, but we never asked the kids what they wanted,” said D.C. Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large), chairman of the health committee.
Mr. Catania, you don’t have to ask what the kids want because I will tell you. What the kids want is not to use condoms. How is that not abundantly clear to anyone born before yesterday? I believe that there are some poor sexually-active kids out there who simply don’t have any disposable income at all and don’t live anywhere near a Walgreens and who simply must have sex with other people who also can’t afford them and don’t live near a retail drugstore–but the vast majority of sexually-active kids who don’t use condoms are not using them because they just aren’t especially motivated to use them. If you really want to avoid getting pregnant or getting a sexually-transmitted disease, you will use a condom. You will probably even pay for it yourself, much as it might pain you, because it’s actually important to you to protect yourself when you’re having sex.
But if you’re the kind of person with an underdeveloped frontal lobe, who acts impulsively and thinks you’re invulnerable because you’re young and stupid and who cares more about not being embarrassed than about not dying, plus you really just prefer the way sex feels without a condom, no free condom will convince you to have one on your person and use it when the crucial moment arises. The free condoms could be made of gold and distributed by Barack Obama himself, and it would make no difference. That is just how teenagers are.
This is D.C. taxpayer money, so theoretically I should not be so exercised about it, but this isn’t really about money, as far as I’m concerned. This could be some sexy private philanthropist deciding to donate free condoms to teenagers, and I would still disapprove because I really think this is bad for kids’ character development. Not because they’re having premarital sex, but because the implicit message is that they are not responsible for their own choices, that actually they are entitled to a risk-free life–and not only a risk-free life, but a risk-free life in the style to which they’ve become accustomed. They are entitled not only to free condoms, but to a wide selection of free condoms, and their failure to use those condoms–and the unpleasant consequences that accompany that failure–should be blamed on the fact that the free condoms weren’t hand-delivered by someone young and hip and “with it.” People who aren’t expected to be responsible for their own decisions never learn to make responsible decisions. They also never learn to be happy because they don’t have a sense of control over their own lives–because everything bad that happens to them is a result of someone else failing to anticipate their needs.
So instead of giving away more expensive condoms, how about every person caught complaining about their free condoms gets a free punch in the face? Or better yet, a punch to the groin. Then they won’t need any condoms, no one will have to pay for them, and some lucky individual gets to punch whiny, punk-@$$ teenagers. WIN-WIN-WIN.
Madhousewife is the Safe Sex Czar for the Obama administration.
Statement of Senator Christopher J. Dodd on the Windfall Profits Rebate Legislation
"This amendment says to the large integrated oil companies, if you don't invest your excess profits in technologies or infrastructure to enhance energy supply, then these companies will be required to give some of those profits, just some, back to the consumers."
Because, you know, it's the consumers' money. Just because they let you borrow it for a little while in exchange for some of your gasoline doesn't mean they wanted you to keep it forever. Geez!
I'm rather distressed today because my local talk radio station stopped carrying Larry Elder live and put him in the 9 p.m.-12 midnight slot. He's been replaced by some local cat, who I'm sure is very nice, but I went through six years of Larry Elder withdrawal, waiting patiently for the day when he would get syndicated and picked up by a Portland station. I've been listening faithfully, too, and this is how they repay me! (Whoever "they" are.) It's almost as bad as when the station that carried Dennis Prager went all Spanish-speaking and the Christian station that picked him up put him on between 1 and 4 in the morning. Stupid Christians. No offense to them.
You all have to forgive me, but I've only been back on the Zoloft for a couple days and it hasn't reached a therapeutic level yet. That's why this is the worst time in the world to take away my afternoons with Larry. I don't know how I'm supposed to drive or clean my kitchen or anything now–I'll have to start talking to my kids or something.
Roberts denies that he has any ideology, any "overarching judicial philosophy," and is nothing more than an ad hoc, bottom-up type of guy.
Maybe he is. Maybe he isn't. But he knows that if he dares to say otherwise, he gets Borked. If, on the other hand, he pretends to have a mind so scrubbed of theory that he is at a loss to explain gravitation itself, he gets to be chief justice of the United States for 40 years.–Charles Krauthammer
It seems obvious that the only way to protect the rights of women and minorities–indeed, to protect the rights of any American who isn't a rich, white, Christian male–is to adopt the following amendment to the Constitution:
I. No Supreme Court justice may retire while a Republican president is in office.
II. In the event a Supreme Court justice dies during a Republican administration, a new justice shall be nominated by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), or a blood relative thereunto, with the advice and consent of the Democratic Senate majority. Or minority. Whichever.
III. For the purpose of ratification, this amendment shall require the approval of 3/4 of the major metropolitan areas on the East and
Coasts and in the
Great Lakes region. (Except for
As a general rule, I don't follow Supreme Court confirmation hearings. Because I think they're stupid. Just give me the bottom line, kids. Thumbs up or down. I don't really care how you got there. I don't think this is ideological disgust with the process. I recall that as a young, liberal, feminist college student, I was pretty frustrated with the circus that was the Clarence Thomas hearings. Don't we have bigger fish to fry than this? I thought. But I suspect I'll always be interested in bigger fish than the Senate is currently frying, regardless of what's in the pan or who started the fire.
Anyway, where was I? Right, the confirmation hearings. I didn't pay very close attention because that would just irritate me, but I did start to get a little nostalgic and wonder what sort of questions Republicans asked of Justice Ginsberg during her confirmation hearing. She worked for the ACLU for a while, and no offense to the ACLU, but let's be grown-ups and acknowledge that that suggests a certain ideological bent–at least as much as a tenuous connection to the Federalist Society would (cue Psycho theme music here). And what Republican in his right mind wants that on the Supreme Court? Eh?
So how did the elephants in the room go about addressing the elephant in the room, so to speak. I've done some research and found one rather dull article from the Federalist Society (cue Psycho music) that was more informative than most; it just wasn't enlightening in the way I'd hoped.
But the other day there was a light-hearted article in the Oregonian that mentioned Orrin Hatch asking Justice-to-be Ginsberg if the right to privacy included prostitution. Ah, there we go! That's an interesting question, isn't it? In a silly, academic sense, that is, but that's what these hearings are really about, right? We're not trying to get all specific about any actual legal issues, are we? I hope not! Anyway, it didn't say what her answer was, which I thought was pretty lame of the person writing the article. Probably he didn't want to sift through any more of the boring document he lifted the info from. So I guess I shouldn't be too harsh with him.
So I tried to imagine for myself what an appropriate response would be. If John Roberts got such a softball question, what would I want him to say? Ummm….hm. You know, the more I think about it, the less interesting the question becomes. Never mind.
So if you, like I, missed most of the confirmation hearing for Roberts, you can still get a recap on ThinkSink, starting Sept. 13 and working backward–er, forward. Not as good as the MADTV version of the 2004 Presidential Debates, but close.
Looks like it's time to be stocking up on Sugar Daddy's beloved Ny- and DayQuil, before the Oregon Senate passes the prescription-only pseudoephedrine bill. I haven't been too emotionally invested in this particular controversy, though I suppose my inner libertarian might have something to say about it, if she weren't already too busy fuming about property rights and the interstate commerce clause. (Don't disturb her; she's not in a good mood these days.) Personally, I don't use pseudoephedrine, even when I'm not pregnant or breastfeeding (in other words, eight years ago–just kidding). Not because I have some wild notion that it's bad for me. I just think cold medicines are useless. I know, because I used to use them, and they never gave me any relief whatsoever, and I started feeling like a real chump, popping all these pills for nothing. Now I do my head-cold suffering drug-free. I get the exact same results, but I feel much more empowered. (Which is the female version of feeling rugged and manly, in case that makes any more sense to you.)
SD feels differently, however, which is funny because ordinarily the man shuns medicine. He gets a splitting headache, but he won't take anything for it. He has really bad hay fever, but he won't take his Claritin. He can be suffering incredible muscle pain (because he spent the day trying to take apart our ancient metal-of-unknown-origin planter with a hacksaw, or something equally stupid), but when I suggest he take some freaking Motrin already, he shrugs and grunts and shuffles off to some other part of the house where he can whine in peace. (Like I asked him to stick a needle in his eye or something. What he has against ibuprofen, I don't know. Personally, I love ibuprofen. Oh, ibuprofen, how I miss you. But I'm getting off topic.) He'll sometimes take Tylenol, which is ultra-safe for a very good reason (it doesn't do diddly-squat unless you have a fever, or it's laced with codeine), but in general, he really, really hates taking drugs of any kind. Except NyQuil. He swears by NyQuil. It's a magic elixir for him. As is DayQuil, for some strange reason. I say "strange" because as far as I'm concerned, NyQuil is good for only one thing, and that's knocking you out cold, and if you're not being knocked out cold, you're wasting your time. But to each his own.
Anyway, this new legislation distresses me only because when SD gets his next cold and has to see a freaking doctor to get his NyQuil, well, that's just never going to happen. He's just going to rant and rave and whimper and moan until the darn virus runs its course–which, in the hotbed of disease that is
Oregon, could take months. So I have to stock up now. The problem is, I don't want to look like some crazy meth lab operator, so I gotta stay below the radar–you know, picking up a box here and there at different stores, taking advantage of all the loopholes in the current legislation. But that's so much work. I'm wondering, however, if meth dealers aren't at some point going to find it more profitable to deal in black-market Sudafed for men who are too rugged and manly to go to a doctor. Maybe this bill is a good idea after all.