Saturday, December 30, 2017

Is There An Immigration Problem? Audi Alteram Partem

Bear with me now. 
I am going to sound, for a few moments, like a Build-the-Wall Donald Trumpee (or Trumper as they prefer) but I am wending my way toward a new understanding and that takes some treading through swampy areas.

You will understand I have previously posted in my Six Articles enunciating where all true, thoughtful Dems should be, that there is in fact no immigration problem, only a perception problem, in these United States. 

I came to this conclusion based in part on my experience with folks from the Massachusetts towns of Lawrence, Haverhill and Methuen, where the immigrants I've met struck me as fine  people, struggling to make it, working harder than most citizens and worthy of our support.

But now I'm reading the New Yorker article by Jonathan Blitzer "Trapped"  detailing the experience on Long Island, N.Y.,  and I realized the inspiring story of immigrant communities in Essex County, Massachusetts may not be what people on Long Island are living. 

Some numbers:
1/ By the mid 1990's more than 90,000 Salvadorans were living on Long Island. 
The population of El Salvador is 6 million, which means something approaching 2% of their population fled north to Long Island. 
Who knows how many fled to Los Angeles?

Honduras has 9 million people. Nicaragua has 6 million. 
These 3 Central American countries then have 21 million people.


2/ In Brentwood, a town of 60,000, nearly 70% of the population is Hispanic, of whom 16,000 are Salvadoran. The Salvadoran government opened a consulate in the town.
3/ MS-13 has 400 members in Suffolk County, LI. In Los Angeles there are 10,000 and in Central America 50,000.
4/ In one year 2016-2017 MS 13 was thought to have committed 17 known murders in Suffolk County, LI.

Is this a pervasive problem? An invasion? Or just a drop of ink in a large tub? 

In my own mind, I go back to images of Ellis Island, where grateful immigrants, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, arrived by ship, the wretched refuse of the teeming shore, ready to transform themselves and their newly adopted country in a soulful ascent to greatness. 

But there is a difference between the wretched refuse disembarking from those ships and the folks who walked across the Southern border of this country. Those huddled masses on the ships, were on ships.  That constituted a sort of control to the process. Rules, unfair or fair, wise or not, racist or not, could be enforced.

If the government decided it wanted to admit only a certain number or a certain type, that spigot could be turned on or off in accordance with by the will of the government, which, in theory at least, reflected the will of the American people already inside the club.

So that was "immigration."

When you have now with Central America is a population which is walking across the border.
That is something different. 
You can call it an "invasion" which evokes the image of hordes of orcs or Huns lead by Genghis Khan on horseback.  Or you can call it a tide, which is less emotive, but suggests a gentler process or you can call it a storm surge, which is more apt, coming as it does because of the tempest occurring in Central America. 
But, whatever you want to call it, Trump was getting a a sort of truth in his moronic way, when he sputtered, "We're not getting the best people. We're getting the criminals."

Of course, we are getting refugees which include some wretch refuse, but we are also getting some thugs, some nasties.

There are at least two sorts of immigrants we have to consider who would be undesirable. The lost souls of MS13 variety, who have no future but violence and early death and will take down solid citizens with them, and the wretch refuse, who by their simple numbers, as a group, not as individuals  pose a problem.
What if all 21 million decided to come to the United States?
And, if we decide to be really big hearted and throw open our borders entirely: what about  100 million Indians or the 100 million Chinese who might move here tomorrow if we threw open our borders.?



The problem with the first group, the illegal immigrants who are criminals becomes a logistical one: identifying, apprehending and sequestering these folks is a no brainer.

The second group simply requires laws, because, like their Ellis Island predecessors, they require a boat or an airplane and there are control points there.

The bigger issue, the harder issue, is what do we do with the illegals already here who pose no MS13 type threat, but occupy space, demand services and act as a magnet for those they left behind who wish to join them here?


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Era of Drama Queens and Big Guns

That pendulum must swing. 
So we went from No Drama Obama to the Dotard--to call President Heel Spurs an empty suit is to demean the empty suit. The Hollow man. 

But we see it everywhere, men who are drama queens, carrying guns to heighten their dramatic impact. See, look at me. See how dangerous I am. Watch me, sometime is about to happen.


Look ma! I'm a soldier!

And that is how these bearded children are:  They need to drum up drama to think of themselves as important.

We have no underlying political or social bomb which requires dramatic action: There is no issue like slavery calling for a John Brown or bludgeoning on the Senate floor.

What are these guys, from Bannon to those pathetic neo storm troopers in Charlottesville so agitated about? 

Tantrums looking for a reason. Rebels without a cause. Colicky boys who don't know why they are screaming or what about. 
Hey, at least I've got her attention

The white race is under attack! We are losing the country to radical Islam! Sharia law will rule the land! 

Oh, plueeeze. 

When I was maybe 7 or 8, my friends and I would dress up in whatever approximations of military garb we could scrape up and we'd carry our toy guns about the gulleys and forests of Northern Virginia, latter day Huck Finns, looking for adventure, playing out our romantic fantasies. We'd launch attacks against imaginery, phantom armies, charge gloriously into battle. 


Bloodied heir to Stonewall Jackson: In his own head

Those guys in Charlottesville look like that to me.

Strap on a gun, dress up like soldiers and now you're important. Scream about the immigrant invasion pouring over the border, the Muslim terrorists at the borders. The dark skinned men lusting after White women, and presto, you're an important person, a soldier in the White cause. 

Is anyone, other than these drama queens, buying it? 


Sunday, December 24, 2017

True Grit, Phony Grit

Do these two pictures not say it all?

In one, there is a real man.
"War is not popularity seeking. It is all Hell."

In one there is a pretend man.
"I know more than the generals. I went to military school."

This is my Christmas present to the world: A simple truth.

Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Happy Days Are Here Again!

Just used the NYT calculator to tell me how much I'll save with the new tax law: $3,700! For 2018, I'll have $10 a day more to spend, to get the economy humming again. 
Wowser!



I'm in the money.
That's $10 a day. I can start living like a millionaire. I can go to Starbucks every day on that kind of money!

And all I had to give up was Social Security, Medicare, Obamacare for my son, the musician, (who got a great policy but will likely now lose it), recovery funds for my fellow countrymen in California, Florida and Puerto Rico, a sense of shared destiny with my nation.

If all the people on my street agree to pool their individual $3,700 savings  we can erect a gate across our road, erect a wall around our block, and maybe even install a robot to restrict entry so we can transform our neighborhood into a gated community and declare ourselves a country club or a private corporation. More savings to follow.

We can wall ourselves off and connect via the web to other one percenters and we can feel smug, secure and superior.




Just ask yourself, "What would Jesus do?"

Well, surely, he would take the money and run.
Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Ruthless

Writing in today's NYT, Thomas Edsall lays out the details of how the Republicans in Congress have raped and pillaged the American economic system.

The details, of course, will put the "MAGA" crowd to sleep. They won't listen anyway, no matter how simple you make it.

For citizens less ardently attached to the President and his party, some of the explanations may prove disturbing. There are schemes which just beg smart lawyers and accountants to financially rape the system: If you own a factory, you can sell equipment to your wife or your friend and then lease it back, so that machine never has to leave your factory, but you can deduct the full cost of it from your income tax. Government paid for capital investment, no risk to you; it only costs the little guy whose taxes pay for this.

You can declare yourself a corporation--as Mitt Romney once informed us, corporations are people, and that is now coming true with a vengeance--or you can become a contractor rather than an employee and your income tax rate drops from 36% to 21%.

But best of all, about 1/3 of the Senators just wrote themselves tax breaks which range from roughly $50,000 to 500,000. Wow, what a great job! You can actually write yourself legal ways of not paying taxes.

Which all goes to show, the Republicans were right all along. The poor deserve to be poor and the rich deserve to be rich.  The Republicans planned long and fought hard to win the Congress and the Presidency. They fooled enough people some of the time to steal legally what they coveted. 

They have all the scruples of Vikings on a longboat. But they are smarter than the Vikings--they don't burn the village; they just sack and rape, pillage and plunder.

The ancient Romans had an expression for it: Audaces fortuna iuvat. Fortune favors the bold.
The Republicans, you have to admit, are bold.
The Democrats are wimps. They deserve everything that they get.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Does Public Education Dumb Down America?

At the risk of sounding like an ultra-libertarian, or fundamentalist religious person, I have to ask the question: Does public school education, as we currently see it in the United States, actually diminish the intellectual capacities and development of our nation's children?

Let me begin by laying bare my own prejudices:
1. My mother was a public school teacher.
2. From the 1930's to 1950's a job as a public school teacher, particularly in big cities, was a plum--it offered security, a middle class wage, summers off and getting teaching jobs was highly competitive. The faculty of the best public high school in our home town--Bethesda Chevy-Chase High School--was comparable to faculties at many good colleges.
3. My own schooling from K-12 was in public schools.
4. My oldest son went to the same public schools I did.

So I have a worm's eye view of public schools, with a decided bias in their favor.

Looking at studies of how well educational efforts succeed, comparing achievement in the USA vs European vs Asian school children is discouraging, from an American point of view. Of course these studies are likely flawed and may be comparing apples and oranges, but the United States consistently comes out looking like a mediocrity, despite high levels of spending. We get far less out of our spending on education than the Europeans and Asians do, if we can believe cross cultural testing.
Schooled by fish --Obadiah Youngblood

There are less scientific, but possibly no less revealing ways of assessing the educational effects of public education in different countries. One of these is listening to people interviewed on TV or radio from England or Germany or Iceland and comparing the capacity for expression, clarity of thought, and the references and allusions you hear people making.

I have learned I am not the only American to listen to these foreigners interviewed and find myself thinking: These Brits (Icelanders, Germans)  are just consistently smarter than we are. Or at least they sound that way.

Listening to the parents of Dutch, Swedish, Irish children who get parked in American schools while their parents are doing a tour of duty at the World Bank or the Embassy or some international company, you understand they are not favorably impressed by American education.  They try to say as little as possible, but if you really probe them they say it: You spend so much time accomplishing so little.
The more time our kids spend in these schools, the dumber they get.


I'm not ready to draw firm conclusions from such diverse and unsystematic sources, but I am struck by how many fewer hours Scandinavians, Brits and German kids spend in school every day and every year and I wonder whether the "crowd control" aspect of American education has somehow purloined the quality of the education we inculcate.
Look at those TV shows where kids from local high schools compete with one another as teams representing their schools and listen to the questions they get asked. At least they are fill in the blank answers, but still, the questions are narrow points of knowledge: What was the name of the man who accompanied Mallory to the top of Everest? Sure, nice if you know that, but really, what does it matter?

My son and I visited a classroom once where the teacher asked the students, who had been reading letters sent home from the commander of a Negro regiment what they had noticed about the attitude of the officer and the students answered: "He began by calling them "niggers" but after a few battles he was calling them heroes and he said he was honored to lead them.
"In my school," my son said, "They would have asked the name of the major's horse."
That is the difference between smart and stupid. No other way to describe it.


Watching kids in Iceland get out of school in the early afternoon, watching them walk home, walk to the swimming pool, the playground, where they played with other kids without parental supervision, listening to kids (who learn English early) and observing their enthusiasm for what they are learning is an experience which makes anyone think: What is their secret?

Remembering my own high school days, arriving at 9 AM leaving class at 3:30 going off to team practice until 6:30, home by 7 PM and homework until midnight. Five hours of homework which was essentially busy work. Designed to keep you busy, not to enlighten.
I particularly recall my science courses: We had the usual chemistry teacher who was just a chapter ahead of us in the text book and could answer no questions.
But we had a young graduate of the University of Maryland who was all about teaching us the newest and most sophisticated biology she had just learned in college. But her idea of rigor was piling on volume of reading to be done at home prior to class and then lecturing during class. I cannot recall anyone asking questions. We had 50 pages of reading to do every night, five days a week and 100 pages for the weekend. We got lots of knowledge, lots of volume laid on us. But quantity is not quality.
When I got to college and majored in biology, I got to understand what quality meant, and that turned out to be nothing like what I was told was the most rigorous, fantastic high school  biology course in Maryland.

In fact, the more our biology teacher piled on, the less we learned. The more guilty we felt and the more we decided the study of biology was an ordeal, not an awakening.

Of course, compared to our middle school biology courses, which consisted of memorizing long lists of species and genus, classification and descriptions, the high school biology course was a joy.

The trouble was, these teachers were themselves not very well educated. They thought memorization was learning. They thought "content" was immutable, like learning Greek, would always be with you.

In college we learned concepts, and it was like going from Latin recitations to "Blue Planet."


Maybe it's the first sign of on rushing Alzheimer's but as I watch American TV, listen to radio, I find myself saying: These people are really stupid. 


Not so much with the BBC or with foreign programs.

Some how, we are surrounded by so much stupidity, it is becoming the norm.
It cannot all be Trump's fault
Can it be he  is simply  the result, not the cause?



Thursday, December 14, 2017

Just How Red is Alabama? New Math.

Interesting graphic about the Congressional districts in Alabama.
What it shows explains why Alabama has six of seven Representatives in the House wearing the red Republican ribbon.






So, if district #7 has 3 million citizens and the remainder of the state, those empty rural counties, have 2 million, then District 7 gets one Democratic Representative and the other districts get 6 Republican Representatives. 



That's math even I can understand.
Our House represents empty spaces.

Those 6 Republicans represent a lot of barns and fields and ponds and hog farms. 
If the state of Alabama is primarily its people, then the Representatives of Alabama are illegitimate. If the state of Alabama is constituted by acres and mules and dusty roads, then it all that is what is represented in Congress by its 6 Republican representatives. Five million souls, 3 million Democrats, 2 million Republicans--that means, to me Alabama should have 4 Democratic Representatives and only 3 Republicans.

Instead they have 6 Republicans. 

Marcy Kaptur: Profile in Courage

I wasn't in the meeting, just heard the leaks about it, but apparently Marcy Kaptur, a long serving Democratic Representative (Ohio) spoke out at a meeting of Captiol Hill women, Congresswomen, staffers, and said while she was as outraged as anyone about the stories she's heard over the years about male Congressmen and staffers in the grips of testosterone storm, she recognizes that when a woman gets dressed in the morning, her clothes make a statement about her and if she has "cleavage down to the floor" that might evoke a response in a male.
Representative Kaptur


She was not, of course, blaming the victim, but that's the way her shocked colleagues heard it because they are so swept up in the hysteria, a veritable Salem witch trial atmosphere, they refuse to hear the other side of the equation.


Nobody is excusing lascivious behavior by libidinous males, but when you present yourself as a sexually provocative female, you must accept some responsibility for the response you elicit.
Professional Journalist


Meghan Kelly has got to be the ultimate in all this: She could not understand why men propositioned her, did not treat her with the respect her journalistic professionalism earned her. 
One might ask, in the first place, exactly how much of a profession journalism is. After all, in England they are called, "news readers" which is really what many journalists are. Fox News exploded the idea of a well trained discipline by dressing up pretty blondes in red dresses showing lots of  leg to do "the news." Not to group a pro like Gwen Ifil with that crowd, but it's not like you have to go to Columbia Journalism School and pass an exam to be a "journalist" or a congresswoman.


The respect you get is the respect you earn. The profession does not earn you that prestige simply by membership. You have to earn esteem.


That doesn't mean you should be groped or raped--A prostitute is every bit as violated by a rape as any woman. Permission must be granted.


But in some cases women by their dress or their behavior invoke a sort of power play and tacitly dare men by titillation. That, too, is aggressive behavior, no less so because it is unspoken, or subtle.


"Me too," has gone too far.


The feeding frenzy which tore Al Franken apart along with efforts to get at a lunatic pedophile has got to end.
Blood in the water is one thing.
Indiscriminate accusations are quite another.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

FAKE MURDER

This morning on NPR I heard a voter in Alabama questioned about how he, as a Christian, could vote for the accused child molester, Roy Moore.
He said, "Well, it's like this: I got a choice of voting for a man ACCUSED of child molestation versus the man who I KNOW to be a murderer--because he supports abortion--he's an accomplice to the murder of untold millions of babies."

How would I respond to this voter, were I any Democratic candidate for Senate or for dogcatcher or for  President?

I would say,
"Excuse me? A murderer
Well I can understand you think life begins at conception and therefore the removal of a two cell conceptus is the taking of a human life.
But I do not believe that. 
My religion tells me something different.
My faith--and my mind--tells me that a two cell thing is not a human being.
I do not believe, I do not agree with you that an 11 week fetus which is about the size of a small salamander and looks no more human in real life than a tadpole, is a human being.

You say you know the mind of God, well, excuse me but I do not believe you have a private phone line to God. You do not have God on your speed dial, nor does he call your number.  
Not you, nor your pastor knows a goddamn thing about what God says that I do not know.
What arrogance: to claim God speaks to you and not to me!

If you believe abortion is infanticide, do not have an abortion.
Speak out against it. 
But do not force your religious belief on me or call me a murderer because I disagree with you, because I do not hear God's voice in my head. 
And don't insult my intelligence by saying the Bible says abortion is wrong.
The men who wrote the Bible, and it was men who wrote that book, not God, had no idea about fertilization or the soul entering the egg with a sperm.
So believe what you want but don't call anyone a murderer because he doesn't go to your church."

That's what I'd like to hear some Democrat say some day. Have the courage of your convictions.
Have some balls and get mad about it.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Immigration [#6]

#6 Democratic Party Principles
Immigration
The first thing Democrats should say about the immigration problem is there is no immigration problem.

There is a perception problem.

The first thing Hitler and his buddy Goebbels did was to dream up a problem to blame all the other problems on: The Jews!

Trump and his buddies have done the same thing. 
Joe Arapaio and Paul LePage have ridden to prominence singing the same song.
Oh, those nasty immigrants!

Fact is, we had much more immigration of people who were less likely to succeed in the past: Look at those pictures from Ellis Island.

We had the Irish wave, the Italian wave, a Jewish wave from Eastern Europe, a Scandinavian wave. 

Each new group was vilified at first, then assimilated. All contributed big time.

No, we cannot throw our borders wide open.

If we allowed every person who wants to enter the USA from India alone, we'd like have close to a majority Hindi speaking population. Same for China.

We do not want to see sudden, huge shifts in our ethnic, linguistic, cultural makeup.

But if we do it gradually enough, carefully enough, we can celebrate diversity rather than fear it. 

And diversity is our strength. It gives us an competitive edge over every other country.  

Diversity should not be allowed to stay in silos, however. Anyone coming here has to agree to try to assimilate and most of all, to tolerate every opinion, no matter how foreign, no matter what his/her religious beliefs. 

Tolerance is the basic requirement for living in America.
The last thing this country needs is a lot of superpatriots who think they are more American than anyone else.

Drugs and the Opioid Crisis [#5]

#5 Democratic Party Principles
Opioid "Crisis"

Did you ever wonder where this new pestilence of opioid deaths came from?
Did it come to surface the way the Black plague does, occasionally, with a reservoir of disease living in fleas which live on rats?
Or did we invent it?
Or was it always there, but nobody noticed until it was not just Black inner city kids dying but beloved White suburban kids?

I do not know the answers to this question.

I do know that if we really want to address the two separate problems of 1/ Drug addiction  2/ Opioid overdose deaths, we will need to make some basic choices, not just use ban-aides. 

We will first have to decriminalize drug abuse and treat this problem as a public health problem.

We will have to commit billions to the part of the health care system which treats drug addiction, just as we devote resources to the treatment of other life long problems like diabetes and alcohol addiction. 

We will have to ask the hard questions we ask of all medical therapies and programs: What is the evidence they work? What better solutions might be out there.

Right now, we've got programs which work to keep people "clean" only for as long as the patients remain in the programs, but the relapse (recidivism) rate is nearly 100%


Guns and Gun Violence [#4]

#4 Democratic Party Principle
Gun Violence
Gun violence is not one problem and it cannot be solved with a single solution.

The man who mows down scores of people with an automatic (or semi automatic weapon) in a school yard is not going to be deterred by the law meant to prevent a seven year old from killing his brother accidentally at home when he finds his father's pistol.

The death of a citizen at the hands of a punk with a Saturday night special is not going to be prevented by laws requiring "smart guns" which prevent the seven year old from shooting his brother.

The man who shoots his teen age son by mistake when the kid is sneaking back into his home late at night is not going to be affected by the law which prevents the sale or ownership of an automatic rifle.

We already have over one gun per human being, right now, out there in the U.S. of A. If we stopped selling guns tomorrow,  people can bury a gun in a back yard and dig it up a year from now.

The Australian experiment of requiring guns to be turned over to the government would not have a prayer in this nation.

The fools who claim the solution to the maniac shooter at the church or government building or hotel is to arm everyone should be run out of town. If every member of that crowd in Las Vegas had a gun, just as many, if not more would have died.  For the most part, the problem of the mass shooter is the element of surprise, not the delay of bringing deadly force to bear on him. 

Each one of the many problems of gun deaths needs, likely, a separate solution. 
We should be willing to try new laws, and we should be willing to admit when they do not work.

But, in general, the principle governing our approach should be like that of Marshall Matt Dillon in Dodge City. Once you come into town, you hand over your guns. You get them back again when you go out into the country side.

But in general, the more guns, the more accidental shootings.

No woman walking her dogs should be shot down by her half witted neighbor thinking he's shooting a deer. 
Guns too close to where people live in close quarters a recipe for disaster.


Wealth Disparity [#3]

#3 Democratic Party Principles
Wealth Redistribution






There is no way a democracy, or even a republic hoping to do the greatest good for the greatest number can allow the winners in the economic game to win so much that others cannot thrive.

The British tried this and the collapse of their Empire and their economic power and their own well being ensued.

The Republican Party tells us we should believe in social Darwinism: The fittest survive, the fittest prosper. If you lose, that's on you.

We know the rules of the game. The game is fair. If you lose, you deserve to lose. If you win, you deserve to win and you deserve all you win.

The fact is, this is the Big Lie.

We all start from different places: Some are born on third base and believe they hit a triple.

All you have to do is to look at the current tax bill in the Republican Congress. If you own a business you pay a much lower tax rate than if you are a wage earner. This is only fair, say the Republicans: The guy who takes the greater risks gets the greatest reward. The wage earner chooses safety over the adventure and risk of entrepreneurship. But the fact is, the guy who takes the risk most often can afford to take the risk. He's got a safety net provided by his family.  The wage earner cannot afford the risk.

You can think of many exceptions in your own world to this, but the fact is, the guys who are really rich in this country, who are in the top 1-10% of that pie graph started rich and used their head start to get richer. 
They were never going to starve or become homeless if they failed. 


Health Care [#2]

#2 Democratic Party Principles
Health Care

Everyone, save the most libertarian or Tea Party of Republican, would likely agree, that in an ideal world, a utopia, every citizen would be provided with health care from cradle to grave.

Only the most ardent absolutist would argue that the man or child brought bleeding to the Emergency Room should be denied life saving help if he has not made an investment in his own or his child's heath care.

If we all agree emergency care should be provided we ought to ask ourselves why? 
We agree on this not only because we might sympathize with the patient in need but because we do not like to think of ourselves as hard hearted enough to turn away a suffering person, to walk by the child drowning in the pond and make no effort to rescue him.

If we feel this way about emergency care, then why do we not feel that way about all medical care which may prevent people from reaching the point where they need emergency care?

Here we get to the idea of the grasshopper and the ants. It's a matter of deserving. Those who will not invest in insurance get what they deserve. That's the essence of the Republican line. We don't owe any human being anything. Take responsibility for yourself.

But if people want to take the risk, that's on them, the Republican argument goes. Thus, no individual mandate to buy health care.

Practically, what that has meant is those who gambled and lost, wind up in the Emergency Room, getting admitted and the whole system sags under their burden.

Then there is the second half of the Republican argument: Government run health care is always inefficient and poorly done; if you want efficiency, innovation, first class health care, the best health care in the world, power it with private enterprise, make it a profit center.

Trouble with this argument is history: Private enterprise has been a dismal failure when it comes to American healthcare. American healthcare demonstrates just the opposite: Compared to the government run systems of Western Europe, American health care is like the American automobiles in the 1960's--dismally low quality. That's why the Hondas and Toyotas blew the American auto companies out of the water. America had become complacent, stopped improving while the rest of the world blew by us. That's where we are with healthcare today.

We keep telling ourselves the fairy tale that we have the best health care system in the world because that means we don't have to do the hard work of changing it.

It also allows the profiteers (big pharma, big health insurance companies) to keep making billions in profit.

Profit is a poison when it comes to running a health care system. Health care should not be a profit center. It is more like electric power, and infrastructure. It should be designed to deliver the greatest good to the greatest number at the lowest cost.

We have examples of the Veterans' health care system,  the military health care system and Medicare. For all the complaints about specific facilities, specific problems, these are marvels of efficiency and models of what American medicine and surgery can be.

We need a system more like England's: You can fly first class, with your private, union insurance or you can fly economy on the national health system, but you get to the same place, when you land in the end.


Abortion [#1]

A Democratic Manifesto: 
Democratic Party Principles
#1 Abortion

Getting past the trivial and puerile, to which President Dotard wants us to focus our undivided attention, Mad Dog has decided to begin a discussion of the six issues which should define the Democratic Party:

1. Abortion: When is it infanticide? 
2. Health Care: Is it a right or a profit center?
3. Wealth disparity: Should the government play a role in redistributing wealth?
4. Guns, gun violence: Is this a single issue solvable by one law or a nexus of problems?
5. Drugs and the Opoid crisis: Is this a public health crisis or a criminal problem; is there an effective set of options?
6. Immigration: Do we really have an immigration problem or a perception problem?

I believe every Democrat, given enough time in any setting, platform, meeting, TV appearance ought to say these are the key issues which define Democrats. 
There are some things so fundamental they define discussion.
That freedom of speech is in the first amendment is no accident. It is the most fundamental of all rights, without which there can be no other rights, the sine qua non of all other rights.

So, Mad Dog will discuss each these 6 basic issues in a separate post.  

Mad Dog begins with ABORTION.
Blackmun, a Republican

Have you actually ever read Harry Blackmun's Supreme Court Opinion in Roe v Wade, written in 1973? 
Few people I know have.
Nor have many read William Requist's dissent nor Whizzer Byron White's dissent.

These are good places to start, but the ultimate argument comes down to a decision in the mind of man when life begins.

The justices addressed the less important problem first--who has the right to decide whether or not abortion should be permitted? They did this because this is a matter of law, of jurisdiction, or who has "standing." 

But it all comes down to is the fetus a person? Like the Dred Scot case, in which the justices decided the slave had no standing to sue in court because he was not a person, or, at best, on 3/5 a person, so nobody could intervene from the judiciary or any other part of government on his behalf, if the fetus is not a person the whole debate dissolves.
And deciding about when the fetus becomes a person is treacherous water for a judge.
Blackmun goes through all the arguments, but in the end, if you are an absolutist, you cannot be persuaded. If you believe the moment the sperm penetrates the egg, it is a human being in the eyes of God or should be in the eyes of man, there is no arguing faith.
Like slavery, this is one of those disputes which, for some, has no middle ground.
But for many people, for Mad Dog in particular, there is a middle ground.
Mad Dog well remembers witnessing a "salting out" in medical school--in which a 28 week fetus was expelled from the womb and quickly shunted to a utility room off the operating room, where Mad Dog examined it, visually, with a nurse. It did not draw a breath. It did not move, beyond perhaps a spasm here and there. But it looked a lot like a human being to Mad Dog, in a gut check sort of way. In those days, 1971, two years before Roe v Wade, that fetus could not have survived out of the womb given the state of neonatal medicine then. 

But it sure looked almost human. It's lungs made not have been fully formed; certainly its brain was not, but it looked human. Looking human, of course, Mad Dog realized even then, did not make it human. He'd seen models of babies which looked human.
But that thing on the stainless steel tray looked, to Mad Dog, a third year medical student, like a victim of  infanticide.
But Mad Dog also saw suction curettage of 6 week fetuses which looked like nothing more than smudge on a gauze pad, and he saw fetuses, sometimes spontaneously expelled, at 14 weeks which looked like skinned newts, not human at all, although fetuses on ultrasound, magnified as they are by the technology--those images look pretty human. 
Not yet a human being

Ultrasounds of fetuses, one must remember are very deceptive--they make something look alive and human, but they are cartoons.  Donald Duck and Roger Rabbit look alive on screen, too. Just because something looks human doesn't mean it is really human--clouds can look like people, too.
Not human being


Clouds can look like angels, too, but that doesn't make them angels. 
Cloud, not angel

Ultimately, the judges in Roe v Wade chose not to believe the Catholic or Bible Belt belief that a 2 cell conceptus is alive, has a soul and commands the same right to life as a 28 week fetus. They said there is a progression toward becoming a human being, and that until 12 weeks (end of the first trimester) the fetus has virtually no claim to protection, after 24 weeks it may well have full claim to protection, it's for all intents and purposes, a person, and during the 2nd trimester, well, that's up for discussion, but since it's not viable outside the mother, it's her call.

All the arguments about who has the right to make this call are secondary--arguments the mother has the right because the Constitution implies a "right to privacy" are pretty weak. You don't have a right to kill your four year old in your home because that's a right to privacy. 

It all comes down to belief and the justices in Roe said, we have to draw the line somewhere. Legislatures don't have that right, mostly because they have made such a goddamn mess of that, so we'll do it.
They drew the line at the end of the 2nd trimester.

Mad Dog believes that was the right place to draw that line, at least in 1973.  Up to that point the fetus is like  a car frame on an assembly line--it has the shape, but still is not a functional, realized thing. 
But somewhere it does cross a line, and is more realization than simple potential. Early on, it may have the frame of an automobile, but it does not have a working engine, electrical wiring, gas lines, transmission or even tires, but somewhere along the line, it crosses over into being enough of a car to be called a car. 
Cloud, not human being


And that's where Mad Dog thinks the Democratic Party should plant its flag: We do not believe in infanticide. We do not believe a two cell thing is a human being. We acknowledge as technology changes and makes it possible for a fetus to survive outside the womb, we might draw the line a little earlier, but for now, we agree until the fetus is 24 weeks, abortion is permissible. 

If you believe differently, vote against us. That's where we are.