Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Health Care, Tea Bags and Non Sequiturs


I've been listening to some of the discussion about the health care summit that will happen in Washington tomorrow and frankly don't have high hopes. Legislators from both sides of the aisle insist that they represent the views of their constituents; the Dems insisting the health care is wanted, while the GOP insists that their constituents oppose the health care legislation. Both sides probably speak at least partial truth, but little has been said about how the voters have arrived at the views they currently hold.

It's little wonder that people are confused about health care legislation, with people on both sides trying to spin the information to make their assertions sound better. And with thousands of pages of legislation, and proposals it's inevitable that some things will be unintentionally misinterpreted. The most reprehensible activity has been from people who intentionally lied to misrepresent the facts, creating fear and mistrust where no real problems existed.

While supporters of the Democrats have done some of this, most of the blame lays at the door of the Republican supporters. Those of us whose memory extends back more than a year may remember that Republicans boasted that they would prevent any health care bills from passing just so they could call the Obama Administration ineffective and some of them stated before anything was even written that, no matter what the legislation said, they would characterize it as a government take-over of health care. They've been committing premeditated obfuscation.

Death committees, mandatory abortions, giant bureaucracies, elimination of Medicare and the like became part of the mythology spread by pundits and tea parties, until large numbers of people, including some who would benefit most from the legislation, became convinced that the opposite was true. Tea party organizers, some of them white supremacists or militant theocracy advocates, were far more interested in sewing distrust and discontent with the Obama Administration than in advocating for the benefit of anyone.

The fact is, there are tens of millions of Americans without health insurance or who have to buy it for themselves (according to an AP article, 50 million uninsured and 27 million self-insured) and they're not all deadbeats or illegal aliens. Many are self-employed or working in jobs like construction where benefits are rarely provided. Others are among the many previously financially secure people who have lost their jobs as a result of the recession. Some of them are convinced that as bad as their situation is, they would be even worse if health care legislation passed.

The time has come for those of us with health insurance to let our personal desires take a back seat and start making the health care stuff be about helping those who are in a bad situation right now. We shouldn't let people who would rather be working and children who have no control of their situation die, just because it might also benefit a welfare queen, or because it might increase the popularity of a politician you dislike.

A Thought on a Gambier Bomb Scare

There was a bomb threat hoax at the Wiggin Street Elementary School in Gambier, OH on Monday according to the Mount Vernon News. Gambier, home of Kenyon College, is just east of Mount Vernon and tends to represent a more rational, secular view of mid-Ohio. That being the case, I cannot help wondering how long it will be before the MV evangelicals blame the bomb threat on secular humanism, the teaching of evolution, bigotry against Xians and the impending downfall of American morality. It just seems unlikely that they would want to miss the opportunity. I almost forgot; they'll probably blame the Obama Administration, too.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

On Valentine's Day

OK, today is Valentine's Day but my wife is back in Iowa providing aid and comfort to her family as her dad's Alzheimer's and general health get worse. I've never been good about getting romantic, but short of being castrated by ugly lesbians, I can't think of a much less Valentine-ish Valentine's Day, except maybe the first one.

I went looking for information about ol' St. V. but nobody seems to know much about him except that he was a martyr and his day doesn't seem to originally have had much to do with romantic love. Being killed while no one associates you with romance is probably one of the all time most crappy Valentine's Days. Some say that romance was only connected to the day after Geoffry Chaucer wrote something about it, which he probably did to hit on some comely wench.

Be that as it may, I sent my wife a (free) e-card to mark the day. The e-card wasn't very memorable because the selection is always pretty lame (I think I chose it because it had a yak), but at least it didn't cost anything. I mean, I don't mind telling my wife I love her, but give me a break, I'm not going to waste my beer money.

Actually, I'm planning to make her a gift using my wood turning and leather crafting skills. Inspired by all the pajama-gram ads, I'm thinking of knotty pine and saddle leather lingerie with rivets and splinters in all the right places.

Anyway, happy Valentine's Day to those who wish to celebrate it, happy Anti- Valentine's day to those who prefer to celebrate that, and happy dividends to those who have stock in a greeting card company.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Case of the Black Bag; A Freshwater Boys Mystery

The Freshwater fiasco has gotten even weirder with the Freshwater team's acquisition of new evidence via a scenario that sounds like it's straight from a bad detective novel; a really, really bad detective novel. The Mount Vernon News had and article, as did Dick Hoppe in Panda's Thumb (here and here) detailing a story of an anonymous voice mail that tipped Freshwater to a black bag full of evidence clandestinely removed from the school to help Freshwater's case. Uh huh.

Nothing in the whole story makes any sense to me. The items in the bag don't sound like anything that would blow this case wide open, as they say, and if the stack of papers and whistles in the bag were that important, why would the anonymous benefactor wait until the eleventh hour before passing the stuff on. Then there's that whole bit about Freshwater's Pastor Matolyak taking an armed escort while retrieving the bag, in case it was some kind of a trap.

Perhaps it makes some sense viewed through the eyes Freshwater's supporters. As I have mentioned before, some of them seem to view anyone who disagrees with them as the enemy. It's not that great a leap for them to assume that Freshwater's opponents reciprocally view the supporters as enemies. There's no evidence to support this, but one shouldn't let that stand in the way of a strong opinion. If friends of Freshwater thought that they were evading malicious enemies, they might act in the manner described.

As for the stack of papers, whistles and stopwatch contained in the black bag, if they were found at the school, it was probably a case of misplaced boxes rather than anything sinister. Some friend of Freshwater may have stumbled on the items and returned them to Freshwater anonymously because the friend didn't get permission to remove items from the school. The Board has nothing to gain by withholding evidence; that could only lead to more delays and lawsuits.

Another possibility is that the contents of the bag had been in the possession of Freshwater all along, as has been asserted by the board's attorney. If Freshwater removed these items from school, he may have eventually realized their discovery could lead to him being charged with withholding evidence. The anonymous friend would be an invention to explain how the items ended up in Freshwater's hands at this late date.

We may never know the whole truth about the source of the mysterious evidence, but, since a large part of the defense strategy has been to suggest that items in evidence have been doctored or forged, the onus is on them to demonstrate the veracity of their story and to demonstrate that the contents of the bag wasn't tempered with during the time they admit holding and examining it prior to turning it over to the police.

Ultimately, I can't imagine anything the Freshwater team could have acquired that could exonerate John Freshwater. No matter what anyone has to say about a bible, an injured student or evolution vs. intelligent design, what this hearing is actually about is whether or not the school board has just cause to fire John Freshwater. The evidence and testimony, including some very damaging testimony from the defense's own witnesses, seem to indicate that there were valid reasons for the firing.

The new evidence, whether real or concocted, is likely to merely prolong and increase the cost of the hearing and cause greater fiscal damage to the school district. I hope those involved feel it was worth it.