Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Last Post of Civitas...For Now

This will serve as my last post on Civitas for awhile. I have been pruning my digital garden and Civitas had to go. But fear not, if there is something worth posting it will be at

Until next time.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Civitas Healthcare Redux

I wrote my first post on health-care nearly 2 years ago. The fact is that I was just beginning to understand the complexity of the United States' health-care problem. Just when I think I have my opinion, there is a new facet of the problem exposed.

For example, the insurance industry has taken a beating as a major villain contributing to our current health-care problem. Though I never thought that industry acted with naked malevolence, their business orientation has a different goal than providing health care services. I'll admit that I suspected some profiteering on the woes of the sick. But a podcast this weekend about the role of contract negotiations between health care insurance companies and health care provider conglomerates highlighted the ascendant role of the provider conglomerates in negotiations about care price contracts. The podcast used a real example of an appendectomy that in one part of California costs $1500, but in another would cost more than $10,000. The reason: different price contracts.

The previous example is meant to highlight just how complicated American health-care is. It has given me pause and an opportunity to rethink some of my assumptions about the nature of our problems and their potential solutions.

I do know one thing: no solution will emerge from the simple exchange of "Socialist!" from one side of the issue and "heartless Capitalist!" from the other. I'll try an experiment the next time I am engaged on this topic: instead of offering my opinion, I'll try to understand my partner's view of the situation and solution.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Health Care "Debate:" the VA's "Death Book" UPDATE

Just when I thought I wouldn't have the opportunity to attend a town hall "discussion" on health care, one was held on my Facebook page.

My previous Civitas post was centered on FoxNews misrepresentation the VA's pamphlet "Your Life/Your Choice." I was literally thinking while writing it, "Anyone not ensconced in partisan vitriol will appreciate this video."

Well, the following exchange took place:

- "The far-left and Obama are losing their minds because the common folks are actually paying attention and READING...this VA euthanasia propoganda[sic]."

Me: "I actually think it is good when people read proposed and passed legislation. I also think it is good when people have SUBSTANTIVE discussion about issues: name-calling, disregard for intellectual rigor, misleading hyperbole, and obfuscation have no role in meaningful civic participation."

- "Dude, in your above post, the terms you used could be used to describe Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Barney Frank. Swastika's, Angry Mobs, Brownshirts, anyone?"

Partisans read my comments and may think that I am referring to republicans. Fortunately for my peace of mind, I was referring to anyone in the public sphere who promulgates vacuous rhetoric.

Civitas will be back soon.

UPDATE (Aug 27, 2009): Public Errata
The author of my first quote thought my use of ellipsis removed context from his statement. In the spirit of full disclosure and an attempt to give someone every opportunity to express themselves, I have included his full quotation below. The redacted portion is identified as bold text.

"The far-left and Obama are losing their minds because the common folks are actually paying attention and READING what's in "Obamacare." They know more about what [is] in that bill than Obama and Congress. Now, they are also taking the time to read this VA euthanasia propoganda[sic]."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Healthcare "Debate:" the VA's "Death Book"

Civitas has been slumbering for sometime, but was roused from its inactivity by this FoxNews video, as shared on Facebook (as part of some vague call to action to oppose Obama's health care project). The video is a "report" on the Veterans Affairs (VA) living will/end-of-life counseling workbook that is intended to provide vets with some tools and points of consideration when putting together an advanced directive or "living will." (Some have actually been able to muster the intellectual hutzpah to refer to it as the "VA Death Book.")

Now, you might think after watching the video that the VA is advising the mildly impaired or wheel-chair-bound vets to kill themselves. Or, you might conclude that the VA says somewhere in the booklet that disabled veterans should kill themselves because they are a financial burden. You might also conclude that Jonah Goldberg and Megyn Kelly are on the front lines of a war against life and moral rectitude being waged by liberals.

However, I can only conclude, to my own deep amazement and disgust, that these two people have done one of the following:

1) Given opinions about the VA's document without even reading it.
2) Read the VA's booklet and deliberately misrepresented it.

Either scenario is truly astonishing. The video report is Orwellian in its ability to take the VA's document and twist it into a recommendation for suicide. I honestly do not know how these people go to sleep at night.

If greater astonishment were possible, it is reserved for those people who watch the video, read the VA's pamphlet, and still conclude there is any correlation between what is being described and what was actually written.

Shame on Fox News, and shame on Megyn Kelly and Jonah Goldberg.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Torture is Still Torture

If there is more illustrative recent example of the importance of language than the choice between "enhanced interrogation techniques" or "torture," it eludes me.

Some among us are inclined to say the questionable "techniques" employed against our prisoners are mere scare tactics; others claim the techniques are harsh (even torture), but justified given the evil of those to whom they are applied; still others claim the techniques are torture.

However, as talking heads pimp their moral and ethical casuistry in the unflagging pursuit oversimplified answers to oversimplified questions, there still exist easily accessible moral guideposts.

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." This simple formulation, tested and effective, helps to disambiguate the morality and language of how our prisoners should be treated. Would we (as either individuals or as a Republic) ever tolerate another state treating our citizens this way, regardless of our citizens' actual guilt? The concept of such tolerance is almost inconceivable.

Some may try to cobble some perverse syllogism out of the Golden Rule and Hammurabi's Code to justify revenge or harsh responses: morally depraved vigilantes killed thousands of our innocent countrymen, we are therefore morally entitled to take the fight to our enemy prisoners. Others may adopt an Orwellian principle that the security of the state or the prevention of some possible future attack justifies even torture. Still others may claim that harsh techniques are used to train our own soldiers, so if we have tortured our prisoners, then we have tortured our soldiers.

We are tempted to hesitate to call "enhanced interrogation techniques" torture because they lack the savagery typically present in the Hollywood concocted depictions of torture. But even the brutal torture of 18th century France was not unrestrained savagery. Michel Foucault describes it as:

...a regulated practice, obeying a well-defined procedure; the various stages , their duration, the instruments used, the length of the ropes and heaviness of the weights used, the number of interventions made by the interrogating magistrate, all this was, according to the different local practices, carefully codified.
-Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison, p. 40

Our country's techniques (and they are now ours, if only because they were done in all of our names) differ from those of the rack, wheel, and pillory only by degree of brutality. The U.S.'s waterboarding is no less torture than when waterboarding was used by Khmer Rouge.

Call or write your Congressional Representative and Senator and tell them to investigate torture and hold the responsible to account.