01 April 2010

A Matter of Liability

The part about all the uproar over the healthcare reform thing that troubles me is the confusion, the seeming surprise, that our government could possibly think they have any right to take control over such an institution. It's the same confusion and surprise that greeted new government regulation over Wall Street and the banking industry, much of which, by the way, has been thoroughly disregarded.

What part don't you get?

Is it not true that I might very well not be insured by my employer, choose not to maintain any kind of private policy (because there's no way in hell I could afford to), choose to smoke cigarettes (a fully informed decision in that I know full well the harm of which they're capable), get any number of afflictions as a direct result of that cancer, and then decide that I want to live badly enough and therefore pursue treatment enough that I readily accept any government assistance I can possibly get, and probably even feel like I deserve it? I'm not picking on smokers; it's just an example. I could use seatbelts, helmet laws, alcohol consumption (driving or not), ignored storm warnings, bad mortgages (given and received), mountain climbing, whatever.

Whose responsibility are we, if not our own? And if that is our claim, then why do we not live our lives as though we have signed a waiver releasing the government and the rest of society from any such responsibility? But we do not. We want it both ways. We want to reject interference, "meddling," by our ruling authorities until we need them. People sit in the path of the storm swearing up and down that they'll be just fine, aren't going anywhere, until the water gets past five or six feet, and then they're not only on the phone calling 911, but complaining because there's some delay (like 90-mph winds, or that same six feet of water, or all the other equally dismissive people in line to be saved ahead of them). People climb mountains in inclement weather, knowing the risks and the outright statistical likelihood that they will not live through the experience, and yet when they're a few hours late, a search party is launched, at the full expectation of everybody with any knowledge that the fool went up the mountain to begin with.
People (like me) hate being made to wear their seatbelts, because, really, whose business is it? Right? But if we have an accident, and we're ejected from the vehicle and seriously injured (assuming we live), do we tell the paramedics to just leave us there, that it's our own fault? Do we say, "I didn't want the government meddling in my life, and I knew what I was getting myself into. It just wouldn't be right to take the help now." I actually might say exactly that, but I also wear my seatbelt, even though I hate it, because I don't know that in that situation, I'd have that kind of resolve, that my principles would hold up after I'd caused myself multiple broken bones and internal injuries and was facing a certain and painful death in some roadside ditch. People continue to smoke, drink, and use drugs, at all ages, all income levels, insured or not.

Insurance costs continue to climb, we continue to smoke, and sue, and complain. We continue to blame others, refuse to fix the crisis ourselves, beg for help, and then reject the help when it's offered. We're like the families on "Super Nanny," at the beginning of the show, that immature and ignorant, that arrogant, and that helpless. And still, when Jo shows up, they usually spend the first quarter of the show arguing with her, saying they "caaaann't," trying to get around the rules they begged somebody to come set for them.

Why in the hell would you not be subject to regulation by somebody who gave you a loan? Why in the hell would whoever's funding your escapades not get in a say in whether or not you should continue having them in the same manner? When your parents are paying for all your needs, you're supposed to follow their rules. Why would it be different when the federal government is the parent, and, say, Merrill Lynch is the child? It's actually not any different at all.

This country was founded on the concept that certain "inalienable" rights are due every human being, and that it was, at least in part, the function of the federal government to guarantee these rights for us. Life, liberty, property. Life, in modern terms, equals healthcare, shelter, elderly care. This is what you demanded from the beginning. This is what you demand every time you're in a pinch. This is what you get as a very natural consequence for the irresponsible way you live.

What part don't you get?

Human Rights - Thoughts on Torture

Anything you do could be the last thing you do. Anything you do implies permission to have the same thing done to you should someone think it equally necessary. Torture, in the most basic sense, is never just, in a way I can’t say I think war is never just. I can justify (at least to myself) a war in defense of someone clearly and openly attacked by someone else. The only two reasons you could ever have to torture somebody would be suspicion and retaliation. As human beings, we’re supposed to be above basic retaliation, and if responsive action is “required,” as human beings, we’re supposed to be able to come up with something...well, humane. As far as suspicion, just never a good thing, at least for me, to act on. If somebody has something to tell, great. What if there really is nothing else to tell? I could be wrong.

There are already obviously completely subjective and useless restrictions and regulations in place, which means, there are no and can be no useful restrictions or regulations over torture. When torture is “justified,” it’s always by assumptions, conjecture, speculation, suspicion, never a guarantee. When you have a guarantee, you don’t need to torture anybody. It reminded me what I said earlier about genocide, that if it’s not okay across the street, it’s not okay across the ocean. In the most basic sense, if it’s not okay to torture somebody who turns out to be innocent, then it can’t be okay to torture anybody. Period. Why, if we had a draft, would we exclude women? If you can make a case for preserving the life and well-being of a woman, for any reason, why in the hell would that not be a case for preserving the life and well-being of anybody? Is a life of inherent value or is it not??

Nobody on this earth has the wisdom, experience, or anything else they'd need to be able to legitimately make the call on which life is worth more or less than others. I only know what's important to me, what's in my experience; you only know what's important to you. There are other ways to live, to respond, to fight. We are highly evolved creatures, and as such, we have a responsibility to make the effort to learn those other ways.

Don’t get me wrong. There is a part of me, not even that small a part sometimes, the fearful part, that wants to torture the crap out of anybody who might be sitting on some information we could use to avoid another 9/11 or anything of that ilk. But what if they don’t have it? What if they lie just to get you to stop? What if whatever information they have is irrelevant, can’t be used to stop the attack anyway? If somebody kidnapped, say, my mother, and had her rigged up in some sort of situation where she would die if not found by a certain time, and the person were caught but wouldn’t tell where she was, I can’t say with any certainty that I wouldn’t do really unspeakable things to that person to get them to tell me. I have very human limits to my own sanity and my own self-control. But I would be wrong. Even though I might engage in it myself under only such unimaginably severe circumstances, it would not be just, by any argument; and I would be wrong, and would expect to be punished for my actions. There’s stuff where any "grey area" is just too dangerous, and this is one of them. The consequences are too great.

You know how if the air is really dry, and somebody walks up to you and reaches out to touch your arm or something, and you get a shock? If they reach out again, don’t you flinch, don’t you anticipate the feeling and recoil from it, even just the tiniest bit, because it was a surprise and maybe genuinely hurt a little, and it’s right there, fresh in your mind? I cannot comprehend having all of my senses abused so severely, repeatedly, possibly for years, and having a shred of mental/emotional function left in me, if physical.

So many people, political prisoners, clear victims, are tortured in ways that everybody universally agrees are unjust, and if we’re to have recourse against that, we can’t do it to anybody else, because actions really are all that matter; their “reasons” are always going to be as “good” as ours, so the argument has to come from somewhere else.