'Cause I Said So…

An Assignment for the Willing

Posted in Cinema, Ethics, Films, Health Care, Media, Medicine, Morality, Movies, Popular Culture by kevinsoberg on March 19, 2011

Last weekend, I watched the movie Never Let Me Go (2010), starring Carey Mulligan and Keira Knightley. I had an immediate reaction to it and have been thinking about it ever since. The more I consider the theme and plot of this film, the more it affects me and the more I have to say.

What my reactions were and what my thoughts have been are for another posting. I have much to say about it, but not in this post. I don’t want my thoughts on it to bias or direct your reactions. This post is for one purpose: I want you to watch the movie.

I want you to watch Never Let Me Go and think. I want you to think about what you are watching and think about how it makes you feel. Then, when the movie is over, I want you to think about it some more.

I don’t work for the production company. I don’t work for the distributor. I have no financial interest in it in any way. Hell, I don’t even review movies.

Why am I asking you to do this? Because I believe your reactions and thoughts about this movie tells me, and can tell you, a lot about your thoughts on any number of subjects. Call it a Rorschach test, if you will.

Do I think the writer, the producers, the director, or any of the actors had my reactions in mind when creating this work? No, nor do I care. I have no way of knowing their intentions, not without possibly reading a lot of interviews. Even then, their intentions would be beside the point. My visceral and intellectual reactions to this film are mine.

If I were to watch a documentary on the Soviet Union, my reactions would be the same regardless of the perspective of the documentarian, pro or con. My reactions to viewing totalitarian socialism would be based solely on my personal philosophies. Even if dressed up and prettily painted, I would react negatively to totalitarianism given my libertarian beliefs.

Now, go watch the film, if you are willing. I know it’s available on Time/Warner Cable systems’ OnDemand. I don’t know about the other cable systems or the satellite providers, or what video rental places have it. I’m kind of doing this on the fly.

I have a lot of work to do, myself. I now have to put all these thoughts down into something which will be, hopefully, cohesive and understandable. Please, give me some time, as I am ponderously slow.

Advertisements

A Reply to David Frum’s “Waterloo”

Posted in Conservativism, GOP, Government, Health Care, Health Care Reform, Obama, Republicans by kevinsoberg on April 7, 2010

A couple of weeks ago, David Frum declared Obama’s “victory” in the passage of “health care” to be the GOP’s absolute defeat. In his blog post, Waterloo (http://www.frumforum.com/waterloo), Frum blames passage of the final form of the legislation on Conservatives in the Republican Party. Frum argues that “sensible” Republicans were kept from participating in the crafting of the law by the anger of the GOP’s right-wing, with marching orders from those in the Conservative media. Further, Frum predicts federal government control of the health care industry to be irrevocable because even if the GOP gains control of Congress, it will never have enough votes or wherewithal to repeal an entitlement program, once instituted.

At the time, I was more interested in the actual passing of the “health care” bill than in what David Frum had to say about it. Yeah, I had heard he had written something that had upset some people, but what else is new, right? Like most Americans, I was too busy being upset that a temporary majority in Congress had once again taken it upon themselves to violate our Constitution and done whatever the hell they wanted to do, all in the name of, of course, the “people.” Don’t you wish these guys would stop doing things in our name, especially when they can’t get at least a bare majority to agree with them? When most of us disagree with something, it’s not “for”, it’s “to.”

Two weeks later, I’ve completed a personal post-mortem on the whole unsavory affair which included reading Frum’s Waterloo. The points he made, stated at top, are clear, concise, and well thought out, but, unfortunately, wrong. Typical for Frum, he sees things slightly out of kilter for a self-professed “conservative.” His worldview is easily explained, if you just accept that he isn’t a Conservative, at least not in the American understanding of the word.

Essentially, Frum is a Tory, a “conservative” of the English tradition. He sees conservatism as a means of balancing the unchecked expansionism of the Left. He seems to consider himself a disciple of Edmund Burke, who believed change should come through innovation, not invention. “Modernity” must come slowly, but it must come. The Tory must properly manage the ship of state and steer it out of troubled waters. The job of the Tory is to prevent the revolution. Frum doesn’t seem to understand that American Conservatism is a somewhat different philosophy.

American Conservatism is a catchall I’m using for the entire right-of-center political movement. It includes the mushy free-enterprise types, religious conservatives, libertarians, et al. The common thread through all strands of American Conservatism is the Constitution. We are all really Constutionalists. We are “conservative” because we want to conserve this document and the system of government it was supposed to codify. Yes, there are aspects of the American movement amenable to Burke, but foreign to us is that sense of statism’s inevitability.

Frum’s main point is that the Republicans’ refusal to negotiate with Obama resulted in a slightly worse law. Once again, his Tory nature led him to believe that we should slow the unstoppable. The American Conservative, the Constitutionalist, cannot accept a deal which attempts to moderate the “intolerable.” There is no “somewhat intolerable.” If we can agree to the federal government mandating a person purchase a product against their wishes, we would, in effect, say that federal power has no limit. Where would we be then?

Frum would probably consider that unrealistic, given the extra-Constitutional power already exercised by the federal government. Using that logic, any laws not enforced properly by officials would be effectively nullified. Malfeasance by officials does not change the law. Regardless of how political power is properly, or improperly, used, the U.S. federal government is limited in its scope by our Constitution. All that is necessary for the correct redistribution of power is for the people and states to reclaim it.

Once again, Frum reveals his Tory heritage. He comes from a political tradition in which all power rests with the state. There are no federal principles. There exists no written British constitution. It is just a collection of laws and precedents. All that is necessary for the complete reorganization of its structures is a simple act of Parliament. All power resides in the Sovereign, and in Britain, where once the Monarch was Sovereign, the power is in Parliament. You must remember that the British are “subjects” not “citizens.”

Frum points to examples of “conservative” backed state government health care plans to argue that it was short-sighted of Republicans to refuse to negotiate. Let me take this in two quick bites. First, in our federal system, states hold power beyond that given to the federal government. I philosophically disagree with all socialism, but unless forbidden in a state’s constitution, it’s up its citizens to make that decision. The states are the hothouses of democracy, and they are becoming choked with the overgrowth of socialism. Second, who, besides he and his backers, really considers Mitt Romney a “conservative”? Mitt’s a nice guy with some conservative positions, but do we need another Bush?

Finally, Frum predicts that the new health care laws will not be repealed. He may be right in the short-term. I cannot foresee the Republicans gaining sufficient votes to overturn a presidential veto, but we shouldn’t be deterred. As we say in the South, “there’s more than one way to skin a cat.” A Republican majority in the House or Senate can starve the numerous, newly created administrative agencies of the funds to enforce the new law. Agencies without funds are like weeds without sunlight or water, unsightly but dead.

Not that I think the Republicans shouldn’t face these laws head on. At every opportunity and in a myriad of forms, the Republicans should seek the direct repeal of this “intolerable.” We should be smart and not do just the easy parts, like repealing the taxes and the mandates, the entire enabling apparatus must be removed. Repealing legislation should be entered into every taxation and appropriations bill which comes before the President in the remaining two years of his term. The President should spend his remaining time in office expending what remains of his political capital on trying to “save” his signature piece of legislation.

So, Mr. Frum, I’m sorry, but your arguments, though well made, are ultimately unconvincing. We will not sell out our history, traditions, and government just to prevent a near-term loss. We will fight for our Constitution until the end, if necessary. If we cannot win this ideological battle, then all is really lost anyway.

Thought We Couldn’t Legislate Personal Morality?

Posted in Health Care, Health Care Reform, Medicine, Morality by kevinsoberg on March 15, 2010

I was having a discussion with a physician who’s on call at an Emergency Room, as a surgeon. We went back and forth over the different proposals, and I got him to admit that the Democrat’s plan was not ideal. However, he insisted that something has to be done to improve the current situation because of the hardship it causes doctors. He explained to me that Emergency Room physicians have to contend with the following situation:

1.  If a hospital receives federal Medicaid/ Medicare dollars, they must admit all patients, regardless of ability to pay.

2. Physicians must treat all patients.

3.  Physicians bill these patients separately from the hospital itself.

4.  If patient has no third-party payer (insurance, Medicaid or Medicare), then the doctor must attempt to recover fees on his own.

5.  Recovery rates are very low.

I was thinking to myself, “Man, is this a screwed up system of payment for the physician or what? He has no control over his client. No proof of ability to pay. Must take all comers. No compensation by the hospital. Must seek reimbursement himself. This is terrible.”

I couldn’t imagine an automotive shop operating under that model. The mechanic would have to do the work not knowing if the client was going to pay or not. If they didn’t, he was screwed. He ‘d then have to go after the client himself trying to get his money.

I began to commiserate with him. I was telling him what a terrible compensation model it was. My goodness, the law requires him to possibly work for free. Suddenly, he acted as if I had offended him in some way. He asked, “Do you think I treat these patients because the law requires it? I’m a DOCTOR! I took an oath to heal the sick. I’d see to these patients no matter what the law says.”

Suddenly a light bulb went off. He’s acting according to his conscience. He’s following his own moral code when he treats these possibly indigent patients. His personal reward is of no consequence in this situation.

SCREW HIM!

What do you know? He turns out to be a another self-righteous prig. Don’t you dare tell me how selfless and moral you are. You want to take money from others by force of law to compensate you for the cost of practicing your morality. If it’s really that important to you, then just be happy for the deed you perform, no matter the price you pay.  Then, I’ll thank you for your avocation. Otherwise, quit whining.