Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Death Panels? Please

I read of what Sarah Palin is up to, and I conclude the woman is insane:

The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil."

There is of course no such system, nor will there ever be, because it would indeed be downright evil. Euthanasia is illegal in the USA, and that's not going to change. But frightening old people with Soylent Green fantasies is also evil. The more so if it distracts from the fact that we're already there:

You have no idea [Sarah Palin,] what it’s like to be called into a sterile conference room with a hospital administrator you’ve never met before and be told that your mother’s insurance policy will only pay for 30 days in ICU. You can't imagine what it's like to be advised that you need to “make some decisions,” like whether your mother should be released “HTD” which is hospital parlance for “home to die,” or if you want to pay out of pocket to keep her in the ICU another week. And when you ask how much that would cost you are given a number so impossibly large that you realize there really are no decisions to make. The decision has been made for you. "Living will" or no, it doesn't matter. The bank account and the insurance policy have trumped any legal document.

If this isn’t a “death panel” I don’t know what is.

Now, I'm pretty lucky. Yes, I'm caring for Alden who is 76 and pretty much an invalid because of his back, plus lesser issues. But Medicare and UCLA health insurance covers him and lets him go to the best specialists there are. I've had a major health scare myself, and take a lot of daily medications to keep things calm, but I'm covered under Alden's plan through spousal benefits.

Alden's mother, Mariana, died three years ago at age 94. If she even had health insurance she exhausted it, but used her wealth -- not extreme, but comfortable -- to pay for the care she wanted. It was sad to visit her in the last few years and see how she had declined, but at least she was able to stay in her home and die peacefully asleep in her own bed.

Which makes me painfully aware of just how lucky I am. When Alden was hired by UCLA in 1969 universities were competing to attract hot young faculty prospects with spectacular, iron-clad, locked-in benefits packages. As his spouse under California Domestic Partnership laws I share in those benefits.

But if we didn't have that coverage, or didn't have the money to just pay for the care you want like Mariana, I know we'd both be two pretty scared puppies. But even with that coverage I'm uneasy, since we all know now that having what you think is great health insurance doesn't mean, should you get really and expensively ill, that your insurance folks won't suddenly say, "Well, we have this little problem......."

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Saturday, June 13, 2009


WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - JUNE 08:  Gay pride parti...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

It's been a long time since I posted here, but something very bad has happened.

Barack Obama ran for president on a very gay-friendly basis, appealing directly to us and making many promises. (The photo is of marchers in the 2008 West Hollywood Gay Pride parade waving Obama posters.) He stopped short of endorsing gay marriage, but said he supported civil unions and full federal rights for couples in those unions. He promised legislation to overturn Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The latter is a Clinton-era law that says that US states that don't allow gays to marry would not have to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. It also applies at the federal level.

Since his inauguration the silence from President Obama on gay issues has been pretty deafening. No legislation has been proposed, and not a word from him even as same-sex marriage has spread from state to state. Well, the Administration has broken its silence now, and it's a fucking catastrophe.

Smelt v. United States is a federal lawsuit brought by two California men, Arthur Smelt and Christopher Hammer, who married during the pre-Prop. 8 window of opportunity. The suit was to obtain federal marriage benefits due to their legal marriage. The case was weak, but it was challenging a federal law, so the Obama Department of Justice filed a brief on June 11 calling for dismissal. Mind you, that's a brief supporting DOMA.

That in itself is nothing really bad. Faced with a suit challenging a law they didn't think much of, previous Administrations have mounted perfunctory defenses because, hey, until Congress changes it, it is the law. But there is nothing perfunctory about this brief. It is vicious, hateful, homophobic, full of lies, and reads like it could have been written by Antonin Scalia with input from Pat Robertson and Pope Benedict. It is an outright attack by the Obama Administration on the gay community that supported him. I have never felt so betrayed.

If you want to read all 54 pages, you can do so here. A rundown of some of the worst passages by lawyer John Aravosis is on this page at his AMERICAblog. Let's look at some of the highlights, shall we?

-- To support the principle of holding invalid a marriage performed elsewhere because it's not legal in your state, the brief gives examples of a man who married his niece -- allowed in Italy, invalid in Connecticut -- and a man who married a 16-year-old girl -- allowed in Indiana, invalid in New Jersey -- and therefore DOMA is constitutional. Great. The old gay = incest and pedophilia card.

-- The brief specifically distances DOMA from the miscegenation laws that were overturned by Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 Supreme Court ruling that made interracial couples legal throughout all 50 states. You know, like Obama's own parents.

-- It claims that DOMA denies benefits to no one, but merely restricts federal benefits to those who enter into "the traditional form of marriage." So if you're a gay man, all you have to do is marry a woman and you'll be fine.

-- DOMA isn't anti-gay, in fact it's "neutral." Traditional marriages are univerally recognized, so they get benefits. But since the states are divided on accepting gay marriages, it's "neutral" for the Feds to sit on their hands until a consensus emerges. One, so long as straight married couples get federal benefits and gay couples are denied them it's a farce to contend this is "neutrality," and, two, how long do you think we'll be waiting for that consensus?

-- DOMA is not at all motivated by any anti-gay sentiment or dislike. Right.

There is much, much more, and it's appalling. It puts an official Democratic, Presidential imprimatur on the most vile lies, slander, and legal schemes that have been used to persecute gays for centuries. After this, any attempt to counter homophobic bigotry can be met with, "Hey!! It's not just me. Your liberal President Obama thinks the same thing!" And since it is a legal brief issued by the DOJ, its arguments will be used as ammunition to counter every lawsuit on any level seeking to obtain basic rights and fairness for gay people. As I said, a catastrophe.

There is a very, very small chance that this is some kind of mistake. Andrew Sullivan discovered that one of the three DOJ attorneys who wrote the brief is a Bush holdover, and a Mormon to boot, so his influence may have shaped this thing. But that's not much better, because it would mean the DOJ filed it without running it by ONE gay attorney (like Arivosis, who lives in DC), or ONE gay rights organization (they were given no warning), or anyone who might have realized how awful this is. That would be an amazing error by an administration that has so far run like a well-oiled machine.

But if so, Obama and his people have a lot of damage to repair. Gay rights organizations that are usually pretty supine, like the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, have grown a spine for once and have issued a statement condemning this brief. Ignoring it and hoping it goes away won't work; it won't go away. We're not about to forget about it. Obama would have to disavow, on camera, at least the worst of the lies and slander in this brief, and do it within days. And he can't get away with saying he had no choice, despite what I wrote earlier. All three of his predecessors declined to defend in court certain federal laws that they considered unwise or unconstitutional. He could have done the same.

What a disappointment.

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Saturday, January 03, 2009

Wow, man

The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, playing ..... no, I'll let you find that out for yourself. Happy New Year.