Sunday, February 19, 2012

Whitney…When Will It End?

Does anyone else get upset when they walk by a TV set and see Oprah celebrating another famous person as a hero for getting off drugs?

We all know the story. Celebrities discuss the horrors of drug use and how they made life hell for their family members and friends. Many of them say they hit bottom and only then realized that they only had one life to live and wanted to make something of it. Or they had a “come to Jesus” moment that changed their lives and gave them the will and the strength to beat back the drug curse and recover.

Of course, many of them just slide back -- often just fading into the darkness. But not before setting a terrible example.

The messages being sent by these “drug-recovery” stories are very dangerous, albeit subliminal. First message is about the cycle:

• Drugs are really fun and cool

• Then they become a problem

• Then everyone supports you while you get clean; and

• Then you are pure and respected for going through it all. Every time someone on Oprah or some other show tells their story, they wind up with a healthy round of applause.

So we start off with a good time, and despite a period of misery for ourselves and everyone who cares about us, we wind up heroes.

One of the problems here is that most people, especially kids, believe they are invincible, and won’t get addicted in the first place: and if they do, they will be able to clean up easily. Now the media hypes those who recover, and makes recovery look like an every day occurrence, lessoning their fear of the harsh reality of addiction.

Now, I’m not saying it isn’t terrific that some people manage to get off drugs, and there may be a place to talk about it. After all, we all love feel-good stories. But how about horrendous and unfixable damage drug addiction causes during the “bad” years?” How much pain is inflicted on families with drugged kids, or kids with drugged parents? And how about the crimes committed by people under the influence of drugs or attempting to secure a score?

Even a celebrity has a poor chance of recovery. But they have a significantly better chance of returning to the world (with an appearance on Oprah) than the average person if and when they kick the habit. Because they are a celebrity or have a serious talent that people are willing to pay for, they can still have a bright economic future. This gives them an advantage over the average person trying to recover. If a real person loses a real job and family because of drug use – not one of those fairy tale jobs in Hollywood or professional sports – they face their drug demons mostly by themselves without public attaboys.

The second message is the overblown reference to addiction as a disease, which makes it sound like the flu -- something that’s unavoidable. Cancer is a disease. There is heart disease. The flu hits us unexpectedly. Peripheral neuropathy, malaria and arthritis are diseases. Other than changing our diet, we generally accept that we can’t do an awful lot about our susceptibility to those diseases. Many people get any of the above diseases eat well, exercise, and do all the right things. And those diseases don’t generally destroy one’s family.

But drugs are different. If you don’t take them, you don’t get addicted. All you have to do is not take them.

Okay, maybe it’s a mental disease. Really? There are plenty of alleged reasons why people get addicted to drugs: pressure, stress, heartbreak, wanting to be part of the crowd, or for just plain fun. And I certainly think it’s true that some people are more susceptible than others. Regardless, if you don’t take them you don’t get addicted.

It’s time we stop celebrating anything or anyone having anything to do with drug use. It’s time we start calling addiction what it is – a horrible, destructive habit. While it may be a disease of sorts, calling it that is simply a cop out. And if someone recovers from addiction, his or her recovery should be enough reward for him or her personally. No public appearances are needed. Celebrating someone who recovers from breast cancer or an auto accident is the feel good story we need, not recovery from a self-inflicted and avoidable condition.

Of course, these self-centered celebrities virtually all say something like: “I wanted to tell my story so others will know that recovering from drugs is possible.” Well, the story told is that you can do the whole trip, from fun to recovery to a hero. Bad message.

I loved Whitney. She was beautiful, and had the finest voice I have ever heard. It was strong, smooth and effortless. She was a marvel with a microphone in her hand. She didn’t do a lot of theatrics to supplement her performances. She just sang. She was magical.

But the public should not hold her in high regard. She was a bad example for our children and, by definition, a criminal. She should be remembered as a tragic figure, not a hero.

The way I see it is this: spread the story of recovering from drug addiction or spread the story of not getting addicted in the first place – by focusing on the bad stuff and ignoring the good. It’s hard to do both. Maybe if we quit implying drug addiction is something you can’t help, and that it’s normal to recover with everyone’s approval, not as many people will get hooked.

I suspect that if we could have a chat with Whitney now, she would tell you that the best road to recovery is never doing drugs in the first place. Let’s hope her daughter, who had to witness her mom’s demise, has learned the real lesson, not the publicized one.

Previously appeared on American Thinker, 2/19/12

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Contraception Commandment and the Progressive Religion

With the notice that religious organizations will be required to pay for birth control, President Obama’s most recent Commandment (capitalization is intentional) gave renewed notice that personal and religious freedom are no longer an important issue to him, nor should they be for the rest of America.

Let’s be clear: despite left-wing organizations and pundits proliferating volumes of statistics describing how the majority of Catholic women use birth control or why their definition of “women’s health” is more important than religious doctrine, the real issue is the invasion of previously protected religious rights – rights guaranteed by our constitution – and what is behind this invasion.

Understand that I am agnostic, and I lean towards being pro-choice on abortion issues. I also lean towards favoring gays on marriage and other social issues. And I am definitely of the opinion that the government spends way too much. Furthermore, one of the few things I believe the government should provide without charge is contraception to anyone who wants it. I think the morning-after pill is a great concept. So, please – no accusations of religious fervor on my part.

But contraception and women’s health, etc., are not the issues here. Not in the slightest. In fact, I think it is something of a disservice that religious leaders are calling it as such. No, this is about something much bigger: the Progressive Religion, under the guise of government, is forcing their religious views on everyone else.

Unfortunately, the battle cannot be fought on the real front, because how do you prove to a court that Progressivism is a religion? So, it has to be fought piecemeal on a case-by-case basis. Regrettably, we’ll do that.

It’s understandable that our constitutional rights are not 100% guaranteed. Sometimes our “rights” conflict with the rights of others, and require amelioration. Of course there is the age-old example: regardless of free speech principles, you can’t yell “Fire” in a crowded theatre when it is not true because of safety reasons. But it is true that our rights are not to be taken away without clear and convincing evidence that the health, safety, or rights of others are at considerable risk.

Which, of course, is certainly not the case with the new Commandment. Women who are financially capable can get contraception wherever they want. Those who are unable to afford it can obtain it from any number of sources without charge – usually in clinics right in their own neighborhoods. Clearly, the Commandment is unconstitutional.

No, this new Commandment has direct and even more insidious indirect implications. Anyone with a firm grasp on the obvious understands the direct implications – unnecessary restriction of religious freedom. To order Religious institutions to violate their own code of morality is simply disgraceful, and is a full assault on religious freedom. The left is spinning this as a balance of religious freedom versus women’s health. Or, actually no. They are calling this simply a case of women’s health – forget the religious freedom aspect.

Less evident to many is the issue of the Administration’s (and Democrats in general) apparent lack of enthusiasm with the constitution, religious freedom in general, and the separation of powers between the three branches of government. The recent Commandment was only possible because Obamacare gave explicit powers to the executive branch to dictate health care policies and procedures. Remember Nancy Pelosi’s famous Obamacare statement: “But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.” In other words, “Trust us, we are the disciples of God. We know what is best for you.” Worse yet, what was in the bill was only a guideline. We are now finding out the rest: miscellaneous Commandments by the congressionally ordained White House. And the liberal sheep are following blindly.

Any of you Jewish people (or Muslims) who still are Democrats, understand that outlawing circumcision may be next. After all, circumcisions cost money. Remember, the Obamians say they want to bring down health care costs, so they have ordained a “medical review” board. (Lord, don’t accidentally call it a death panel!) Just think – religious organizations will be able to pay for the obligated free contraception with the money they save from no longer providing circumcision. How’s that for knocking off two birds with one stone!

C’mon, be serious. Democrats wouldn’t go that far, would they?

Sure they would. Many in San Francisco, the incubator of Democratic thought, would like that. A proposal to outlaw circumcision in San Francisco contained a specific provision to include an exemption for medical necessity (whatever that might be) but specifically not for religion. This proposal doesn’t seem to be going anywhere for now, but the door has been opened.

And when others chip away at rights we personally find important, we tend to feel justified in chipping away at their rights -- a variation on the “class warfare” argument so exquisitely manipulated by the Obama administration. Pretty soon we are all resentfully on board with no one having any rights at all.

What is behind all this? The new religion – Progressivism. Government is God and Obama is the prophet. And, as always, the number of starry-eyed followers grows by leaps and bounds when a prophet is a great speaker and charms his audiences with eloquence and promises; and a healthy dose of fear.

No, this isn’t ridiculous. It’s clear liberal Democrats believe their views are all that’s important, to the exclusion of other beliefs. In fact, they don’t even acknowledge other beliefs. Seriously. They can’t comprehend this recent issue as one of a violation of religious freedom because they follow their doctrine with religious fervor, which by definition denies the validity of other religious beliefs. “What? Are you a heretic? Women’s health is important! Your views are petty and unworthy of response!”

I’m steaming mad about this, mostly because, despite our continual bludgeoning of them, seemingly intelligent people are totally oblivious to what is happening. The only explanation for their intellectual blindness? Religious fervor. Only devotion to religious beliefs can so completely blind people to obvious fact.

We need to get Progressivism recognized as what it really is: a religion. Let it bear the legal limitations of other religions. If we can do that, we can legally keep them from forcing their beliefs down our throats. If not, we’re headed for a Jonestown finish, only slower and more painful.

Move over Jim Jones, Marshall Applewhite and David Koresh. The Big Dog is here and he doesn’t like competition. Of course, Koresh, Applewhite, and Jones were content to suppress and destroy their own followers, not the rest of us.

This article was previously published on American Thinker.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Individual Mandate - The Best Worst Thing

I love it. It’s absolutely terrific. But the SCOTUS absolutely, positively must strike it down.

Obamacare is a mess. Everyone knows it, including the parade of dreamy liberals who sing its praises. Real progressives don’t like it because, in their view, it doesn’t go far enough. But then, for them, nothing goes far enough. The only progressive answer to a question of any subject: “How much is enough?’ is simply “More.”

I suspect the biggest reason so many people support Obamacare is simply because it provides free health care to people who can’t (or won’t) pay for it. When discussing Obamacare with a good friend of mine I mentioned the 6M reasons why Obamacare is bad, and his response was, “Well, it’s a start. If it doesn’t work out well they will fix it.” He is, of course, one of the many who think poor people should get free, quality health care and believe if we just tax the rich all our problems will be solved. And, of course, that government can fix everything.

So, everyone is waiting for the Supreme Court’s decision as to whether the individual mandate is constitutional. While it isn’t guaranteed the whole bill will fall if the IM fails to pass constitutional muster, it is likely that, with its teeth knocked out, the bill will whimper off into the darkness; at least temporarily. I say temporarily because as long as the beast is still alive, a future heavily Democratic government could change the IM to a tax and Presto! Obamacare is back! That is why it’s important that the SCOTUS knocks out the whole bill.

As a side note, it is somewhat humorous that for political purposes Obama, Reid and Pelosi chose to call this obvious tax something other than a tax. Had they called it a tax, legal challenges would be considerably weaker. But, true to their arrogance and cockiness, they insisted to the Nth degree that it was absolutely not a tax. AG Holder is now trying to slide the Court by the tax issue by claiming it should be treated as a tax for purposes of this case. But the insistence that it was not a tax in the drawing of the bill sounds like attempting to recant a confession. Which leads us to ask: if Holder is successful in his claim, will Obama still try to convince the American public that it is not a tax?

There’s a real dilemma concerning health care in this country that is never adequately addressed. Since the courts have already decreed that hospitals cannot deny emergency medical care (which tends to be costly) simply because someone cannot pay for it, poor people are getting emergency health care anyway, with or without Obamacare. And, many uninsured go to the emergency rooms for non-emergency situations where medical facilities treat them for common illnesses and conditions. How do we pay for that? (Hint: you and I.) Is it right that we “force” people to pay for their own medical care? Is it right that we simply give them a couple of aspirin and throw them out on the front lawn to rot? Heartless or not, responsible or not, it is hard to actually accept that as either just or practical. And, even if you don’t agree with that opinion, the courts have decided the issue, so it is what it is.

In principle, I absolutely love the individual mandate because it attempts to deal with that issue, and it’s intent was something most of us conservatives approve of – making people pay their own way. Similar to the rest of the bill, however, the IM is poorly thought out and woefully inadequate.

And unconstitutional.

Of course, you and I don’t get to demand what is and what is not unconstitutional; only the Supreme Court can do that when called upon. Nevertheless, the constitution has been beaten to death for so many years by those who think it is a “flexible, and a living, breathing document” that what will be deemed constitutional to the Supreme Court is anybody’s guess.

The constitutionality issue centers around the commerce clause, which authorizes Congress to establish certain commerce standards between states. The obvious meaning of this is to have some oversight on things such as taxes and the legality of different products and trades, and to establish standards that allow for continuity and harmony in our overall economy. It was never meant to require people to buy anything. However, the commerce clause leads the way in being misinterpreted by the courts, and, unfortunately, the IM may be seen as merely an additional stretch of its interpretation.

The upcoming case concerning the IM will be monumental in our country’s history. The court has a chance to strike down an unpopular bill that, if allowed to take full effect, will complicate the health care industry, drive up costs, reduce services, and go a long way towards making us a fully socialist country.

Even more important, however, is the concept of the government being the CEO of our personal lives, and dictate to us what we must buy, how much we will pay, and how we will handle our own personal finances.

There is potential really good news here. If the SCOTUS finds the IM to be unconstitutional, it will put serious brakes on the speeding deterioration of our personal freedoms under the guise of the commerce clause. Future courts would have a bigger hurdle to jump in order to extend the authority of the government to penetrate deeper into our personal lives. True, future activist courts can undo or bypass the reasoning of the decision, but that would be difficult. In this respect, the whole issue may wind up to be more than a break-even for conservatives. It might actually be a big win. Slowing the recklessness of the Federal Government in failing to adhere to the constitution would be a victory that might even make us delighted that the whole debacle came up in the first place. In fact, such a ruling by the Supreme Court would have a benefit that the alternative solution -- a GOP repeal of the bill -- would not have: putting the brakes on the commerce clause.

There is also potential really bad news. If the SCOTUS decides the IM is constitutional. Not only do we get to keep Obamacare, we get unlimited future personal economic decisions forced down our throats.

We cannot throw people out on the street if they don’t have health insurance. Obamacare, however, is not the answer. There are ways this can be accomplished such as low cost clinics that provide only basic services and cannot be sued under any circumstances other than willful intent to harm, use of nurses and trained technicians in these clinics that can perform much of the duties currently performed only by MD’s, and requiring a copay, even if minimal. I’m sure there are many good ideas out there. Just ask Paul Ryan.

Yes, as good as the intent of the individual mandate is, it is the worst part of the bill because of its long-term effect on future legislation of any nature, and must b struck down. Our economic freedom is at stake.