this leaves a foul taste

I was at a friend's house today and he asked me, "Did you hear about the Supreme Court ruling?" He then informed me that the Court ruled 5-4 that child rapists can't be executed; they limited the death penalty to murder cases. He then went off about how stupid the decision is, ultimately concluding by saying it wouldn't matter what the Court says, because if anyone hurt his child like that, he would apply his own capital punishment.

And how many of us would blame him, vilify him?

Well, I would. There is no place for vigilantism in our justice system - it would fall apart. I know, I don't have kids, so I don't "understand", but it would still be wrong. Just as I think the state executing them would be wrong. The punishment would not befit the crime. As abhorrent as it is, it's not a crime which causes death. It's the ruination of life, and that generally deserves the ruination of the criminal's life, e.g. lengthy imprisonment and sex offender status. I also believe in rehabilitation, even for these most heinous criminals, because I know that repentance is a crucial element of gospel of Christ. That's not to say that some people won't be mentally ill for their entire lives, and would always be a danger to others. But how can we ever say that they'll never be cured, whether through therapy or miracle?

Some may respond with an argument that the death penalty is needed to help the prison system. There are massively better legislative changes that would improve the prison system (legalizing marijuana, for one). When people become a problem or an expense we're not justified in KILLING them.

It's hard for me to get worked up about this, since these crimes sicken me so much, but justice has to apply across the board.

The biggest problem I have with the death penalty is this. Death is irreversible, irrevocable, permanent - as far as the State is concerned. Whether or not you think the State has the right to dole out executions at all, at least I think we can all agree it should only be done in the most extreme circumstances - and those circumstances, I believe, are limited to unrepentant killers.

Why is it that we liberals are always defending the world's crappiest people?



The Midwest Democracy Network sent a questionnaire to various political campaigns in September 2007. One question asked:

If you are nominated for President in 2008 and your major opponents agree to forgo private funding in the general election campaign, will you participate in the presidential public financing system?
Obama answered the following:
In February 2007, I proposed a novel way to preserve the strength of the public financing system in the 2008 election. My plan requires both major party candidates to agree on a fundraising truce, return excess money from donors, and stay within the public financing system for the general election. My proposal followed announcements by some presidential candidates that they would forgo public financing so they could raise unlimited funds in the general election. The Federal Election Commission ruled the proposal legal, and Senator JohnMcCain (R-AZ) has already pledged to accept this fundraising pledge. If I am the Democratic nominee, I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election.

On Thursday, June 19, 2008, Obama released this statement:
We’ve made the decision not to participate in the public-financing system for the general election. This means we’ll be forgoing more than $80 million in public funds during the final months of this election. It’s not an easy decision, and especially because I support a robust system of public financing of elections. But the public financing of presidential elections as it exists today is broken. . .
Really? Did Obama suddenly have a change of heart because sometime between September of 2007 and today, he realized that the system is "broken"? I suspect it has more to do with the fact that between September of 2007 and today, he realized that he can raise a heck of a lot of money. $295.52 million, so far, including $10.72 million for the general election. Compare that to McCain's paltry $121.9 million.

Sounds to me like an announcement by some presidential candidate that [he] would forgo public financing so [he] could raise unlimited funds in the general election.

How is that for preserv[ing] the strength of the public financing system in the 2008 election?

More importantly, how is that for "a new kind of politics"?


Offshore Drilling

I heard something on the radio that caught my ear, and I had to look it up to be sure I had heard it right. We all know that Bush and some Republicans (including McCain) are pushing to end the ban on offshore drilling. I had heard reasons why this is a “bad” idea from the opposing side (bad for the environment, it would take years to actually get the oil, we need to focus on alternative sources of energy, etc.), but this reason caught my ear:

Barack Obama and fellow Democrats have denounced proposals for offshore drilling as nothing more than a favor to oil companies.

How is that exactly?

It seems to me that the status quo is a favor to oil companies. With supply restricted in comparison to demand, coupled with rampant speculation, oil companies are making a killing. Record profits, in fact (note that I pulled that from a liberal website just for fun). I’ve heard the whole "Blood for Oil" theory that Bush invaded Iraq to get cheap oil as a favor to Big Oil companies. That doesn’t seem to have worked “as planned”, but the status quo is working out much better for Bush’s cronies, don’t you think? The Big Oil companies sit back, don’t explore or increase refinery capacity, but make record profits.

The Democrats have had a hey-day dragging oil executives before congress to drill them on their profits and the high price of oil.

"You have to sense what you're doing to us - we're on the precipice here, about to fall into recession," said Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill. "Does it trouble any one of you - the costs you're imposing on families, on small businesses, on truckers?"

The executives said it did, and that they are doing all they can to bring new oil supplies to market, but that the fundamental reasons for the surge in oil prices are largely out of their control.

Here’s a quote from the site linked to above :

Rhetorically, President Bush acknowledges that the United States needs to reduce its oil dependence, which would decrease demand, lower pressure on prices, and reduce profits . . . Yet in reality, the president is protecting oil company profits at the public’s expense.

So, let’s walk through this together. We currently have restricted oil supply = record prices = record profits = favor to Big Oil.

Republicans are pushing to expand drilling in the U.S., which would increase supply = lower prices = lower profits = favor to Big Oil? Can you have it both ways?

It sounds like a bit of political rhetoric to me.


In order to ... establish justice

Last week, the Supreme Court ruled for a third consecutive time against Bush administration policies denying writs of habeas corpus to prisoners unlawfully held at the military compound at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Bush and his yes-man attorneys have been defying Constitutional law for far too long, and I am very pleased that the people who have been held at Gitmo for seven years may soon finally have their days in court. The right of a detainee to challenge his or her detention is the absolute foundation of our justice system, and is guaranteed by the Constitution, both in Article 1, Section 9:

The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety may require it.

...and in the 14th Amendment:

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Has there been a rebellion or invasion I am not aware of? Are non-citizens not people? Is not Guantánamo Bay part of the sovereign United States of America, or at the very least "within its jurisdiction"? This is absolutely cut-and-dry to me - the Constitution clearly states that people held at locations under the jurisdiction of the USA have the right to challenge unlawful detention, and that the government cannot deny liberty without due process of law.

I am grateful that justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Kennedy, Souter and Stevens were there to stand for the Constitution and for human rights. Justice Kennedy, author of the majority opinion in this case, eloquently wrote, "The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times. Liberty and security can be reconciled; and in our system they are reconciled within the framework of the law. The Framers decided that habeas corpus, a right of first importance, must be a part of that framework, a part of that law."

I am equally disgusted with justices Alito, Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas for their short-sighted ploy to twist and bend the Constitution to suit the times. Kennedy's assertion that the Constitution was designed for extraordinary times is absolutely correct. Just because we grant Gitmo detainees due process does not make us any less safe - each detainee will still be tried by our best prosecutors in a court of law - it just makes us right, fair, and balanced. Just like Fox News. :)

If not for habeas corpus, how are we any better than the Vietcong who held and tortured John McCain for years in a time of war? How can we expect other nations or entities to treat our soldiers with respect if we cannot treat theirs with the same respect? If America wishes to claim the moral high ground, she cannot wantonly imprison and indefinitely detain whomever she wishes.


Health insurance - a novel, by Rachel Dixon

So, I've been thinking about health insurance lately.

My head feels like it's about to explode from the insanity of it all, so I thought I'd squeeze out a post while I still have the power of coherent speech.

I don't know what the solution is - I'll just lay that right out. I've (of course) been scouring McCain and Obama's websites trying to find out their approximate positions on the issue, and I've even taken the perilous step of googling "Obama McCain healthcare plans" just to see what comes up. (This is hazardous because while I've heard of the Drudge Report and the Huffington Post, there's a looooot of internet out there and it's easy to be caught off guard by a neutral-looking site I've never heard of with a massive agenda. It seems every blowhard with a laptop nowadays has a website and a blog, and trying to find information that is honest, correct, and not wildly skewed in any one direction is harder than trying to formulate this post while watching House Hunters International at the same time).

I'm not too fussed about what the candidates specifically have planned for the healthcare system once they're in office, because it's not up to them. They just get to veto or not veto whatever version of their original plan Congress chews up and spits out, if indeed they can produce anything at all. What I want to see is their general goals for the system, and how firm a grasp they seem to have on reality - do they have good ideas, and do they seem to be surrounding themselves with people who have good ideas? And I'm trying to more firmly compose my own thoughts on the subject. Here's what I have come up with so far:

1) We need to start over. The insurance system as it is, I truly believe, is hopeless. I know this is not likely to ever be a view shared by any major political candidate, and I know it would be costly in the short-term to overhaul the whole enchilada as it were, but I just can't stand the thought of either mandating the current system onto every American citizen, or giving the insurance companies even *more* power to place profits over ethics. They do this now, because it's a business endeavor. Many insurance companies are publicly held, so they are "serving" their shareholders by maximizing profits - which of course, means paying out as little as possible while taking in as much money as they can.

2) So, to my mind, the way to fix that is to make insuring people a break-even type of operation, or a non-profit, or through the government, or something. I don't think insurance companies themselves should be in the business of making money. What do they do? They are middlemen. They should be involved as little as possible in the medical process - leave it to the doctors and the patients. Whoa! How about that? Letting doctors and patients decide together how to be healthy, instead of asking your insurance company permission to have this treatment or that. I have no problem with doctors being paid well: they dig themselves into a tremendous financial hole so they can go to school for literally decades and then work long hours trying to keep people healthy and give them a better quality of life. What could be more honorable? Insurance companies don't do any of those things - they shuffle papers, confuse the snot out of doctors and patients alike, and siphon profits away from the people who are earning them by the sweat of their brow. I don't blame them, per se, since the system as it is currently is set up so that insurance companies have incentive to be profitable, not to provide quality care. I just think that dynamic should be reversed.

3) Insurance should not be tied to place of employment. This is such a screwed-up idea I hardly know where to start. Right now, only 60% of companies provide health insurance for their employees. Those people are the "lucky" ones, because they get to reap the benefits of mass purchasing power. People who are have to seek out their own private insurance cannot possibly compete with this, especially if they have the audacity to actually *get sick*. But even those who are covered at their job don't have it easy: they still don't have much in the way of choice (if we're lucky, we get to choose between paying less for less coverage and paying more for more coverage). And there are millions of people who have good, steady jobs - prestigious jobs - who have achieved success and respect in their profession, and yet still either cannot afford insurance, or who pay astronomical amounts for pathetic coverage because they are self-employed, or their employment is of such a nature that employer-subsidized healthcare is not one of the benefits. Take my dad, for example - in a twist of delicious irony, he is an established PHYSICIAN who pays a monthly insurance premium that my family, with our very comfortable salary, could not begin to afford. His deductible is a mere $10,000 a year, never mind co-pays and mental health services, which are badly needed and often not covered at all.

4) I think insurance should be available to anyone who wants it. This "pre-existing condition" stuff is CRAP. Of course, the whole methodology of insurance requires that the risk be spread over a large population, so all these young healthy types who roll the dice and go without insurance are screwing the system just as badly as all the Boomers who are just now realizing that yes, their lifestyles are going to catch up with them.
Additionally, there has got to be some way to differentiate between those who willfully eschew coverage when they are healthy, then go looking for it when they get sick, and those who have done their best to maintain coverage and are forced to switch because of a change in employment, for example. It seems to me that mandating coverage is the only way around this particular problem (as well as removing the tie between employment and coverage).

The more I think about it, the more it seems that universal, equal, mandatory insurance coverage is the best way to solve most of these issues. It removes the "insurance company as moneymaking industry" factor. It most effectively spreads the risk over the largest population, which would make it possible to cover even those people with pre-existing conditions, or - gasp! - actual health problems. It would maintain the mass-purchasing power that large companies currently have. It would take the burden off employers, who foot a tremendous bill to subsidize coverage for their employees.

I do not think that mandating coverage, as it is currently constituted, for everyone is a good solution. But I do think that reshaping the insurance "industry" from the bottom up and THEN making coverage universal is the way to go. I delivered Rick his cookies this afternoon for correctly sussing out my Monty Python quote, and I have another plate for everyone who made it through this marathon post and still finds it in their heart to offer me their own thoughts. I'm painfully aware that I don't have a comprehensive understanding of this yet, and I would love to get some other perspectives and points to ponder...

...tomorrow. Tonight, my brain is plum tuckered out.


Blogging: Not for the faint of heart

I am writing what is painfully obvious to most people who read this site: the number of contributions has dwindled from 3/week to maybe 3/month.

My understanding of the purpose behind the creation of this blog is that it was designed to provide a forum for Democrat, Republican, or other as well as member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints or other, to converse in a non contentious manner the state of the country and the world of politics.

The thing about this that makes me smile is that this site always makes me think of some of our best friends in the world, who happen to not be members of the same church, and who are also not politically minded. I smile because the first time we met them they shook our hands and introduced themselves as "Hi, I'm ____ and I don't talk about religion or politics." Ha! Can you get a better conversation starter than that?

Of course we asked what the story was behind getting those declarations over at the first introduction was, and we were told that every time this couple ever talked religion or politics with any friends....after a while they had a hard time being friends. Too much emotion got embroiled from belief systems to the point where the relationship was no longer viable.

I smile because this site, from the creation of its title onwards, embraces discussion of politics, and mentions religion from time to time.

So now that the contributions have become increasingly sparse, as have the comments, I wonder if perhaps a little too much emotion has gotten invested here. Are people not contributing or commenting because they are working longer hours, they are on vacation, they have final exams, they have lives outside of the blogging world? Or has this site morphed into something where people don't feel like contributing posts or comments to because they don't want to feel a personal attack for their political view?

These are just a few of my thoughts. What do you think?


Hillary, Oh Hillary

Last night I heard on the news that Hillary was going to be making an announcement within the hour, conceding to Obama and declaring her willingness to be VP

I was surprised! I think that she has worked really hard to get as far as she has gotten. She's been planning this move to the White House for many years, despite her denials in the past of having presidential intention (c'mon, we all knew 4 years ago that she was waiting to run even though she said she wasn't interested). She has campaigned and plotted and planned with the best of them. What a huge slap in the face for her to have Obama come out of nowhere and pull the rug out from under her.

To set the record straight, I am not too impressed with Obama and I don't like Hillary as a general rule. However, I genuinely felt bad for her last night. After all her conniving pains to get the democratic nomination...thats got to be rough.

Well, sure enough, the news casters were putting their own spin on things because she didn't announce her withdrawal from the presidential race. And she didn't announce that she wanted to be Obama's VP.

Personally I think the election is a lot more fascinating with the two of them going head-to-head. If she were to simply drop out for the sake of being VP it wouldn't be as newsworthy because everyone would just assume that it was a done deal.

Although a black president and female vice president would certainly get the historians ready to start writing as soon as they were sworn in.