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Archive for February 2011

God vs. Health Care Reform.

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Relative to: A lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the new health care law based on its infringement on those who deny health care for the sake of God’s healing power.

This is very interesting. The most compelling argument yet that I have encountered against the mandate to buy health care in the US comes from a lawsuit put forth by the American Center for Law and Justice (Pat Roberstson founded). The suit argues on behalf of five individuals who can afford health care but do not purchase it because , as one plaintiff put it, “doing so would indicate they need ‘a backup plan and (are) not really sure whether God will, in fact, provide.'” Three plaintiffs in the suit uphold this notion of God alone as doctor. The two other plaintiffs believe in holistic medicine, and treatments often not covered by insurance in the first place. All five stated their intention to pay the fine rather than purchase mandated health care coverage, which is their right.

How can one argue with this? The Commerce Clause is pretty strong, and in my opinion will result in the health care law being upheld by the Supreme Court when it gets there, but only against terrestrial arguments such as interstate commerce, prior federal mandate requirements, etc. Not to mention, I believe the law has a lot of good in it, and when the nation finds out about the good it contains, they will be loathe to see it repealed. But these things can be argued. We can disagree about what is protected by the Commerce Clause.

But how can I argue against the right of an individual to deny the purchase of a service because they believe that God provides that service better? That I do not believe in such a God is of little consequence, I imagine. That if there were a God I would likely think s/he would tell these people, yes, I am healing you through the doctors I put on earth so if you have insurance that would be a lot cheaper, also doesn’t likely have much weight in such an argument.

Is there a way to overcome such a dispute? This is a sincere question, because I would like to know: where is the common ground here, when religion argues against federal policy? Framing constitutional arguments around a religious belief, well, muddies the waters. It is fascinating that such philosophical disputes make it to our court system, and that is a sign of something good. They also make good political and religious theater and provide bloggers and talking heads content for their nightly reading.

At the end of the day,  I think such arguments are  naive. This is not to question the faith of these individuals, but to challenge that, when, one day out of the blue, you have a loved one on the table, it might be a lot harder to say: do nothing, God will heal. As the judge in the case, Gladys Kessler, put it: “Individuals like plaintiffs who allege now that they will refuse medical services in the future may well find their way into the health care market when they face the reality of illness or injury.”


Written by Christopher ZF

February 23, 2011 at 00:08

Minnesota Runs for President.

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Relative to: The state of Minnesota’s presidential candidates.

A long absence has passed since our last post, after some family issues followed up by the loss of the tip of a middle finger, but TRC is back, and 9-finger typing like a champion. Much has happened since we laughed at President Gentle–the middle east for example has turned completely upside down–but I’ll leave all that to experts and pundits.

Today I’m sticking a little closer to home.
Running for president is tasteless business, unfortunately, and I think that Minnesota is going to demonstrate that fact all too clearly during the 2012 cycle. With former Gov. Tim Pawlenty already campaigning, and taking his game up a step, and Rep. Michelle Bachmann looking to make her own run for the office, the state of MN will be trying to find its way to the White House for the first time. I have a feeling it will not be pretty.

The second first. Michelle Bachmann, despite being an excellent politician, is bats. There’s nothing really to say about that. She will not be elected president.

Moving on. There was a time when Tim Pawlenty was a respectable conservative: one who could be disagreed with but understood. In his first term in MN he pushed for light-rail and a reduction of CO2 emissions in the Midwest–he was considered a national leader in the GOP on climate related issues, helping get the Midwest Energy Infrastructure Accord and other regional initiatives on their feet (there is much on Pawlenty’s objective in the archives of the STrib, which I can’t access at the moment). He did a lot in the state that I could never agree with, especially regarding women’s health issues and education, but I never thought he was a villain.

But then, one day, he just stopped. His interest in the environment and climate seemed to simply disappear. He helped get the MEIA started, but by the time it was ready to roll, Pawlenty was just an empty signature. Before long, Pawlenty was backing the first ever sulfide mining project in Minnesota, run by a company with a reputation for wreaking havoc on the environment and leaving the state to pay for the cleanup. Today, one could never recognize the Former MN Governor as a politician concerned about the environment, let alone a leader on climate change.

Since then, he has been national. Even before Nominee McCain considered Pawlenty as a potential VP-candidate, Gov. Pawlenty had largely checked out of the state’s affairs, taking no responsibility (seriously, none) for the state’s current budget deficit-which may not all fall on Pawlenty’s doorstep, but a whole lot of it does. All this to say, Pawlenty was a good politician, and a guy to be disagreed with. What’s he up to now? Running for president. And since he’s not polling all that well, he’s also wandering the country, embarrassing our state.

I used to worry that Tim Pawlenty was a good enough politician, and smart, and sensible, and appealing enough as a presidential candidate that he would be worth worrying about. Sure, winning the Republican primary would be tough with those characteristics, but in the general election Pawlenty could have a real chance. At least I don’t have to worry about that anymore. As a former Reagan aide put it: Pawlenty’s just “showing he’s not ready for prime time.”

Written by Christopher ZF

February 22, 2011 at 11:19

President Gentle and Infinite Jest–American Politics Never Changes

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Relative to: the fictional political commentary from David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest regarding the President of the Organization of North American  Nations.

There’s a lot going on in the world of odd political developments in this country. In my opinion. One of them is the Tea Party, and there are few political stories that are likely to bring about more devotion or disgust than discussions about the positive/negative impact of the Tea Party on the US. Thinking about this, I had a delightful time reading the following section of the Infinite Jest, in which Wallace describes the rise of President Gentle, former hearthrob crooner and  germophobe (“the cleanest man in entertainment”), who creates the Clean U.S. Party, who rises the power on a wave of, well, unique circumstances, and brings about the inter-dependence of North America, creating ONAN (Org. of North American Nations, whose backers are termed supporters of ONANism, har har). Since most normal people will never read Infinite Jest, I thought a two-sentence demonstration of awesomeness would be in order. This really has nothing to do with anything Tea Party or current US Politics. It’s just a whole lot of fun.

The facial stills that Mario lap-dissolves between are of new ‘Clean U.S. Party,’ the strange-seeming but politically prescient annular agnation of ultra-right jingoist hunt-deer-with-automatic-weapons  types and far-left macrobiotic Save-the-Ozone, -Rain-Forests, -Whales, -Spooted-Owl-and-High-pH-Waterways ponytailed granola-crunchers, a surreal union of of both Rush L.-and Hillary R.C.-disillusioned fringes that drew mainstream-media guffaws at their first Convention (held in a sterile venue), the seemingly LaRoucheisly marginal party whose first platform’s plan had been Let’s Shoot Our Waste Into Space, C.U.S.P., a kind of post-Perot national joke for three years, until — white-gloved finger on the pulse of an increasingly asthmatic and sunscreen-slathered and pissed-off American electorate–the C.U.S.P suddenly swept to quadrennial victory in an angry voter-spasm that made the U.W.S.A. and LaRoucers and Libertarians chew their hands in envy as the Dems and G.O.P.s stood on either side watching dumbly, like doubles partners who each think the other’s surely got it, the two established mainstream parties split open along tired philosophical lines in a dark time when all landfills got full and all grapes were raisins and sometimes in some places the falling rain clunked instead of splatted, and also, recall, a post-Soviet and -Jihad era when — somehow even worse — there was no real Foreign Menace of any real uniified potency to hate and fear, and the U.S. sort of turned on itself and its own philosophical fatigue and hideous redolent wastes with a spasm of panicked rage that in retrospect seems possible only in a time of gelopolitical supremacy and consequent silence, the loss of any external Menace to hate and fear. This motionless face on the E.T.A. screen is Johnny Gentle, Third Party Stunner. (382)

This goes on for several crippling pages of delightful, political and social destruction. And it would seem not much has changed in the 15 years since Wallace published Infinite Jest.

Written by Christopher ZF

February 7, 2011 at 19:50

Posted in books and reading

This Week in 3 Stories

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Relative to it all.

There has been a lot going on that I’ve wanted to discuss here on TRC, but things have been kind of busy. As a result, here is our first “rundown” of stories of interest, starting with the most significant story of the past week.

The Kepler Satellite has sent home its planet finding report. Results: Kepler found 1,235 potential planets! Of those, 54 new planets are expected to be within the habitable zone, meaning based on their size they are an approximate distance from their star that they could (possible maybe) support life.   Over the next several years, Keplers “planets” will be analyzed, and approximately %80 will remain under planet classification (if the general average of planet discovery holds up). The past few weeks have been an exciting time in space exploration, a pursuit I support and have long defended in the face of, say, budget cuts.

Things are getting terrible in Egypt. It’s striking how quickly a movement can move from success to danger.  Reading daily about the Egypt developments has become a terrifying experience. The situation seems to be going from bad to worse. I don’t have anything else to add to this.

And finally, it always behooves whatever blog I am partaking in at the time to chime in on the global warming chatter of the day. This time Bill O’Reilly, noticing that there has been an awful lot of snow this winter, and having just survived the SNOWPOCALYPSE!!!!! wondered why New York had turned in to the tundra. He put in a call to Al Gore, apparently, to discuss it. So Mr. Gore responded via his blog, and stated very plainly that snowier winters have always been a part of the global warming diagnosis. “Scientists have been warning for at least two decades that global warming could make snowstorms more severe. Snow has two simple ingredients: cold and moisture. Warmer air collects moisture like a sponge until it hits a patch of cold air.” This is really very simple science–warm air (let’ say over the Pacific) holds more moisture, more moisture in the air creates more precipitation–so in true journalistic fashion Politico has a debate over whether Al Gore is correct. Because science is always up for debate amongst political pundits.

Written by Christopher ZF

February 3, 2011 at 10:31