The Justice Chronicles Volume 9: There He Goes Again

Governor Romney has proven once again that (1) He still doesn’t get it, and (2) There are no limits on his ability to shop for a moral compass.

A few weeks ago the Governor was interviewed on 60 Minutes and, as you might expect, he was asked about health care. Scott Pelley asked him this question: “Do you think the government has a responsibility to provide health care to the 50 million Americans who don’t have it today?” He responded:

Well, we do provide care for people who don’t have insurance. If someone has a heart attack, they don’t sit in their apartment and die. We pick them up in an ambulance, and take them to the hospital and give them care. And different states have different ways of providing for that care.

His implication is clear: If you don’t have health insurance you don’t have to worry. Just go to the emergency room and you’ll be taken care of. That’s fine, but it’s just not true. The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act requires that anyone who comes to a hospital emergency room be provided an examination and needed stabilizing treatment. In other words, if you show up in an emergency room with chest pain, they have to make sure you are stable. In that sense Governor Romney is correct that emergency room has to stop your chest pain.

But they don’t need to stop your heart disease. They only need to stop your symptoms. So what if your symptoms aren’t cardiac? Glad you asked. There is an article in the today’s Los Angeles Times about Jode Towe.

On the surface, he is living the Republican dream. He started a business (as truck driver), but he couldn’t afford to buy health insurance on his own. His only option was to hope he didn’t get sick or injured. Things were going well until he noticed increased fatigue and “something” in the back of his throat. He paid out of pocket to see a doctor, and the results were not good. He’s not sure what is in his throat, but there is at least a chance it’s cancer. A biopsy would be the next logical step but that (and a tonsilectomy) would likely cost $4,000; if there is cancer any treatment would cost thousands of dollars, well beyond Mr. Towe’s ability to pay.

So what if he takes Governor Romney’s advice and go to the emergency room? All they are required to do is stabilize his symptoms (essentially a throat lozenge). Mr. Towe would also be responsible for any charges. In many ways that’s the worst part of Mr. Romney’s advice. If someone goes to the emergency room and can’t afford to pay, the hospital ends up eating the cost, but the hospital can still try to collect the money. They are counting on you mortgaging your house, selling your blood, hitting up your family, etc. If that doesn’t work they turn the case over to a collection agency that trashes your credit score. Nobody wins: the hospital doesn’t get their money and your financial future is compromised.

When the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented in 2014, Mr. Towe will be offered affordable health insurance, even with his pre-existing condition. Hopefully he’ll still be around then.

Hopefully Governor Romney won’t have a chance to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Republicans and Rape: Really?

Yes, they are at it again. The Republican Party, or at least one of their members, has once again shown just how tone deaf you can be when you really try. Richard Mourdock is running for Senate from Indiana. He, like all Republicans, needs to prove his anti abortion credentials while giving the illusion of caring about women.

Most of the time it’s easy, until someone asks about favoring abortion of a pregnancy that results from rape. No woman (or any man worth the air he breathes) wants to think about this possibility, and the idea of carrying a child conceived from this act of hate is horrible beyond words.

So what do you do if you need to pander to the far right while appearing to care about women?

You have a few choices. In August Representative Todd Akin (R-MO) was asked this question and this was his response:

Well you know, people always want to try to make that as one of those things, well how do you, how do you slice this particularly tough sort of ethical question. First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.

All women (and men worth the air they breathe) immediately focused on the most important part of this quotation: legitimate rape. This allows him to respond to a woman impregnated by rape by saying that since this is impossible, you must have consented. It wasn’t a legitimate rape.

To be fair, many Republicans repudiated this, and Mr. Akin lost a great deal of national Republican funding. But it’s worth asking if they did this because they honestly disagree, or if he committed the sin of saying something in public that they all believe in private but dare not say.

OK, fast forward to now. Mr. Mourdock was asked the same question. Here is his answer:

I struggled with it myself for a long time, and I realized that life is a gift from God, and I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something God intended to happen.

Really? OK, I’m assuming Mr. Mourdock is a devout Christian and wanted to communicate a belief that God can (and does) create good out of evil. As a Christian I believe this. But as a man worthy of the air I breathe, I can’t believe the callousness of this statement. Does he not get the implications of this statement? Does he not know that if a woman is impregnated by rape (that Todd Akins says can’t happen) she will be told that she has a moral obligation to carry the child to term because God “intended that to happen?”

Vote Republican at your own risk.

Rest in Peace Senator McGovern

Yesterday we got the sad news that Senator George McGovern died at 90 years old. His was a voice of my generation: though he lost badly, he ran for President against Richard Nixon and his wisdom persists.

He was an unabashed liberal in an era where it was often considered a dirty word. He was a gentleman who served in the House of Representatives from 1956 to 1960 and the Senate from 1962 to 1980. He ran for President in large part because he wanted an end to the war in Vietnam. He knew the dangers of war as he served in the USAAF during World War II. On December 15, 1944 while flying a mission over Austria he was struck by shrapnel and nearly killed. He was later awarded the Air Medal.

He came home and devoted himself to public service. He was an example of the best of the Greatest Generation. He opposed the war in Vietnam because, as he said, “I’m fed up to the ears with old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in.”

OK, here’s my favorite:

Every program that ever helped working people — from rural electrification to Medicare — was enacted by liberals over the opposition of conservatives. When people tell me they don’t like liberals, I ask, ‘Do you like Social Security? If so, then shut up!

On that quotation: my thanks to John Sheirer. He writes a blog on Real American Liberal. I needed to make sure the quotation was real and he responded in a matter of hours.

The Justice Chronicles Volume 8: Maybe now DOMA is Doomed

With all the attention given to the Presidential campaign, an important story isn’t getting as much publicity as it should. On October 18, 2012 the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit handed down a ruling in the case of Windsor v. US that the Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA is unconstitutional.

In 1996 the Congress passed, and President Clinton signed, DOMA. Among other things DOMA prohibits the Internal Revenue Service from recognizing same sex marriages, even if the couple were legally married.

I’m taking the facts of the case from the opinion itself. Edith (Edie) Windsor and Thea Spyer were legally married in Canada in 2007 (though they had been a couple for 44 years). Thea died in 2009 in New York, and had they been a heterosexual couple, Edie would have been classified as the surviving spouse for tax purposes. Because of DOMA their marriage wasn’t recognized by the IRS and Edie owed $363,053 in taxes to inherit Thea’s estate. Under federal tax law, a spouse who dies can leave assets, including the family home, to the other spouse without incurring estate taxes, but because of DOMA Edie was not considered Thea’s spouse and is responsible for those taxes. Edie sued in federal court to return the $363,053, arguing that she was Thea’s spouse; in 2011 New York began allowing same sex marriages and the state recognized their union.

There are many nuances to this case, but essentially the court found that DOMA is “an unprecedented intrusion into an area of traditional state regulation” as the states grant marriage licenses.

Clearly the issue of gay marriage is going to the Supreme Court in either this session or the next. But I have to confess a chuckle over this case as it’s decided on the basis of federal intrusion while the Republican Party consistently reminds us that they are the party to “get government off our backs.” I’m guessing they don’t want government off our backs on this one.

Personal note: DOMA claims to protect traditional marriage. As a heterosexual married man, can anyone tell me how gay marriage threatens my marriage? If so, I’m happy to support DOMA. In the meantime I’m on the side of opposing homophobia.

A Rare Union Victory; It's Nice to See

Football has always been an interest of mine. For as long as I can remember the Washington Redskins were a staple on Sunday TV. My memory goes back to the 1968 season when Otto Graham coached the Redskins to a 5-9 season, and was fired for his troubles.

In the last 44 years I’ve seen countless games and while not all my memories are good, I have to say that the referees have done an outstanding job. They don’t get it right 100% of the time, but it’s pretty close.

This year the NFL locked them out over a labor dispute. It was pretty silly and the lockout had more to do with intimidation than money. The NFL decided that they could employ “replacement referees” and none of us would notice. We did. The replacements came from small colleges and high schools and frankly, they couldn’t keep up. On national TV we saw that it’s not as easy to referee a professional NFL game as it looks.

On September 24th the game between the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks was marred by a call none of us could defend. Suffice it to say that the Packers’ season could go down on this play. The next day the real referees were back in place.

For those of us who favor labor unions this is a good day. Workers with skills who group together with others with the same skills know that management always think that their skills are not as valuable. In truth I’ve never belonged to a union, but I had a job where my boss told me that “any idiot” could do my job. When I quit he hired any idiot. He lasted almost a year and they had to hire two people to replace me.

Look around you. If you think the person who picks your crops or bathes your grandmother in the nursing home, or washes your dishes in your favorite restaurant is unskilled, think again. They may make less money that you, but their labor is every bit as skilled as yours.

You may not notice until they don’t show up for the job, but when they do show up, you should notice. None of us are going to suffer because the real referees weren’t there for the first few weeks of the season, but it should remind us that union workers improve our lives every day.

Vote union.