Now that I have had two posts here about mandating morality it’s probably time to address this general issue. I’m sure that after reading these posts some people question whether I believe there is any moral foundation. They are calling me a moral relativist. A recent article in The Week news site very much characterizes where I stand on this issue. Lets read some quotes from that post.  Click on the source to see the whole thing.

Haidt lays out six distinct moral foundations.

1. Care the desire to help those in need and avoid inflicting harm

2. Liberty the drive to seek liberation from constraints and to fight oppression

3. Fairness the impulse to impose rules that apply equally to all and avoid cheating

4. Loyalty the instinct to affirm the good of the group and punish those who betray it

5. Authority the urge to uphold hierarchical relationships and avoid subverting them

6. Sanctity the admiration of purity and disgust at degradation

According to Haidt’s experimental research,

social conservatives affirm the validity of all six foundations.

Libertarians focus very heavily on liberty and a modest amount on fairness, while showing something close to indifference on the rest.

Liberals, for their part, emphasize in descending order of intensity care, liberty, and fairness, and express little concern about the others.

Viewed through the lens of these differing moral foundations, we can see that positions frequently described as expressions of moral relativism actually flow from deeply moral assumptions and commitments.

Liberals, for example, tend to be highly skeptical about American exceptionalism not because they deny moral truth, but because they are suspicious of group loyalty and highly concerned about making fair impartial judgments….

Liberals and libertarians on the other hand, can point to the comparative indifference to these same acts of harm among conservatives as evidence that they’re relativists.

Conservatives are merely somewhat less fixated on harm and much more concerned with group loyalty.

The conservative moral matrix might rub liberals and libertarians the wrong way, but it’s not an outgrowth of relativism. Rather, it’s a sign of a distinctive and different form of moralism….

All of which goes to show that pretty much no one in our politics and culture is a moral relativist. Our conflicts involve clashes among distinct moral outlooks…

SOURCE: Who are you calling a moral relativist? – The Week.

The six areas above I believe pretty much cover the foundations for just what morality is. As mentioned various groups tend to almost primarily focus to one or two of these issue and pretty much ignore the rest. Yeah I am part of that group. The words above pretty clearly distinguish between the three political ideologies that are currently around.

I am not one to believe that any of these groups are without their moral compasses. Being a social liberal I pretty much align with that thinking. I can certainly see that some of my conservative friends are mostly concerned with loyalty, authority, and sanctity whereas i put most emphasis on the first three in the list.

The next time one of my conservative friends tells me I don’t seem to have a moral compass I will remember this article and understand that neither one of us is lacking morality we just cling to a different area of it.

2014-08-24_10-27-11Islamic Sharia law was fairly dormant in the Indonesian province of Aceh until a massive earthquake and tsunami struck in 2004, killing more than 130,000. But as residents rebuild, Sharia officers have strengthened their grip, threatening rights of religious minorities and women….

There are two groups that are actually threatened by this formalization of the Sharia. The first group is religious minorities. More than 20 churches are closed down in Aceh over the last two years. They also banned 14 Islamic religious sects, like the Ahmadiyya, the Shia. We didn’t expect that.

The second victim is women. There are various, strange regulations being produced, for instance, banning women from straddling motorcycles. In some areas, women cannot wear pants to go to work or to go to school, which means that it will restrict their mobilities. Ultimately, it will affect their economic rights. Ultimately, it will affect their education.

SOURCE:  Indonesian province turns up Sharia law after devastating tsunami.

The picture above is of women riding around in the back of a pick-up truck looking for people who are not following strict Sharia law. Maybe they are not at the mandatory five-times-a-day prayer, maybe they don’t have sleeves long enough. Maybe they are unescorted young people. Some are chastised, some are caned and some get much worse treatment..

Islamic Sharia law is a combination of religious and government mandated morality. I believe that is the most dangerous kind. To put absolute power of life and death into one particular religious leader is in itself immoral in my mind. But of course that is Islamic Sharia law it very common in the Middle East where we have far too many of our young men and women in the military today.

Should morality be a mandated thing? Should we be told how to act and what to do in matters that only, at least for the most part, affect our personal lives? That question is currently be actively discussed in this country about our current marijuana laws. Two States have decided that the answer is NO. Several others are leaning in that direction. We currently have hundreds of thousand of our citizens in prison on marijuana charges. They are overwhelming our prison system.  Before you jump to any conclusions about my personal actions I will tell you that I have never tried marijuana and I don’t intend to even if it is declared legal.

Yes I’m sure that marijuana use, like alcohol, is an addiction to some but to most it seems to be just a way to relax. If we legalized marijuana and even some other narcotics we would virtually eliminate all the dark criminal organization that are reeking huge profits from its underground use. As learned from Colorado we would also get a robust tax revenue. It seems like a win-win scenario.

Mandating morality just doesn’t seem to work in any world society. Sooner or later, depending on how iron-fisted it is it will be thrown out.  I will purposely leaving the door open here for your thoughts if you care to give them and maybe we can have a lively discussion about this topic.

Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits

Fanatics will never learn that, though it is written in letters of gold across the sky

It is prohibition that makes things precious.

Mark Twain

 

I have recently come across several sources of what I consider mandating morality. That is trying to force your version of morality on others. Our personal view of morality can come from one person, usually a parent or other authority figure, telling us what we are to believe about this or that. It can come form one group who think they have it right and others need to get it. It can even come from countries that force their citizens to a certain version of morality. Many times it comes from various religious beliefs.

As the quote above from Mark Twain says if you prohibit someone from doing something it just makes that thing seem more desirable to them. Tell a kid he can’t have something and that is usually the first thing he tries to get. Mandating morality often times has the opposite effect than what was intended.

Let’s look at a morality that was mandated in the U.S. almost a century ago

2014-08-24_10-38-18Prohibition was intended to improve, even to ennoble, the lives of all Americans, to protect individuals, families, and society at large from the devastating effects of alcohol abuse. Prohibition turned law-abiding citizens into criminals, made a mockery of the justice system, caused illicit drinking to seem glamorous and fun…But the enshrining of a faith-driven moral code in the Constitution paradoxically caused millions of Americans to rethink their definition of morality. Thugs became celebrities, responsible authority was rendered impotent. Social mores in place for a century were obliterated. Especially among the young, and most especially among young women, liquor consumption rocketed, propelling the rest of the culture with it: skirts shortened. Music heated up. America’s Sweetheart morphed into The Vamp.

SOURCE:  Prohibition: About the Series | PBS.

There were many who were convinced that alcohol was the root of all evil. It was the most immoral part of our society. After ten years of trying to push that morality on the country they finally managed to accomplish it with the  18th amendment to the constitution. When that amendment became law many smaller communities who were the most enthusiastic supporters actually closed their local jails! They were convinced that they would no longer be needed.

Of course what banning alcohol actually did was to drive it underground and put it in the hands of very immoral men like Al Capone. It took almost twenty years to finally convince the majority of citizens that outlawing alcohol actually increased crime and its over use.

Yes, I acknowledge that some, due to a genetic makeup, are destroyed by an addiction to alcohol but for the vast majority it is simply a way to get together with others and forget about the drudgery of life for a few hours.  Alcohol is very much ingrained in to the social fabric of life.

Don’t Label Me …

October 13, 2014 — Leave a comment

2014-10-07_08-16-26In fact, Raven tells Oprah that she rejects the notion of labels completely in all areas of her life. “I’m tired of being labeled,” she says. “I’m an American. I’m not an African-American; I’m an American.

“The remark seems to catch Oprah off guard. “Oh, girl,” Oprah says, shifting in her chair. “Don’t set up the Twitter on fire… Oh, my lord. What did you just say?”

“I mean, I don’t know where my roots go to,” Raven explains. “I don’t know how far back they go… I don’t know what country in Africa I’m from, but I do know that my roots are in Louisiana. I’m an American. And that’s a colorless person.”

“You’re going to get a lot of flak for saying you’re not African-American. You know that, right?” Oprah asks.

Raven puts her hands up. “I don’t label myself,” she reiterates. “I have darker skin. I have a nice, interesting grade of hair. I connect with Caucasian, I connect with Asian, I connect with Black, I connect with Indian, I connect with each culture.”

“You are a melting pot in one body,” Oprah says.”Aren’t we all?” Raven asks. “Isn’t that what America’s supposed to be?”

SOURCE:  Raven-Symoné: Don’t Label Me ‘Gay’ Or ‘African-American’ VIDEO.

I was totally fascinated by Raven Symone as a little girl on the Cosby Show. Even at that young age she was a person well beyond her years and proves to be that way even today. She might be naive in some aspects of life and an idealist but those are assets the way I look at it.

I too don’t like to be labeled and I never have. I very seldom talk about my deafness and I definitely don’t label myself with that affliction.  Yes, I am deaf and that means I cope daily with different obstacles than many but that is not who I am.

I think, but am not sure that my distant relatives came for Scotland but that fact does not mean that I am a Scottish-American. One blood line is in the native-American category I am kind of proud of that fact but I don’t go around calling myself a native-American.

Yes Raven America has been labeled as a melting pot but in some sense it is far from that.  A melting pot means everyone is the same and treated the same and we all know that is simply not the case, at least yet.

I need to find out what Raven has been doing in the entertainment field since the Cosby show. She still seems to be quite a unique young lady…

If the old guard on the partisan Christian right envisions itself to be crumbling, there’s nothing more apt than a forceful restatement of terms, preferably with a fresh face. But if it’s crumbling, it’s because the foundations are weak, and illustrating that inadvertently isn’t going to make its last gasps any more graceful. Far from being the death knell for the American Christian left, Vicari’s book might be little more than a signal that this is the Christian left’s moment to rise.

SOURCE: Christian conservatives have a terrifying new bogeyman: The Christian leftist – The Week.

Another interesting article from my new friends over at The Week.  I think I have made it pretty clear here that I am a “Christian left” as described in this article and yes I do very much tire of seeing the Christian right bemoaning the condition of the world today, particularly the Christian version.  The church which I was once a member had its members that had strong opinions in this area. The major problem in those cases is when the pastor/leader of the church is also in that mode.

I continue trying to learn a lesson from my blogger friend Stephen Mattson that Christ is perfect but his church on earth is far from that state.  It distresses me when I hear my fellow Christians put down the Christian left for seemingly caring too much for others, particularly when those others are not of the same religious beliefs. I now thoroughly believe that God loves all his children equally; there is no one outside his favor. More on that topic next Sunday.

It troubles me when the Christian right adamantly oppose our government having programs to help the poor and disadvantaged. They say that is not the government’s job but since the church on earth as a whole  gets a D- in this area someone has to take over that responsibility?

I kind of think that the quote above is the reason for all this moaning among the Christian right.  The foundations of their narrowly focused beliefs are weak and that is the problem. At least I hope that is the case….

An Ode To Pumpkins

October 11, 2014

ISOA (65)

To maybe entice you over to my pictorial blog site I am pulling another post from there for this Saturday’s picture day. Click on the mosaic map to the right to see some more entries…

A nip is definitely in the air here in Indiana so that takes my thoughts to Pumpkins. Halloween is the first event related to pumpkins but since that is a pagan holiday I don’t celebrate that one :)  so that leaves Thanksgiving. I can’t imagine a Thanksgiving meal with a healthy slice of pumpkin pie. Pumpkins are very American. They were grown by native Americans long before  the invaders came to their country. So, here is to you my bright orange orbs….

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, an oncologist and one of the country’s leading health care experts, says by age 75 he would opt out of medical treatments in order to not prolong his life in favor of letting nature take its course. Emmanuel joins Judy Woodruff to discuss his provocative essay published in The Atlantic, “Why I Hope to Die at 75.”….

So, as we age, as we get older, we are actually going to become healthier, that the falling apart, the disabilities, the dementia, they’re going to become ever smaller parts of life. And that was a very, very compelling theory, and a lot of people grabbed on to it.

Turns out that’s not true. The data are that, as we age, we have actually added more years of disability, so there’s not a compression of morbidity. There’s actually been an expansion, and that I think is — it’s somewhat distracting for people to realize, yes, we will live longer, but we will also live with more functional limitations, less able to move around, more mental limitations, more psychological depression, and other mental problems.

SOURCE:  A doctor’s argument against living longer.

This quote came from a recent PBS Newshour report. Being a contrarian I look for alternative thought wherever I can find it and this is certainly one of those cases. In a country where hundreds of billions of dollars are spent annually trying to cancel the normal aging effects, accepting our morbidity is not widely followed. We also know that almost half of our annual healthcare expenses are from the last month of life.

As pointed out in the interview, whenever someone talks about the normal again process there is someone who always points to a few people who have defied the odds and made valuable contributions well beyond the normal age of death at 75. Like most everything  the effects of aging and death is a bell-shaped curve. There will be some who are very active and productive in their old age but they are the ones on the tiny upper edge of the curve. You might call them the 1%ers.  Even as we show disdain for the financial 1%ers we all, at least in the back of our minds, dream of being in that group.

Getting personal now, I will turn 68 in the coming weeks and like almost everyone else that age I have seen my muscle mass decrease. I have moments where I get confused about what I was just thinking about and what I was intending to do. They calls these times “senior moments” for a reason.  I joke that I think my warranty expired at age 60 and now everything is starting to fall apart.  I accept that I will not be one of those 1%ers in this area. I will likely die in my mid to late 70s as did my father and grandfather.

Not prolonging my life beyond that age kind of appeals to me now but who knows what I will decide when that time comes.  Everyone wants to go to heaven but no one wants to die to get there…..

Trickle Up….

October 9, 2014

2014-09-04_19-56-10“The money was all appropriated for the top in hopes that it would trickle down to the needy. Mr. Hoover was an engineer. He knew that water trickled down. Put it uphill and let it go and it will reach the dryest little spot. But he didn’t know that money trickled up. Give it to the people at the bottom and the people at the top will have it before night anyhow. But it will at least have passed through the poor fellow’s hands.”

Will Rogers – 4 December 1932

The first time I remember hearing about “Trickle Down” policy was from David Stockman in the Reagan administration and of course the GOP has been pushing it ever since. I wasn’t aware that Hoover was the first president to try it.  Thanks Will for informing me of that fact. Why do we allow this idiotic concept to even exist today? As Will says money, unlike water, runs uphill and will end up soon enough in the 1%er’s off shore bank accounts. Let’s pass it through the hands of the guys to need it first.

 

2014-10-02_09-11-00Drug and medical-device companies paid at least $3.5 billion to U.S. physicians and teaching hospitals during the final five months of last year, according to the most comprehensive accounting so far of the financial ties that some critics say have compromised medical care….

Some doctors have earned tens of thousands of dollars annually from drug companies by flying to various cities to give paid speeches, while some surgeons have received even larger amounts from medical-device makers, partly from royalties on products they helped develop….

One former Senate staffer who was closely involved in the effort to pass the Sunshine Act hopes the database will do some good. “This website will let patients ask a very important question: ‘Is a relationship between my doctor and a drug company right for me?’ It took six years of hard work to get this site together and, hopefully, it will help clean up medicine,” said Paul Thacker, a former aide to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) who is now a fellow at the Safra Ethics Center at Harvard University. He said the “total amount of money is pretty eye popping.”

SOURCE:  Doctors net billions from drug firms – Yahoo Finance.

Doctors receiving $3.5 billion from the drug companies was a total surprise to me. I knew the drug companies pampered them hoping that they will prescribe their drug over their competitor’s but some of the instances reported in the source articles go way beyond an ethical boundary.

I find it totally astounding that it is illegal for the largest medical care company in the country to negotiate prices with the drug manufacturers. It is a well known fact that all other countries in the world get their pharmaceuticals at a deeply discounted price. Why must Medicare pay full price when everyone else can bargain for their needs? How many billions of dollars are needlessly spent to give these guys a golden apple?

They say Medicare will go broke in about twenty years or so. I wonder how far that would be extended if we could bargain with the drug companies? Getting back to the original thoughts about this article why  is it even legal for doctors to take all the bribes that apparently do from these guys. A doctor being paid $70,000+ to give a seminar in an exotic location and which no one attends is surely a grossly unethical situation. Doctors who are among the top ten most compensated profession makes enough without these bribes!

It will take a legislative branch similar to those during the Teddy Roosevelt administration to finally put an end to these types of practices. If we are serious about cutting our healthcare costs in this country the drug companies are the low hanging fruit to be first dealt with. If only our current gridlocked government would life up to their responsibilities and do the people’s business. It is as simple as that….

Medical Costs

I was going through some of my past scans and ran across this one recently. It was from 2012 but I didn’t keep the source info. I can only assume it has some validity but just looking at is now tells me a lot about our American healthcare system.

Before I get started here I want to let you know about a basic fallacy of Obamacare at least as I see it. Too many people make the complaint that Obamacare has not brought down the cost of healthcare. If I remember right that was not the purpose of the ACA. It was to provide affordable healthcare to more people. The proverbial “second shoe” was to attack the cost side of the equation and of course we know that never happened due to our stifled government.

The chart above tells me that there are several different avenues to reducing out healthcare expenses. The most obvious one is in the insurance costs. It is a well known fact that Medicare has an administrative cost much lower than any private insurance company. Of course one of the reasons for that is because of our aversion to providing an adequate tax base to fund a higher level of service.  But whatever the reason, insurance bureaucracies eat up $190 billion per year in our healthcare dollars. Moving to a single payer system could reduce that expense dramatically.

The second obvious way to reduce costs is reducing errors in the system. We know that over 50,000 people a year die in hospitals annually due to medical errors. This is one area that seems to be currently improving via the digitization of medical records and the elimination of the doctor’s prescription pad. It has always been a joke about doctors illegible writing. But it is not a joke that it causes many unnecessary deaths each year. Unless it happens to someone you personally know we seem to flippantly write off that fact.

$105 billion simply because doctors and hospitals overcharge for their services. Of course single payer system which oversees medical costs would greatly reduce this one.

$210 billion for unnecessary services is a hard one to tackle. If you try to eliminate unnecessary services the “death panel” ranters will quickly come on board. Someone else’s unnecessary service is bad while your test to eliminate the possibility of a very remote cause is good.

When we finally get around to doing things to reduce the cost in our healthcare system there seems to be many avenues to take. In my mind a single payer system much like the rest of the world already has provides the biggest potential for cutting our healthcare expenses and someday we might actually get around to accomplishing that task…