Granny’s Safe UPDATED: Rebutting the “They’re Killing Granny” Lie by Health Care Reform Opponents

Me, Uncharacteristically Pertrubed

Me, Uncharacteristically Perturbed

Now, they’ve gone and done it.  I’m perturbed!

One of the provisions in the health care reform bills being worked on in both the House and the Senate is an incentive, to be paid by Medicare, for doctors and other providers to have a conversation every five years with aging patients regarding what they want for end of life care.  That’s the true part.  I discuss that below in detail.

UPDATE:  Oregon  congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-Dist 3) is the author of this section of the legislation. He states that he has been so frustrated by the Republicans’ distortions and lies of what he wrote that he has developed a Myth versus Fact Sheet that can be read by clicking hereRep Blumenauer wrote in his blog:

Those with no solutions and no answers for how to reform our health care system are hijacking positive, bipartisan efforts that have contributed to a strong bill passed out of two House committees. Republican leadership has abandoned all efforts at passing needed health care reform — even turning their attacks to legislation that has been actively crafted and supported by both parties.

One of these outrageous examples is my Life Sustaining Treatment Preferences Act.

GOP leadership has been gravely distorting the truth and misrepresenting the facts about this bipartisan effort, and in the process throwing members of their own party under the bus — those who have reached across the aisle to do something that will help Americans across the nation.

The bill simply provides people with better care as they grapple with the hardest health care issue of all — their final chapter of life. See the Myths vs. Facts sheet on this. CNN reporter Elizabeth Landau does a great job highlighting the benefits of “doctors and family members having more conversations about end-of-life issues,” which my bill addresses.

This bill has bipartisan support (the main cosponsor is a Republican doctor) as well as support from a diverse coalition like AARP, the American College of Physicians, and Catholic health systems. It is an area where — no matter from a red or blue state — many have been able to bridge the divide.

The bottom line: this is a smart and just thing to do for families going through a tough time.

Indeed, it is a smart and just thing to do.  Americans are known to be among the greatest death-deniers in the world.  This is very well documented.  Physicians, as  a profession are generally not trained in medical school to talk about dying with their patients, and the cultural norm “I’m going to live forever!” is especially deeply held by our doctors.  This, too is very well documented. (One exception I have knowledge of is at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, where medical residents are trained how to talk to patients about end of life issues.  I have seen their video and am well acquainted with the faculty of the Center for Ethics in Health Care.)

But those who are opposed to health care reform are using our fears about death and distorting them into a malicious fallacy about the legislation’s impact on our lives.  One provision is for providers to have a discussion about end of life care with her or his patients.  As I explain below, this conversation is taking place every day thousands of times.  But for the opponents, it’s another item on their list to distort and spread fear to preserve the status quo, mainly their profit margain.

As Charles Blow, New York Times columnist, stated in his latest piece, “Health Care Hullabaloo:”

I must say that this says more about them than it does about any forthcoming legislation. Belligerence is the currency of the intellectually bankrupt [emphasis added].

Trapped in their vacuum of ideas, too many Republicans continue to display an astounding ability to believe utter nonsense, even when faced with facts that contradict it.

This scare tactic is becoming ubiquitous, as expressed by a woman at a Raleigh, NC town hall meeting with President Obama, reported by ABC News reporter, Jake Tapper:

At the AARP town hall meeting last week, a woman named Mary told the president that “I have been told there is a clause in there that everyone that’s Medicare age will be visited and told to decide how they wish to die. This bothers me greatly and I’d like for you to promise me that this is not in this bill.”

“You know, I guarantee you, first of all, we just don’t have enough government workers to send to talk to everybody, to find out how they want to die,” the president said. “I think that the only thing that may have been proposed in some of the bills — and I actually think this is a good thing — is that it makes it easier for people to fill out a living will.”

After explaining what a living will is, and that he and his wife each have one, the president said, “I think the idea there is to simply make sure that a living will process is easier for people — it doesn’t require you to hire a lawyer or to take up a lot of time. But everything is going to be up to you. And if you don’t want to fill out a living will, you don’t have to…But, Mary, I just want to be clear: Nobody is going to be knocking on your door; nobody is going to be telling you you’ve got to fill one out. And certainly nobody is going to be forcing you to make a set of decisions on end-of-life care based on some bureaucratic law in Washington.”

Check out the AARP’s Myths vs Facts site here.

Here’s the text (authored by Rep. Blumenauer) of the proposed “Americans Health Care Choices Act of 2009”  (beginning on page 425), the House version, regarding advanced planning:

‘‘(hhh)(1) Subject to paragraphs (3) and (4), the

term ‘advance care planning consultation’ means a consultation

between the individual and a practitioner described

in paragraph (2) regarding advance care planning,

if, subject to paragraph (3), the individual involved has

not had such a consultation within the last 5 years. Such

consultation shall include the following:

‘‘(A) An explanation by the practitioner of advance

care planning, including key questions and

considerations, important steps, and suggested people to talk to.

‘‘(B) An explanation by the practitioner of advance

directives, including living wills and durable

powers of attorney, and their uses.

‘‘(C) An explanation by the practitioner of the

role and responsibilities of a health care proxy.

‘‘(D) The provision by the practitioner of a list

of national and State-specific resources to assist consumers

and their families with advance care planning, including the national

toll-free hotline, the advance

care planning clearinghouses, and State legal

service organizations (including those funded

through the Older Americans Act of 1965).

‘‘(E) An explanation by the practitioner of the

continuum of end-of-life services and supports available,

including palliative care and hospice, and benefits

for such services and supports that are available

under this title.

What got me thinking about this post was this comment by the New York Times columnist, economist Paul Krugman.  In a posting to his blog titled “Even-handedness,” he wrote:

AP: FACT CHECK: Distortions rife in health care debate:

Opponents of proposals by President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats falsely claim that government agents will force elderly people to discuss end-of-life wishes. Obama has played down the possibility that a health care overhaul would cause large numbers of people to change doctors and insurers.

So Republicans are claiming that Obama will kill old people. . .

Having just watched Bill Moyers on his PBS program interview Wendall Potter, former CIGNA executive who just testified before congress on the unconscionable tactics being regularly and deliberately used by insurance companies to deny coverage their insureds have rightfully paid for, but will dent the companies’ profits, and how they are in an all-out campaign to destroy health care reform while duplicitously endorsing it, I wrote a comment on Krugman’s blog.

Well, this time he didn’t publish it (however he had recently published my comments on 1 August 2009: “Health Reform Made Simple.“).  I, however, back up all my comments on various blogs.  Here, then, is what I wrote:

The “They’re Killing Granny” Fallacy:

For over a decade, as a hospital chaplain, I have helped hundreds of Grannies complete their Advance Directives.  Often the doctor requests this conversation take place, because Granny has a medical condition that is approaching end-stage, or is already there.  The ideal is that Granny and her physician have already had a conversation about her declining health. The Advance Directive is one tool for her to use to determine the kind of medical care she wants OR doesn’t want IF she can no longer communicate her wishes about treatment.

The purpose of the provision in the bills is to provide an incentive to medical providers to talk with Granny regarding the choice of care she wants at the end of her life.  Why?  Because Americans are the worst death-deniers in the world.  We’ll do just about anything to avoid talking about dying and death.  And physicians are just as bad as the rest of us.

Let me repeat the purpose of the provision: The Doctor talks to Granny so she has a choice to decide what she wants.  The conversation is a huge benefit not only to Granny, so she can make her wishes known, but also to remove the burden from her loved ones of having to guess about the kind of medical care she wants IF she is dying and cannot communicate by any means.

Generally, the types of extraordinary treatments being considered are:

1. Being placed on a ventilator to support breathing.

2. Being fed through a tube.

3. Being provided medications or procedures that are specifically designed to cure the disease, or to artificially prolong the person’s life.

Here are the facts (and I’m assuming most other states are very similar to mine):

1.  Any person over the age of 18 can complete an Advance Directive.  It does NOT require being notarized, it does NOT require your doctor’s signature, and it does NOT require going to an attorney and paying a fee to fill out the form.  You can download your state’s form online, or pick up a free copy at a local doctor’s office, hospital, or public health office.  Be sure to give a copy to your doctor and to take it with you to the hospital if you have a procedure (my hospital will accept a mailed Advance Directive at no charge, even if the person has never been one of our patients).

2.  The purpose of the Advance Directive is to allow Granny to decide in advance if she wants to have extraordinary medical measures should she be clinically assessed as being in the process of dying AND unable to communicate her wishes by any means.

3. Granny in her Advance Directive can choose to have everything from no extraordinary measures to all extraordinary measures.  If Granny chooses not to have extraordinary measures, she will still receive full palliative care measures to keep her comfortable, clean, and to die as peacefully as possible.  Granny, hopefully, will have access to hospice to provide this care; it is already paid for by Medicare.

4.  Granny has the choice of appointing a Health Care Representative (usually a family member or very close friend) to be her “health care power of attorney” to speak on her behalf if she is too ill to communicate (but perhaps is not in a terminal condition), or to consult with her physician if she is in the process of dying.

5. Here are some of the key rules:

a.  Granny has the  right to decline to talk about her end of life with her provider.

b.  Granny has the right to decline to fill out an Advance Directive.

c. Granny must be mentally clear (alert and oriented to time, place, and self) to fill out the Advance Directive.  If Granny is suffering from dementia, or is confused or delirious due to some medical cause, she is not considered competent (at least in my state) to fill out the Advance Directive at that time.  If she clears mentally later, she may can complete the document.  If Granny’s condition is diagnosed as permanent (such as advanced Alzheimer’s), then the family may need to consider a guardianship, but that is another topic.

d. Granny’s doctor, or if she is in a facility, a facility employee, CANNOT be her Health Care Representative, to prevent any conflict of interest in determining her treatment.

Being at the bedside of a critically ill patient, likely to die, and supporting the family through the decision-making process of what to do, when Granny never talked about it is agonizing for everyone.  One conversation would have spared all concerned the pain of indecision and second-guessing.

The AARP states,

Bottom Line: Health care reform isn’t about putting the government in charge of difficult end of life decisions. It’s about giving individuals and families the option to talk with their doctors in advance about difficult choices every family faces when loved ones near the end of their lives.

That is compassionate health care.  It is no slippery slope toward euthanasia, and it is not killing Granny.  It is, however, a provision (already in place in many places around the country), to ensure that the majority of America’s Grannies, truly die in peace and dignity.

A Caveat: Yes, I live in Oregon, which has the ignominious distinction of being the first state in the country to permit suicide with the assistance of a physician.  I personally oppose the legalization of suicide by this means (or any other, for that matter).  My hospital, being a Catholic institution,  does not encourage or participate in assisting terminal patients to commit suicide.  But that is a topic, perhaps, for another blog in the future.

The moment Sen. McConnell and Rep. Boehner realize the "They're killing Granny" distortion has seriously backfired.  Photo: Life Magazine Archives

The moment Sen. McConnell and Rep. Boehner realize the "They're killing Granny" distortion has seriously backfired. Photo: Life Magazine Archives

They Judge Themselves

This level of greed and deceit is by no means new.  The actions of insurance company executives, strategists, and lobbyists, as well as the politicians who parrot their lies are condemned in this passage from the Book of Proverbs in the Bible:

A scoundrel and a villain, who goes about with a corrupt mouth, who winks with his eye, and signals with his feet and motions with his fingers, who plots evil with deceit in his heart–he always stirs up dissension.

Therefore disaster will overtake him in an instant: he will suddenly be destroyed–without remedy.

There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him:

  1. haughty eyes
  2. a lying tongue
  3. hands that shed innocent blood
  4. a heart that devises wicked schemes
  5. feet that are quick to to rush into evil
  6. a false witness who pours out lies
  7. and a man who stirs up dissension among [others].

Proverbs 6:12-19, NIV

In the article about the Seven Deadly Sins, regarding greed/avarice, Wikipedia writes:

In Dante’s Purgatory, the penitents were bound and laid face down on the ground for having concentrated too much on earthly thoughts.

“Avarice” is more of a blanket term that can describe many other examples of greedy behavior. These include disloyalty, deliberate betrayal, or treason, especially for personal gain, for example through bribery .

Take a look again at the section of the bill I quoted.  Read it over several times if you like.  Do you honestly see anything that even hints that the purpose or outcome of that provision will endanger Granny?

Granny is going to be so much better cared for under the new legislation.  Those who oppose health care reform and are lying to get it defeated are the ones who need to be worried.  Very worried.

Greed & Avarice.  Dante's Fourth Level of Hell.  Wood-cut Print, 1476

Greed & Avarice. The sixth of the Seven Deadly Sins. In this depiction, the damned are being boiled in oil. This image appeared in 1496 in Le grant kalendrier des Bergiers, published by Nicolas le Rouge in Troyes, France

I should say in conclusion that both my wife and I have advance directives.  So does my mom, the best grandma in our arm of the galaxy.

Updated–Before Columbine: Remembering the Thurston High Shootings

This post has been redacted and censored to comply with my employer’s Social Media Policy as of Nov. 1, 2010.  All references to my place of work and its health care system, as well as photos have been removed.  This action appears to be only recourse I have to preserve my Constitutional rights to free speech and the free expression of my views on Extreme Thinkover.

 

UPDATE:  I did a little more research and found on Wikipedia a list of nearly every school shooting documented worldwide since the 1966 University of Texas massacre of 17 students: History of School Shootings Worldwide.

Today is the tenth anniversary of the shootings at Columbine High School, a terrible, horrific act of murder and mayhem by two students who shot down twelve of their classmates and one teacher in cold blood, wounding twenty-three others before they took their own lives.

Kip Kinkel.  Photo Credit: AP

Kip Kinkel. Photo Credit: AP

But before Columbine, in May of 1998, there was the shootings at Thurston High School in Springfield, Oregon.  The shooter, Kip Kinkel, murdered his parents the night before he went to school that morning, and in a manner of minutes killed two of his classmates and wounded 23 others.  One of those wounded wrestled him to the ground, cutting short the attack and denying him the chance to kill himself.  Kinkel was found to be incompetent to stand trial and will spend the rest of his life as an inmate at the Oregon State Hospital for the Mentally Ill.

We should never forget Columbine.  But I will always remember Thurston.  I was there at the hospital that morning.

A Wounded Thurston Student Being Assisted to an Ambulance

A Wounded Thurston Student Being Assisted to an Ambulance

What follows is my account of that horrendous day, originally presented at a regional event of my church for high school students in August 1999.  The theme was “Odysseys.”

 

Call of the Unbidden, Unwanted Odyssey: The Thurston Shootings

About a year and a half ago I was getting up at 4:30 in the morning to be at work at 6:00 a.m.  You see, hospital time and time in the real world are two entirely different things.  For reasons that are lost in the mists of ancient history, doctors, and especially surgeons, like to get started very early in the day.  What does that have to do with me?  I was the chaplain assigned to the Short Stay Unit, the place where people go to have all sorts of medical procedures.  Most will go home that day, hence the “short stay” terminology, although at Censored by Corporate Social Media Policy , we also admit some people who will have major surgery and then be taken to a regular hospital room afterwards.

So each morning I was talking with people, some of whom had never been in a hospital before, who were having things like colonoscopies, bronchoscopies, myringotomies, hysterectomies, or orthopedic surgeries like total knee or total hip replacements.  And then there are the lithotrypsies where they insert a probe into your gall bladder or kidney and using high frequency sound, blast gall and kidney stones into powder.  Sounds fun, huh.  And some people were going to find out they have cancer, so I had to be ready for anything.

This goes on five days a week, averaging about 90 people per day, and I’d get to talk with about half of them for the three hours I was there each morning.

My odyssey began at about 8:00 a.m. one Thursday morning. I had no plans to begin an odyssey, and had no inkling about the odyssey that I was about to undertake.  I arrived at 6:00, made coffee in the waiting room, like I did every day.  I picked up the surgery schedule and chatted with the nursing staff just like every other day.  Patients began checking in.  It wasn’t an unusually heavy day for procedures.  A couple of kids having tubes put in their ears; a few women having hysterectomies, a bunch of lithotrypsies, since Thursday’s the day they are all done on.  Just another normal day in Short Stay.

What happened next, I remember very clearly.  I had just taken a family into the recovery area to see a patient who had come back from a procedure and was walking past the charge nurse’s desk.  One of the staff nurses was talking on the phone in a very excited and agitated way.  A couple other of the nurses had already drifted over to the desk and looked concerned.

I heard the nurse say, “Are you okay?  Where are you?  Was anybody shot?”  Another nurse said, “Her daughter goes to Thurston.  There’s been some shots fired at the high school.”

That was the call.  But to be honest, I had no idea of the odyssey that would unfold.  And it’s probably just as well.  Nobody wants to be shoved through a door like that.

After the nurse hung up the phone, and fortunately her daughter was not one of the injured, she told us what little her daughter knew of the chaos of that school shooting.  Yes, I was concerned.  I knew that there are two trauma ERs in the area.  Ours in Eugene and McKenzie-Willamette Hospital’s in Springfield, just a couple of miles from Thurston.  But I knew that at the moment I was the only chaplain in the hospital, and if there was a kid or two that had to come to us, I needed to get to the emergency room.

I excused myself from the Short Stay and headed toward the ER.  The first inkling I had that maybe things were going to get a bit hectic was while I was standing waiting for the elevator.  A trauma alert was announced over the intercom.  That is normal by itself.  Whenever a person with a life-threatening injury is coming to the hospital, there is a public announcement that says: “Trauma Alert, Trauma team to the emergency department.”  With that announcement, people from all the clinical areas converge on the ER.  And chaplains are part of that team.

But on that morning, the PBX operator announced, “Trauma alert.  Trauma team and all available surgeons report to the emergency department.”  At that moment, with the instant knotting of my stomach, I knew that when I got off of that elevator, I was going to step into a world that I had never experienced.

The next hour of that day changed me forever.  I was, purely by chance, the first chaplain in the emergency room when the first ambulances arrived.  I wish I had the words to explain to you the flow of emotions and events.  It’s nothing like what they show on the TV show ER.  Or maybe I should say what they show on TV is a pale reflection of the reality.  There was no script but there were procedures.  There was this intensity, a grim determination on people’s faces as everyone tried to prepare themselves emotionally.  It was like being in the middle of a whirlwind but experiencing it in almost a slow motion.  Over the radio there was a lot of inaccurate information coming in, but each time an ambulance called saying they were on their way, a plan was put in motion to care for that student.  First we heard two, then four, then maybe six, then, no, only four.  Then maybe as many as eight.

Wounded Thurston Student being taken to an Ambulance.  Photo: BBC News

Wounded Thurston Student being taken to an Ambulance. Photo: BBC News

There were a lot of people talking, but the ER as a whole wasn’t that noisy.  Within fifteen minutes two more of the chaplains had gotten there. And in another fifteen, three more had rushed to the hospital.  And it was a good thing, because the ambulances just kept coming and coming and coming.  Eleven in all.  In a half hour, half of the 23 wounded students were right in front of me.  At about 20 minutes after eight we heard another PBX announcement, one which confirmed that because of this event, all our lives were about to change more than we could imagine:  “Disaster Alert.  All hospital units initiate disaster procedures.”  Within moments people started coming out of the woodwork to insure that every wounded student would receive the best care we were humanly capable of providing.  And of course, we knew the media would be coming in droves and we wondered how we would survive that onslaught as well.

I remember one moment more clearly than the others.  I was helping identify the wounded students.  The look in every one of those kid’s eyes was a combination of stark fear and total bewilderment.  Stepping out of one of the trauma rooms, I saw five or six of our surgeons, all in their operating room scrubs, standing in a row, like planes lined up on a runway to take off, waiting for the next student to arrive.  And the fear in their eyes matched the fear in those students’ eyes and the fear in mine.

As I have tried to process this event in my life, I realized that everyone, the students and their families, the medical staff and the pastoral care staff were all thrust onto the path of an odyssey that no one wanted to walk.  The path was created by a person and his actions who we did not know and did not understand.  The three “what ifs” became the real questions I had to answer.  Right then.  What if the worst happened?  It did. What if I’m not up to it?  I have to be.  Others lives are in danger. What if I get myself into a situation so foreign to me I can’t even function?  I have, but I have to function anyway.

But one thing was sure by the end of that first day.  Once we were on the path, there was no exit.  Each person had to walk on his or her individual path until the end is reached.  No one got to stay the same.  Everyone had to change.  Some may have finished their odysseys already.  Some will take years and for others it will take their entire life.  As for me, I do not yet see the end.

^^^^^^^^^^^

Over a decade later, I still do not see the end.  Thirty school shootings have taken place since Thurston in the United States, five in Canada, ten in Europe (Germany alone accounts for five of those shootings, totaling 35 deaths) and seven others around the world.   Hundreds of children, college students and adults have died, been wounded, families thrown into tragedies for which there are no exits.  See: Wikipedia.

Ben Walker.  One of Two Students Murdered at Thurston High School

Ben Walker. One of Two Students Murdered at Thurston High School

And guns were used in virtually every incident.  I am waiting, as I have been since May 1998, for just one executive from the gun manufacturers, or an organization like the National Rifle Association to call me on the phone and say, “Yes, Dr. Waggoner, enough is enough.  I take responsibility for the lethality for this object I produce, or I take responsibility for the lethal potential of this object I promote, and I am going to do everything in my power to stem the tsunami of violence tearing apart our nation even if I have to …

I’m waiting, but I’m not holding my breath.   The murders will continue unabated.  The weapon of choice of the murderers will be guns.  Children will be murdered in their schools or churches or wherever by murderers using guns.  The right to own a gun and the availability of those guns is the secondary issue.  The primary issue is the unfathomable and defiant willingness of the weapons industry and the NRA to accept the carnage as normal.  And to pay handsomely to lobby every single politician in the United States to ensure that normalcy continues in perpetuity.

A Rifle Similar to the One Kinkle Used to Shoot His Parents and Classmates.

A Rifle Similar to the One Kinkle Used to Shoot His Parents and Classmates.

Cheney: Violating the Code of Ethics for Retired Ministers…And the Tradition of Respect Held Sacred by Former U.S. Chief Executives

Every professional association that I have belonged to has a Code of Ethics.  It is one of the hallmarks that not only defines what the profession stands for but also guarantees to the public, whether customer, client, patient, parishioner or whomever, the standard by which that professional will act with integrity.

In light of recent comments by former vice president Dick Cheney blasting the new administration’s policies on national security, I wondered if there was a Code of Ethics that applies to the the nation’s two top executives?

In an interview on CNN (quoted in the NY Times), Mr Cheney said,cheney-snarl

“He is making some choices that, in my mind, will, in fact, raise the risk to the American people of another attack,” Mr. Cheney said of Mr. Obama in an interview on the CNN program “State of the Union.”

UPDATE:  March 29, 2009:  Today, on the CNN Political Ticker website both U.S. Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke and Gen. David Patraeus take issue with Cheney’s inappropriate comments and breach of professional ethics by spouting off about the Obama administration’s changes on national security.

UPDATE #2: March 29, 2009:  The fallout from Dick Cheney’s unethical criticism of the Obama administration continues to generate backlash.  Former President Bush made this statement in response to a question about Cheney’s remarks:

“He deserves my silence. I love my country a lot more than I love politics. I think it is essential that he be helped in office.”

I spent an evening Googling and scouring Wikipedia, but came up with, well, not a thing.  Now,  maybe I missed it; and there are laws that apply to federal employees.  Just about every state in the Union has a code of Ethics for its Executive Branch.  President Obama signed into law a new code for his administration in January.  And, of course, there is the United States Constitution, but we all know that Cheney never let a little thing like that interfere with anything he decided he was right about.

But a code of ethics that applies specifically to the president and vice president of the United States apparently has never been written. (If there is a code of ethics either historically enforced, or currently in place, not including Obama’s new one, I’d love to read it.  Send it to me!).

You might ask, “So what?”  As an ordained minister, one of the conditions of my standing with my church, the Disciples of Christ, I have to abide by a Ministerial Code of Ethics.  All major denominations have such codes.  That code is structured so the pastor not only ministers in an ethical manner during the time he or she is serving a congregation, but also after the person has left to serve another local church or retired from active service.  Pastors develop a strong rapport with their members, and when they leave to work at another church, even if it is one across town, the pastor is responsible for maintaining the professional boundaries so the new minister can work freely to develop a new trust and rapport with the church.

The same principle is true for when a minister retires.  While I was in seminary, I was the youth minister for a church whose senior pastor had retired after over thirty years at that church.  Even though the church was located in a city of nearly three million people and the retired minister moved to another part of town, he did not set up and strictly abide by those ethical boundaries.  The new senior pastor, with whom I worked, was constantly having to “defend” his actions to those members who were calling the old pastor and getting a sympathetic ear.  It was a lose-lose situation.  A year after I had graduated from seminary, the church fired the senior minister.  In all honesty, he never had a chance to succeed.

Here are the two statements that are relevant to this discussion from the Ministerial Code of Ethics:

  • supporting and at no time speaking maliciously of the ministry of my predecessor or another minister in the congregation in which I hold membership;
  • encouraging the ministry of my successor upon my retirement or other departure from a ministry position, without interfering or intruding, and by making it clear to former parishioners that I am no longer their pastor.

With these two precepts so deeply engrained in my professional life, I find Mr. Cheney’s statements inexcuseable.  Because I believe he so blatantly violated the trust of the American people in his open disdain for the United States Constituion, as well  as the Oath of Office he took as Vice President, in his retirement, he should remain silenced for the rest of his life.  He has violated the Code of Ethics by both interfering and intruding with the actions of his successors.  He is no longer our vice president and I thank God he was never our pastor.

Michigan, the Big Three Automakers, & the Death of Reaganomics

UPDATE: Dec. 19: I am feeling just a bit prescient (just a bit). In the post below, if you haven’t read it, I somewhat tongue-in-cheek suggest the Michigan could jump the U.S. Ship of State and join Canada, because the Canadians would probably welcome the chance to have their own auto industry. Turns out, they already do, and it is The Big Three. Just today, Ottawa announced that they were providing the Detroit automakers with $3-$4 billion in financial support because the auto industry is such a huge part of the Canadian economy. The conditions for the money, aimed at GM and Chrysler initially, but to Ford, too, if it requests aid, are similar to the ones coming out of Washington and the Obama office. What I find curious, from the perspective of media reporting, is that USA Today broke the story. At CNN.com it was buried as an add-on on their CNN Money page, and I couldn’t find it at all on MSNBC, ABC, or the New York Times’ websites. Read on!

Neoconservative Republicans (are there any other kind left?) apparently hate Michigan. Specifically, they hate Detroit’s Big Three automakers, General Motors, Chrysler and Ford teetering on the edge of the abyss. The Neo-cons see this peril as the moment to throw their last tantrum for “Free Market Economics” in a dramatic demonstration to avenge their losses, against the American electorate in the 2008 elections. (It might also be called political suicide by ideological obstinance.)

That is such a good idea! The economy is shedding 500,000 jobs a month, the economy is in shambles, the world is in a staggering recession, and so, of course, the absolutely most reasonable thing to do is enact, create, or threaten every possible wall to ensure another whole sector of the economy is beaten to a pulp. Yep, no bailout for the auto industry!

Abraham Lincoln may be rolling over in his grave over the Blagojevich affair in Illinois, but Ronald Reagan must be standing and saluting in his, as the standard of Reaganomics is hoisted high by the neo-cons: “I meant TRICKLE down. Fire the Lazy Socialist Bastards!”

Hmph. So, there.

Senator McConnell, tear down that wall!

There must be more than a hundred books written on unintended consequences in political, social and economic policy, but evidently the neo-cons have never read any of them. The primary unintended consequence of free-market Reaganomics, and its fatal flaw, is not that it abhors government regulation, but that it allows the individual to believe that morality and ethics are compartmentalized within that individual. Therefore, what happens to other people is of no consequence, as long as you are making money. The biblical Golden Rule is rewritten “Do unto yourself as you would have done unto yourself at a profit.” That whole idea of “doing unto others” in the original text is rationalized away by an ideological delusion that the others have exactly the same opportunity to succeed as you do, but they are completely on their own to get it done. If they don’t have the same opportunity to succeed, it’s their fault, because, despite any mitigating circumstances, they are supposed to have them because they are. Therefore, if others can’t succeed, it has nothing to do with you, but it’s all their fault, and they, not you, have not lived up to the Golden Rule -2.0.

Clever. Handy. Utterly immoral.

Where does this insight come from? I, with remorse, confess that I am a former Reaganomicist. Back in the early 1980s, fresh from graduate school, uncertain about my financial future, and having voted for Ronald Reagan (Jimmy Carter, after all, had been such an ineffectual president–although even Nostradamus hadn’t predicted George W. Bush and the cataclysms he wrought upon the world these past eight years), and so upon the invitation of a college friend, my wife and I joined up with Am___. (It is a word that must not be spoken.) And for the next five years we attended dozens of rallies and seminars, listened to hundreds of hours of tapes, all about how we would become fabulously rich by Am___ distributors who had become fabulously rich. We, however didn’t. We did spend a lot of money attending all that stuff, supporting all those SUCCESSFUL distributors telling us how easy it really was. To be fabulously rich.

In this world, the Gospel according to Ronald reigned unchallenged. Salvation by free enterprise. Liberty through personal wealth. Step into the great economic trickle-down and be showered by your wildest dreams. Ronald Reagan was a god to these people. Big problem, though. The masses at the rallies were nearly all professing born-again evangelicals, so their adoration had to be kept in the dark recesses of their souls, for to speak plainly of this truth would be an admission they were worshiping mammon and not the Lord.

Naively, I thought I’d be a shoe-in. I had a bachelor’s and two master’s degrees. I was smart and well-educated, so moving up through those “diamond” levels was going to be a great ride to my dreams.

During that time, I learned two things about my “higher education.” One, was that in this crowd (many of whom would morph into Neo-conservatives when Newt and the Boys hit Washington), “liberal” education was not only looked at with open disdain and suspicion (unless you were a male athlete), for you might not believe in Biblical Literalism, but that you probably had been brain-washed by liberal faculty into thinking “liberally,” which meant, obviously that you were not to be trusted. I also had not attended one of the “right” seminaries (i.e., Wheaton, Dallas, Fuller, Bob Jones, etc.) so I was suspect right off the bat. Alas, I was evidently, one of those damned liberals (in the biblical sense).

The second thing I learned, despite my P.R. issues, was that, due to my education, I actually possessed the ability and capacity to think about what was being said in these mass rallies, and I began to have doubts that the party line had a basis in reality. Any basis. Hmm. This became troubling. I had been part of the organization long enough by that time to understand dissenting from the orthodoxy of Reaganomics would be called, at the very least “stinkin’ thinkin” and at worse, evidence that a SOCIALIST had infiltrated the ranks of the Chosen, and should be ostracized. Or have to buy a lot more cassette tapes.

That chapter passed. By the time Reagan’s second term finished, I was done with Am___ and Reaganomics. I still believe in free enterprise, as well as capitalism. But I will not, I cannot, rewrite the Golden Rule for my personal profit. Therefore, I hold to the principle that capitalism can be moral only in the context of how it protects those who are most vulnerable to impoverishment, and gives to them opportunities, with the benefits of assistance to raise their quality of life, while they, too, contribute to the common good. Now, I make no pretense that I am the first to view capitalism from this perspective; not being an economist, however, I just don’t know who to cite for the attribution.

Now, back to Michigan. First, I admit feeling some sympathy for those neo-con Republicans in the state’s government, as well as their Congressional delegation. They probably think they’ve been condemned to some new lower level of Dante’s hell. The one where the most faithful are hung out to dry by the leaders of the most faithful, because they are the “faithfuller” and do it, because they can. I shudder.

The good people of Michigan have a couple of other options. First, they could secede from the Union and petition Canada to be a new province. (None of that Alaskan miscreant secessionist baloney, however) After all, Detroit sits right on the border, now, and Lansing is about the same distance from Ottawa as from Washington, D.C. Canada would instantly have its very own auto industry, and the Parliament’s motivation to make it work would be enormous. The Queen could visit her new subjects so everything would get a fresh coat of paint. Think tax revenues! It would look a lot better on the maps, too, especially if they gave the upper peninsula to Wisconsin. That whole border outline thing always looks so messy in its current form.

The other option, which I find devilishly humorous, is for Michigan to declare itself as Upper Tennessee. Then watching Senator Bob Corker (R-Nissan) run for reelection would be the most fun we’ve had since watching that Iraqi reporter throw his shoes at W.

I do have one non-negotiable requirement regarding Chrysler (and I currently own a Chrysler product): Cerberus is a financial beast that should not be trusted for all the reasons I have discussed above. Before they are given a single buck of taxpayers’ dollars, they should be required to put up $10 billion in cash of their fund’s moneys to provide for the well-being of Chrysler employees, and then they can apply for a loan. They should be treated as Robber Barons until they show full faith through the common good that they are not! If you choose for your institutional identity an unrestrained ravenous beast, you should expect to be regarded to be exactly that (remember the fable of the rat and the scorpion) until you prove–beyond a shadow of a doubt–that you are domesticated and will faithfully contribute to the common good!

The common good. That is what I am saying is the only morally acceptable route to deciding how to deal with the automobile industry. And that will involve the United States government acting on behalf of the people who depend upon the industry, now. Require change? Yes. Require accountability? Yes. Require that they pay back America at a profit? Absolutely.