Bless the beasts and the children

18 11 2014

Why one law for all?

Yes, I have and will continue to bang on about principle and theory, but sometimes concrete examples work best.

Such as dead children.

Jeez louise, you might be thinking, do you really have to get all extreme about this? I mean, aren’t you exaggerating just a wee?

Nope.

Despite the deaths of least 12 children from “faith healing” Christian families in their state, lawmakers and public officials in Idaho have refused to challenge a state law providing a religious exemption from manslaughter and murder charges, Vocativ reported.

There is little push to change the laws.

“This is about religious beliefs, the belief God is in charge of whether they live, and God is in charge of whether they die,” state Rep. Christy Perry (R) said. “This is about where they go for eternity.”

The move from doctor-centered to patient-centered decision-making has, on the whole, been good for patients, and one of the most important powers which has migrated to patients has been the right to refuse treatment.

I am foursquare in favor of such a right—for an adult, for herself, for any reason.

When making decisions on another’s behalf, however—especially a child whose care the state has charged one with providing—the exercise of such power ought to be scrutinized.

Or, to put it less abstractly, parents ought not be able to refuse life-saving care for their kids, especially when such care is routine and effective, because God said so.

Parental custody is conditional, not absolute.

This shouldn’t be a controversial statement: parents who starve or beat or neglect—including medically neglect—their children may be charged with crimes and have the kids taken away from them.

But throw a veneer of religiosity over such neglect, and well, whatcha gonna do?

Jackson Scott Porter, a newborn girl. . . lived for just 20 minutes before dying in her grandfather’s home. The girl’s mother did not receive any pre-natal care. Her cause of death was listed as untreated pneumonia.

“That’s the way we believe,” the grandfather, Mark Jerome, told KATU at the time. “We believe in God and the way God handles the situation, the way we do things.”

KATU also reported that local officials believe that another minor, 14-year-old Rockwell Sevy, had undiagnosed Down’s syndrome before he also died from pneumonia, in 2011.

Sevy’s father, Dan Sevy, refused to discuss his son’s death with KATU last year, citing his right to freedom of religion.

“I would like to say, I picture freedom as a full object. It’s not like you take ‘a’ freedom away,” Dan Sevy said. “It’s that you chip at the entire thing. Freedom is freedom. Whenever you try to restrict any one person, then you’re chipping away at freedom. Yours and mine.”

This is the dumbest goddamned argument about freedom this side of Galt’s Gulch, which dumbness would make it pathetic were it not pernicious—which is to say, had it not resulted in a boy’s death.

This religious exemption necessarily removes the children in these homes from protections of the law, specifically, of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment: in allowing parents to neglect their children for religious reasons, the children in these religious households are given fewer protections of the law than children in other households.

I had thought such exemptions were narrow (confined to vaccinations, say), but they are, dismayingly, widespread.

The right of the parent to inflict her religious beliefs on the child, even if it kills him, apparently matters more than the child himself.

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Brothers in arms

21 05 2014

Given recent news, how about a rerun?

Originally posted March 1

Let us compare two votes, shall we?

One authorizes war; another authorizes benefits* for veterans of war. How well do these votes match up?

Senator Jeff Sessions, R-AL, voted in favor of the Iraq War; Senator Jeff Sessions voted against benefits for veterans of war.

Senator Richard Shelby, R-Al, voted in favor of war; Senator Shelby voted against benefits

Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-AK, voted in favor of war; Senator Murkowski did not vote on benefits.

Representative Jeff Flake, R-AZ, voted in favor of war; Senator Flake voted against benefits.

Senator John McCain, R-AZ, voted in favor of war; Senator McCain voted against benefits.

Representative John Boozman, R-AR voted in favor of war; Senator Boozman voted against benefits.

Senator Bill Nelson, D-FL, voted in favor of war; Senator Nelson did not vote on benefits.

Representative Saxby Chambliss, R-GA, voted in favor of war; Senator Chambliss voted against benefits.

Representative John Isakson, R-GA, voted in favor of war; Senator Isakson voted against benefits.

Senator Michael Crapo, R-ID, voted in favor of war; Senator Crapo voted against benefits.

Representative Mark Kirk, R-IL, voted in favor of war; Senator Kirk voted against benefits.

Senator Charles Grassley, R-IA, voted in favor of war; Senator Grassley voted against benefits.

Senator Pat Roberts, R-KS, voted in favor of war; Senator Roberts voted against benefits.

Senator Mitch McConnell, R-KY, voted in favor of war; Senator McConnell voted against benefits.

Representative David Vitter, R-LA, voted in favor of war; Senator Vitter voted against benefits.

Senator Susan Collins, R-ME, voted in favor of war; Senator Collins voted against benefits.

Senator Thad Cochran, R-MS, voted in favor of war; Senator Cochran voted against benefits.

Representative Roger Wicker, R-MS, voted in favor of war; Senator Wicker did not vote on benefits.

Representative Roy Blunt, R-MO, voted in favor of war; Senator Blunt voted against benefits.

Representative Richard Burr, R-NC, voted in favor of war; Senator Burr voted against benefits.

Representative Rob Portman, R-OH, voted in favor of war; Senator Portman voted against benefits.

Senator Jim Inhofe, R-OK, voted in favor of war; Senator Inhofe voted against benefits.

Representative Pat Toomey, R-PA, voted in favor of war; Senator Toomey voted against benefits.

Representative Lindsay Graham, R-SC, voted in favor of war; Senator Graham voted against benefits.

Representative John Thune, R-SD, voted in favor of war; Senator Thune voted against benefits.

Senator Orrin Hatch, R-UT, voted in favor of war; Senator Hatch voted against benefits.

Senator Michael Enzi, R-WY, voted in favor of war; Senator Enzi voted against benefits.

Those who voted for the war and for benefits:

  • Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-CA
  • Senator Thomas Carper, D-DE
  • Representative/Senator Jerry Moran, R-KS
  • Senator Mary Landrieu, D-LA
  • Representative/Senator Ed Markey, D-MA
  • Senator Harry Reid, D-NV
  • Senator Chuck Schumer, D-NY
  • Senator Tim Johnson, D-SD
  • Senator Maria Cantwell, D-WA
  • Senator Jay Rockefeller, D-WV

Those who voted against the war and for benefits:

  • Senator Barbara Boxer, D-CA
  • Representative/Senator Mark Udall, D-CO
  • Senator Benjamin Cardin, D-MD
  • Senator Barbara Mikulski, D-MD
  • Senator Carl Levin, D-MI
  • Senator Debbie Stabenow, D-MI
  • Representative/Senator Bob Menéndez, D-NJ
  • Representative/Senator Tom Udall, D-NM
  • Representative/Senator Sherrod Brown, D-OH
  • Senator Ron Wyden, D-OR
  • Senator John Reed, D-RI
  • Senator Patrick Leahy, D-VT
  • Representative/Senator Bernie Sanders, I-VT (sponsor of benefits bill S.1982)
  • Senator Patty Murray, D-WA
  • Representative/Senator Tammy Baldwin, D-WI

If you don’t want to pay for the consequences of war, then DON’T VOTE FOR WAR.

And, goddammit, if we do go to war, then you pay to take care of those who fought the war.

Even soldiers in a stupid, shitty, pointless war deserve care.

*Technically, this was a cloture vote (requiring 60 votes to succeed), which is to say, a vote to stop a filibuster; voting yes on cloture would end debate and allow a majority vote on the legislation to proceed. The vote failed, 56-41.

~~~

According to Alan Fram of the Associated Press,

Republicans criticized how most of Sanders’ bill was paid for — with unspent money from the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and the winding down of American military involvement in Afghanistan. The GOP says those are not real savings because no one expected those dollars to be spent as those wars ended.

I’d go back and see how many of these. . . statesmen voted in favor of war-time tax cuts, but I really don’t have the heart.





Money for nothing

1 03 2014

Let us compare two votes, shall we?

One authorizes war; another authorizes benefits* for veterans of war. How well do these votes match up?

Senator Jeff Sessions, R-AL, voted in favor of the Iraq War; Senator Jeff Sessions voted against benefits for veterans of war.

Senator Richard Shelby, R-Al, voted in favor of war; Senator Shelby voted against benefits

Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-AK, voted in favor of war; Senator Murkowski did not vote on benefits.

Representative Jeff Flake, R-AZ, voted in favor of war; Senator Flake voted against benefits.

Senator John McCain, R-AZ, voted in favor of war; Senator McCain voted against benefits.

Representative John Boozman, R-AR voted in favor of war; Senator Boozman voted against benefits.

Senator Bill Nelson, D-FL, voted in favor of war; Senator Nelson did not vote on benefits.

Representative Saxby Chambliss, R-GA, voted in favor of war; Senator Chambliss voted against benefits.

Representative John Isakson, R-GA, voted in favor of war; Senator Isakson voted against benefits.

Senator Michael Crapo, R-ID, voted in favor of war; Senator Crapo voted against benefits.

Representative Mark Kirk, R-IL, voted in favor of war; Senator Kirk voted against benefits.

Senator Charles Grassley, R-IA, voted in favor of war; Senator Grassley voted against benefits.

Senator Pat Roberts, R-KS, voted in favor of war; Senator Roberts voted against benefits.

Senator Mitch McConnell, R-KY, voted in favor of war; Senator McConnell voted against benefits.

Representative David Vitter, R-LA, voted in favor of war; Senator Vitter voted against benefits.

Senator Susan Collins, R-ME, voted in favor of war; Senator Collins voted against benefits.

Senator Thad Cochran, R-MS, voted in favor of war; Senator Cochran voted against benefits.

Representative Roger Wicker, R-MS, voted in favor of war; Senator Wicker did not vote on benefits.

Representative Roy Blunt, R-MO, voted in favor of war; Senator Blunt voted against benefits.

Representative Richard Burr, R-NC, voted in favor of war; Senator Burr voted against benefits.

Representative Rob Portman, R-OH, voted in favor of war; Senator Portman voted against benefits.

Senator Jim Inhofe, R-OK, voted in favor of war; Senator Inhofe voted against benefits.

Representative Pat Toomey, R-PA, voted in favor of war; Senator Toomey voted against benefits.

Representative Lindsay Graham, R-SC, voted in favor of war; Senator Graham voted against benefits.

Representative John Thune, R-SD, voted in favor of war; Senator Thune voted against benefits.

Senator Orrin Hatch, R-UT, voted in favor of war; Senator Hatch voted against benefits.

Senator Michael Enzi, R-WY, voted in favor of war; Senator Enzi voted against benefits.

Those who voted for the war and for benefits:

  • Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-CA
  • Senator Thomas Carper, D-DE
  • Representative/Senator Jerry Moran, R-KS
  • Senator Mary Landrieu, D-LA
  • Representative/Senator Ed Markey, D-MA
  • Senator Harry Reid, D-NV
  • Senator Chuck Schumer, D-NY
  • Senator Tim Johnson, D-SD
  • Senator Maria Cantwell, D-WA
  • Senator Jay Rockefeller, D-WV

Those who voted against the war and for benefits:

  • Senator Barbara Boxer, D-CA
  • Representative/Senator Mark Udall, D-CO
  • Senator Benjamin Cardin, D-MD
  • Senator Barbara Mikulski, D-MD
  • Senator Carl Levin, D-MI
  • Senator Debbie Stabenow, D-MI
  • Representative/Senator Bob Menéndez, D-NJ
  • Representative/Senator Tom Udall, D-NM
  • Representative/Senator Sherrod Brown, D-OH
  • Senator Ron Wyden, D-OR
  • Senator John Reed, D-RI
  • Senator Patrick Leahy, D-VT
  • Representative/Senator Bernie Sanders, I-VT (sponsor of benefits bill S.1982)
  • Senator Patty Murray, D-WA
  • Representative/Senator Tammy Baldwin, D-WI

If you don’t want to pay for the consequences of war, then DON’T VOTE FOR WAR.

And, goddammit, if we do go to war, then you pay to take care of those who fought the war.

Even soldiers in a stupid, shitty, pointless war deserve care.

*Technically, this was a cloture vote (requiring 60 votes to succeed), which is to say, a vote to stop a filibuster; voting yes on cloture would end debate and allow a majority vote on the legislation to proceed. The vote failed, 56-41.

~~~

According to Alan Fram of the Associated Press,

Republicans criticized how most of Sanders’ bill was paid for — with unspent money from the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and the winding down of American military involvement in Afghanistan. The GOP says those are not real savings because no one expected those dollars to be spent as those wars ended.

I’d go back and see how many of these. . . statesmen voted in favor of war-time tax cuts, but I really don’t have the heart.





Help me, I think I’m falling

10 11 2011

D. was kind.

Her younger sister, J., was glamorous and a little forbidding, but D. was warm and she asked questions and listened to the answers, and even my teenaged snot-self could see that it was not a bad thing that my older cousin was soft and caring. We both loved animals, could always talk about animals.

I didn’t see her much: the occasional Sundays and my grandma’s, and, later, she and her husband would always at least stop by for the holidays; I’d sometimes see her at her job at the mall. Always, again, still warm, still kind. A little sad, maybe, but not crushingly so. She had a weakness for the weak, so it made sense that her kindness could also make her sad.

And it has again, or so I’d guess. I just found out that her house had been condemned, and that she was taken into custody for hoarding. Forty cats, 5? 7? dogs, a number of birds. The place smelled so bad passersby complained to the police. My parents told me so many of the cats were sick, emaciated; they probably had to be put down.

It was on the news, my mom said. It was really upsetting, to see those cats like that. She worked at a vet’s office, and these cats had ear infections, eye infections—she couldn’t get them treated? But then again, that was probably where the problem began, she reasoned. People probably brought in animals they wanted to get rid of and D. took them in.

And it got to be too much, I nodded. She wanted to save them, thought she could save them, and when she couldn’t take care of them she wasn’t able to ask for help.

I feel so bad for those animals; I feel so bad for D.

I hope they all get help.





No one is alone. . .

13 05 2009

. . . Oh yes, we are. Or is that ‘Oh yes, one is’?

Anyway.

Many of us to choose to live alone, and we cultivate our solitude even as we cultivate friends. Some of us would like to marry or attach ourselves to a intimate companion, but we’re not necessarily distraught over the lack of such a companion.

We’re alone, and we’re all right.

And yet, even if we’re—oh hell, lemme switch to the (duh) singular—even if I’m okay with my solitary existence, I’m okay because it is not only solitary. Among the main reasons I left Bummerville was the difficulty in finding friends—true friends, people with whom I’d share ideas and embarassments and beers and tears, not just folks with whom sharing went no further than ‘What’s new?’ There were a few people, here and there, but I lacked that gathering of intimates, the jumble of personalities who, collectively, form a kind of thick weave of comfort around oneself.

I can’t say I’ve fully cultivated those rich layers of friendships in New York City, but I have discovered some people who I hope to spend the rest of my life getting to know, and some of whom I already consider good friends. This is a tough old broad of a place, and as much affection as I might have for tough old broads, I also need trusted allies in dealing with her. Hence, the friends.

That works for regular life. What, however, of the ruptures of illness or trauma or disability of whatever sort? On her NYTimes blog, The Well, Tara Parker-Pope highlighted a report from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation on the difficulties same-sex couples may encounter in trying to care for their partners in hospitals. She notes that

While heterosexual couples typically don’t have to provide marriage licenses to hospitals in order to prove they are husband and wife, same sex couples often must document their relationship to hospital officials before being allowed to take part in a partner’s care.

In some cases partners and their children were barred from the bedside, and their beloved died alone. Even when they had documentation of their relationship, including legal papers in which they were designated as health proxies or given durable power of attorney, the partner often had to fight to be able to care for his or her companion.

I’m not going to go into the idiocy and brutality of exclusionary policies—commentors on the blog do that quite nicely—but instead will simply note that same-sex couples and single people are in many ways in the same unseaworthy boat: We’re screwed when we need help and institutions won’t recognize those whom we would like to help us.

Even when I was straighter than I currently am, I believed that single (straight) women should unhesitatingly support gay rights. Control over one’s body? Check. Control over one’s sexuality? Check. To live outside of normal sex roles? Check. To choose to have kids or not, and in what circumstances? Check. To live one’s life in a way that makes sense to her? Check.

Attacks on LGBT folk for their (our) allegedy degenerative effects on the rest of the healthy, wholesome, heterosexual social body can, without much imagination, morph into attacks on single folks themselves. Marriage is sacred, marriage is the foundation of society, heterosexual commitment is required for stable communities, sex outside of the bonds of matrimony is empty and selfish and dangerous, blah blah. There is One Right Way To Be, and to Not-Be that way is to be, well, ‘that way’.

Fine, so I’m ‘that way’ in more than one way. But this is how and who I am, and I’d like some security in my lonely and alienated unpredictable and gratifyingly cobbled-together life. And as much as I support same-sex marriage, I want to make sure that those of us who choose not marry don’t get left behind in that leaky boat.

Queer folk have (along with feminists) questioned the boundaries of matrimony and family and rightfully demanded reconsiderations of those boundaries to include a panoply of orientations and identities. This is good. But if the efforts to broaden the definition of marriage serve only to reinforce its privileges, well, that’s not so good.

So what do we single folk do? Do we follow the route taken by domestic partners and file paperwork designating friends as health care proxies? Do we give a list of approved visitors to any hospitals we use, so administrators don’t have to worry about violating HIPAA [privacy] regs?

If I’m in an accident or get sick, I want my friends to know. (Well, honestly, part of me wants to tough it out alone, the same part which is berating me for saying I want my friends to know. But hospitals suck and they suck even more when you’re in one alone. So Shut up, me.) I want them asking about my care and in my room and, if necessary, kicking someone’s ass on my behalf.

I want them to do what my family, a thousand miles away, couldn’t do. I want my people, here, to be with me.

Maybe this starts in conversations with friends. We talk to one another, find out what kind of support we have and don’t have, want and don’t want. Tell each other what we want from each other, what we’re willing and able to provide to one another.

I’m still assembling my life, and while it’s possible that at some point I could meet someone who could be a lifelong companion, I’m not waiting for him or her.

This is it. I am alone in this city—except for my friends. That’s a damned significant exception, and I’d like these folks to be able to act as my Significant Others.





This is the last day of our acquaintance

27 04 2009

The whole world ending is only an abstractly-sad prospect. A particular person’s world collapsing is acutely so.

Jon Katz at Bedlam Farm has been chronicling the last days of a dairy farm, noting that he had been hoping to persuade the farmer, Jon Clark, to allow himself to be photographed.

Go, look at the photo of Jon Clark, posted at 9:02pm, April 26, and the other shots of the barn and the cows and the emptiness which follows after a man’s life has been tugged away from him.

I grew up in a small town in a dairy farming area. When I was a little girl I wanted so much to live on a farm. I loved animals and the whole idea of haylofts and horses and running through rows of corn.  Then I got older, and my loves shifted to theatre and partying and, oh yes, sleep. Still, when my high school friend K. asked if I wanted to help her with the evening milking at her family’s farm, I said sure. Hey, it’s all automated now, isn’t it?

Ha. Yes, there are milking machines, but each one has to be hooked up to each cow, and each teat has to washed before or after (or maybe both—I don’t remember) to prevent mastistis. Anyway, once you’ve managed to slip the suction cones over each teat, you have to plug the tube running from the cones into the overhead pipe, where the milk is sent streaming down the length of the barn to the milk-collection room. Given my vertical disadvantage, this was a challenge.

Hell, given my clumsiness, the whole operation was a challenge. K.’s family had, I don’t know, a hundred? a few hundred? cows, and the twice-a-day milkings each took a couple of hours (even when they weren’t, um, helped by the likes of me). Then, of course, there was the moving of the cows out of the barn and into the pasture and back again. And checking the chickens and feeding the horses. And the mucking out of the stalls, and the hauling of the piss-and-shit-layered hay out of the barn and into I cannot remember where.

Wheelbarrows: They seem like such a simple technology. Really, what could be harder to push around? Well, add a hundred or so pounds of whatever, and you keep it on the straight and narrow. At one point I had K. in the barrow, and I managed to steer so well she ended up in the shit trough. (Yes, she got me back.)

Farming is incredibly hard work, and family farmers especially always have to be concerned with prices and credit and commodities markets. For those of us who like both to eat and to take care of the animals (or whose products) we consume, paying attention to where our food comes from is not just paying attention to the animals, but to the men and women, boys and girls, who tend to them.

Men like Jon Clark, who loaded his favorite cow Sable into a truck and sent her away.





Some cats know

27 08 2008

How skinny can a cat get before her human realizes she needs to do something?

I have two cats, one fat, one skinny, both old. They have dry food whenever they want, canned food on the weekends, and wheatgrass when I can remember to grow it for them.

Skinny cat, who is 17 1/2, has been getting skinnier and skinnier. For the longest time, I thought, Oh, she’s just getting old, that’s what happens. Her eyes are bright, she’s still fairly agile, she’s in no pain, she eats, drinks, eliminates, does what she’s always done (albeit slower). No problem. Sure, I was worried enough to check some manuals on cat care, but weight loss and age seemed to go together.

Then, the other day, I looked at her—really looked at her. That hanging gut that used to sway from side to side as she ran: gone. It was never fat—it looked more like a wattle, loose skin—so I figured it was simply an artifact from her long-ago spaying. But it was gone. And finally, finally, it hit me: my cat was wasting away.

I know: stupid human, it took you this long to figure it out? I’d been thinking that, hmm, maybe I should do something about this, maybe give her more canned food (but what about Fat Cat, who absolutely does not need more calories? what about the LOGISTICS?), but did nothing. (Oh, and did I even consider that part of the problem may be difficulty in chewing hard food? Did I even bother to check her teeth? You know the answer.) Well, fuck logistics. Skinny Cat is going to get a supplement of canned food EVERY DAY for the REST OF HER LIFE.

It didn’t really hit me, until this past year, about the need to reconsider my approach to my cats. Skinny Cat has gotten messier, needier, more of a pain in the ass, really, and my patience was eroding. And then I thought, What am I going to do? And I going to get rid of her because she’s, oh, inconvenient? Because she’s not that psycho kitty doing a frankenstein walk and cracking me up? She’s old and messy and needy, and I can either resent her for that or reset my expectations.

I don’t have a partner or kids, and my family lives a thousand miles away. My understandings of how to care for aging, messy, needy beings is theoretical, at best. I haven’t taken on the obligations of commitment, haven’t promised to care for someone else, full stop.

Or so I thought.