In January, House Republican Chris Smith introduced HR 3, the so-called No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act. And yesterday, a Florida federal judge ruled that the health insurance mandate is unconstitutional.

Both are examples of the unintended consequences of well-meaning legislation.

Yesterday’s ruling against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare” or the health reform law) was the second to cite the individual mandate as the chief sticking point. Simply put, the U.S. Constitution doesn’t grant Congress the authority to require Americans to buy a private product or service. (Most state constitutions do, which is why we have to have auto insurance if we drive.)

Proponents of Obamacare either scoff at A) these rulings as mere “judicial activism” or B) the idea that someone would want to refuse to buy health insurance. Or both.

But they haven’t considered the implications of this law, if these judges’ ruling are overturned. It would mean that Congress can require private citizens to buy ANYTHING.

Do you like the idea of a future Congress beholden to Big Oil pushing a law requiring we buy a certain amount of fuel? It’s not outside the realm of possibility if Obamacare’s individual mandate stands.

Lawmakers don’t do this nearly enough, but they really ought to slow down, look at the logical end of their bill(s) and consider this question: “If my bitterest political enemy got ahold of this legislation — or the precedent it sets — what harm could he do with it?”

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EXHIBIT 2:

Chris Smith’s a pro-life, anti-abortion congressman, and his bill is an attempt to squeeze the funding for this practice that’s wiped out over 50 million young Americans (at the behest of their own mothers).

I’m not against that. I frankly find it offensive at best that some of my tax dollars are funneled into abortions, a medical procedure that is almost never, EVER medically necessary. So any legislation that starves this grisly industry of public money is a good thing in my book.

However, just like Obamacare, there’s some nasty unintended consequences in this bill.

See, federal funding for abortion has long been restricted only to cases of rape and incest. Smith’s bill would narrow that restriction to include only “forcible rape” as defined by the FBI — that is, rape that occurs under the use or threat of physical harm.

The bill doesn’t actually legally redefine rape as some fear it does. But come on! Rape is rape because it’s forced! Regardless of how it happens!

This is a bad bill. Just as the health insurance mandate sets a dangerous precedent for unwanted government intrusion down the line, so too does this well-meaning attempt to constrict the holocaust of abortion have a negative effect on the equally horrible epidemic of sexual assault.

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Yesterday, almost straight down party lines, health care reform got repealed in the House of Representatives.

Readers know I’m not a fan of the law, so I’m rather OK with this largely symbolic development (after all, it’s not like this little repeal is going to pass the Senate AND escape being vetoed by President Obama). And this is actually good form on the part of the Republicans to actually attempt to deliver on a major campaign platform.

However.

For all my vehement objections to the health care law’s immoral aspects and the super-partisan, closed-door, zero-involvement-from-the-minority-party nature of its creation, I still just as forcefully say that some sort of health care reform is still needed.

Republicans need to step up to the plate with their ideas for health care now that both parties are forced to listen to each other for the first time in this century. And they need to do it soon.

It’s been way, wayyyyyy too long since the last update to this long, lonnnnnng-running series. Time to wrap it up, already.

(I actually found I had three — three — false starts to this final chapter in my drafts folder. *shaking my head*)

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It has also come to my attention, as I’m writing this, that Irvin Kershner, the director of The Empire Strikes Back, has passed away today at the the age of 87 [EDIT: it was Saturday, Nov. 27]. My condolences to his family and friends. I pray he is now in the arms of Our Lord  Jesus Christ. Needless to say, he will be remembered and beloved by generations of Americans for his contribution to the Star Wars saga. And I can think of no better tribute than to actually finish this retrospective on his most famous work.

Irvin Kershner, 1932-2010

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OK, so my nine-year-old mind has already been utterly blown by the incomprehensible sight of Luke getting literally disarmed mere moments ago. Now my hero can only cringe and crawl away from the embodiment of evil:

This image has stuck with me; Luke can only pathetically inch away from Darth Vader over the yawning abyss beneath.

So Vader’s attempting to tempt Luke to know the POWAH of the dark side of the Force, and Luke’s having none of it. He’s good. Vader’s bad. He’s the golden-haired, blue-eyed hero, Vader’s the villain in black. For goodness’ sake, Luke is an actual whole human being (well, up until a minute ago). Vader’s humanity, this tantalizing glimpse notwithstanding, is definitely in question.

That is, until the matter of Luke’s father comes up in the conversation.

Vader: …Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father.
Luke: He told me enough! He told me you killed him.
Vader: No. I am your father.

Huh?

WHAT?

No, he had to be lying. This is a bad guy. THE bad guy. He’s spent the last two hours choking underlings for even minor failings, welching on deals, torturing and freezing Luke’s friends and even maiming Luke. It’s just…

…Not.

Possible.

But Luke’s anguished denial is, like mine was, more based on emotion than on fact. And while Vader’s certainly given us reason to distrust him, even at age nine I had to consider this news could be true.

(This coincides with a fascinating quote in the 1997 book Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays from director Kershner: “…Now, I was talking to kids, and I discovered that children below the age of nine say, ‘No, no, he’s not his father, he’s lying.’ They can’t accept it. About [age] ten on, they accept it.”

My only brother is 2.5 younger than I am, and his experience supports this hypothesis; he totally disbelieved while I accepted it while wanting to disbelieve it.)

When the very embodiment of evil shares a kinship with the golden heroic ideal, a powerful LIFE LESSON emerges: Nothing’s ever absolutely black & white in this world…except the truth!

Here, then, Luke’s earlier vows to never join Vader or be lost to the Emperor are put to the test. He’d made those vows A) without knowing the truth and B) assuming that he couldn’t possibly lose. Now he has two excellent reasons to renounce those vows: his thought-long-dead father is alive and he will certainly die if he doesn’t join him.

That Luke chooses certain death by stepping out into the bottomless abyss is a powerful reinforcement to a LIFE LESSON learned way back in Part 5: Shun evil. NO MATTER WHAT.

This shot of Luke falling toward the camera is the one that stuck with me...showing that the seemingly bottomless pit apparently had no TOP, either.

And just when it seems nothing could get worse, it does. Luke ends up stuck on the underside of Cloud City, barely suspended over the truly bottomless drop of the gaseous planet. The scene of the maimed Luke reduced to begging the spirit of Ben Kenobi to help him remains the very picture of hopelessness.

(It also struck me as incredibly useless. What could Ben DO? …Even if he HADN’T warned Luke he couldn’t help him if the young Jedi faced Vader? An unfortunate lesson I almost gained here was: If you disobey your mentors, don’t come crying to them for help when you fail. But the truer LIFE LESSON was: If one person or method doesn’t help, try another. Sometimes it’s the unlikeliest one that saves you.

And so, Luke is rescued, by the very ones he came to the city to rescue. (Two earlier Lessons on not forsaking friends and never giving up are reinforced here.)

After so many dark events, a bit of fun returns to the proceedings as the Falcon’s hyperdrive fails again. I wondered if we might be in store for another extended chase scene like earlier in the film.

It becomes plain, though, that the end is near, as Vader begins to telepathically speak to Luke, father to son:

…and it’s their mutual references to each other as father and son, along with Luke’s openly wondering why Ben Kenobi had lied to him, that sealed the question for me whether Vader was telling the truth.

(For the moment, anyhow. It was going to be a lonnng three years before the question would be fully settled in Return of the Jedi.)

The whole film had taken my naive expectation that the Good Guys Always Win and flipped it upside down, crashed it, exploded it, frozen it and cut off its sword-arm for good measure. So when the Falcon finally makes it into hyperspace and safety…

…the LIFE LESSON that I took from it is this: Even if you’re losing just about as badly as you CAN lose, just one clean escape to fight another day is as good as a win.

On the flipside, Darth Vader, who’s been summarily and capriciously executing subordinates for their failure to capture the Falcon under much more difficult circumstances for two hours of film time, suddenly fails to execute ANYONE for letting the tiny ship escape for good literally right under the flagship’s nose.

I could speculate a half-dozen solid reasons why. But for the purposes of this series, it merely served as a mild reinforcement to the LIFE LESSON learned from Darth Vader’s dark revelation: Nothing is absolutely good or bad…and that apparently includes Darth Vader, too.

That does it for the Life Lessons. But I have just a couple more thoughts and impressions from the very end of the film.

Lando = NOT scruffy-looking. But I totally noticed how he was dressed like Han Solo and wondered if Han was truly being written out of the series. At this point, ANYTHING seemed possible after the events of this film.

And Luke gets a new hand.

OK. Space health care is pretty good. (You'll note that it's private and NOT public, as the Rebel Alliance isn't an official government.) 🙂

I also really, REALLY didn’t want the movie to be over. John Williams’ wonderful love theme (which reminded me so much of the Gone With The Wind theme that I conflated the two for years after) truly reflected the yearning emotion that the heroes have for their lost, frozen friend and, in this viewer, the yearning for this incredible film to not be over.

But, of course, I knew it was.

Thus I’ve finally almost completed my look back at my all-time favorite movie. I want to compile all the Life Lessons learned into one summary as a bookend…and perhaps I’ll get to that by Christmas. Thank you for reading and for your patience.

I wrote a longer version of this over in my Facebook notes page that directly addressed, point-by-point,  a propaganda piece posted by the White House. I thought it deserved a mention in my own blog.

I agree that health care in the U.S. could use some fixing. Insurance costs keep rising and rising, pricing many people out of needed coverage. Generally healthy people are denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions. Health care reform’s time has come and it’s the right thing to do.

But the bills Congress is voting on tonight and in the days or weeks to come are not the right thing, because of these major ethical blind spots:

1. Key congressional votes had to be extorted. A good plan doesn’t need bribery. But that’s precisely what it took to persuade some non-party-line-toeing Democrats to go along with it — a new hospital here, an exemption from Medicare cuts there — and the rest of the country’s footing the bill. That’s not right. That’s wrong.

2. The truly indigent and uninsured STILL won’t be covered. The homeless, especially the mentally ill, won’t be able to pay into the system and yet they need the health care more than the rest of us. And how about the absolute weakest among us: the unborn? As currently written, this bill doesn’t protect them if their mothers won’t. Again…wrong. And, related to this point…

3. It treats abortion as essential health care. Even if one doesn’t think life begins at conception, one must concede that abortion should then be considered elective surgery at best. The American people shouldn’t be paying for elective surgery — especially because in the eyes of many people, including myself, it’s ending an individual life.

The latest news has President Obama promising an executive order banning abortion funding in health care reform, which swayed a crucial bloc of anti-abortion Democrats. The problem with that, I understand, is that when an executive order directly conflicts with the bill signed into law, the federal statute takes precedence.
If true, I have to marvel: did Obama knowingly make such an empty promise? Or was he unaware of the executive order vs. law issue? Neither option casts him in a good light.
Bottom line? Abortion’s still in this bill, and it’s still wrong. The truly insane thing is that this whole bill would have passed months ago if not for the pro-abortion crowd’s utter insistence on passing it with the abortion funding sans existing federal restrictions on the practice.

4. It’s fiscally irresponsible. This plan does little to actually address the main reasons for high medical costs (why is there zero tort reform in these bills? Why doesn’t it allow plans to cross state lines?) and, Congressional Budget Office projections notwithstanding, we simply can’t afford it. The only reason it’s “deficit-neutral” is because it begins collecting money from new taxes and cuts from other programs years before it begins paying out any benefit. The amount that’s being spent on this bill is at least twice what it’d take to buy an insurance policy for every uninsured American.

Those are just the major reasons. I won’t go into:
  • the mandated health insurance requirement forcing everyone to get insurance whether they want it or not or
  • that a lot of non-health care stuff is funded (student loans? Really?) or
  • that a majority of polled Americans are against it yet the majority party continues on this course or
  • that the promised-to-be-transparent process was almost completely done in secret or
  • that the health insurance lobby has been oddly silent through all this, especially lately (Hmm.) or
  • that they’re voting into law a massive bill that isn’t even final.
The nation’s gone long enough without meaningful health reform that it’s simply good sense to do it right with relative baby steps instead of doing it wrong all at once and spending the next generation trying to fix the mistake we made.

That’s my take. What’s yours? I’d like to hear some different pro and cons I may not have considered.

It’s time.

2010/03/18

I’ve been sitting on this blog for a while now.

I’ve been wondering what tack I should take, since I hear that the most successful blogs tend to have a razor-sharp focus on a particular subject. But I don’t want to be stuck on a single subject.

The other issue is that I didn’t want to jump directly into some heavy subject right away. Yes, I want to write about Truth. Contrary to what our morally relativistic culture would have you believe, absolute truth does exist. And it behooves us as thinking beings to strive to know that absolute truth to the best extent that our finite minds can grasp it.

Yes, I want to write about Justice. Plainly put, some things are just right and some things are just wrong. The element that steers matters toward the “right” side of the scale is Justice. That’s what I’m about.

Yes, I want to write about the Way. Not the “American way,” but the Way referred to in the New Testament. And I wish to do so in a thoroughly non-religious fashion.

Finally, I want this blog to also have a fun side, as evidenced by its title’s evocation of the introduction to the old “Superman” TV Show (see 0:35-0:45):

I like comic books and superheroes. Always will. So I’ll frequently write about them as well.

I hope you’ll stick with me as I feel my way through this new venture.

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Now. The reasons why I finally decided to quit waffling and just do this.

1) The graphic design programs I was working on just crashed. I needed something else to do for an hour or so while I burned off my frustration.

2) I keep hearing about new nonsense coming out of Washington D.C. surrounding this health care reform bill.

First: somehow, a nearly trillion-dollar new government program is supposed to reduce the federal deficit.

What?

The reason it can do this, apparently, is that the taxes and other revenue-building tactics begin years before any benefits start to pay out. Oh.

Second: I’m starting to notice that the health insurance industry is not very vocal in its opposition to this reform bill. That’s really got my alarm bells ringing. Some of my left-wing fellow Americans are noticing, as well.

Third: Meanwhile, my right-wing American neighbors across the nation are railing against something called a “deem-as-passed” procedure that could sort of pass a not-finalized, not-voted-on health reform bill. Is that even legal? ‘Cause it’s certainly not right.

I could go on, but I really don’t want to get any further into it.

3) I read some great comic books this week, including one starring my favorite superhero, Aquaman.

Back in grad school, I used to write a little comic book review column on Usenet forums called “This Ain’t A Library, Kid!” I’m wondering if I ought to start something like that again. For now, though, I think I’ll leave it at quoting my favorite line from a comic this week:

…..

…actually, it’s a tie.

“The sea covers 70% of the Earth’s surface…the land, only 30%. Why would I ever wish to settle for less?”Aquaman, replying to a devil’s offer to rule the surface world in The Brave and the Bold #32 (April 2010).

“Who can stop me? WHO?!”Gamora, “deadliest woman in the galaxy,” in combat against endless hordes in Guardians of the Galaxy #24 (April 2010).