Snap Out Of It

September is mental health awareness and suicide prevention month.

Suicidal depression and suicide itself come with a stigma that we haven’t found a way to overcome. I don’t talk to my friends and family about my continuing struggles with depression because they wouldn’t understand. Very few people I know – including two of my spiritual leaders – know the truth about my demons. I have PTSD from the severe bullying and abuse I took as a kid and the further targeting I lived with as an adult; all I want is a sense of purpose. To be able to do something decent with my life, something that means more than just making money. There are many times when I’ve asked myself if I’m really only in public safety so I don’t feel like I’m completely worthless.

When you spend your entire youth listening to everyone around you tell you that you’re not enough, it’s impossible to believe you have any worth.

It doesn’t help when you hit adulthood and things don’t get any better. The guys who write for the Rhino Den have been writing a series of articles about suicide among veterans. Peter Nealen talked about needing a sense of purpose, and despite the fact that I’ve never deployed, I know that need. Many vets just don’t know how to live outside of the structure of the military. Some thrive on the belief that they’re doing something good, serving a higher purpose. I feel that in public safety. Many of the men and women I work with feel it as well. Four of my friends have committed suicide in the past five years. Three of them were from police and fire departments that I work closely with.

Even when not suicidal, depression is a deep, dark hole that crushes you. All you can think of is what’s going to go wrong. You don’t want to get out of bed much of the time. You don’t want to go out and do anything or see anybody; you don’t want to even attempt to be social. Sometimes you force yourself to just to know that you’re still human. People who know will tell you to “just snap out of it”, as if it’s that simple. As if you’re making a conscious choice to live in pain. For me, at least, it’s as if people are pushing and shoving me while I fight to stay on my feet, teetering on the edge of a cliff – and it sometimes gets to the point that the bottom of that cliff looks more appealing than the fight to avoid falling.

I am alive because I fear having to answer to G-d more than I fear my worthlessness. It doesn’t dull the pain in the least. There are days when all I can think of are the many moments where my social ineptitude has been painfully obvious. There are days when I’m afraid that I’ll never be given a chance to prove myself. As angry as I get at my friends who have ended their own lives, I have to say that I also understand where they were when they left so abruptly.

There are people who like to make a scene by saying that they’re suicidal. They actually enjoy the emergency response they get when they tell someone they want to die. I don’t write this to say that I am suicidal…I write it to bring attention to an issue that far too many people fear because they don’t understand it. It’s not just gay youth who are depressed and suicidal. Veterans and public safety workers are often at the highest risk for depression and suicide.

Telling someone to “get over it” or “snap out of it” is the worst thing you can say. Educate yourself. Those who need that sense of belonging, worth, and purpose are often the last ones you’d expect to find standing on the edge.

This Isn’t What You Think It Is

My home state, Texas, is currently considering a major abortion bill. It passed the State House overwhelmingly yesterday and is being voted on by the State Senate as I type. The bill would ban abortions after 20 weeks – it would also require abortion clinics to be licensed surgical centers.

I don’t see a problem with this. 20 weeks is five months – a fetus born after only five months’ gestation would have a tough time surviving and need delicate care for a few weeks in a NICU, but it is still a viable fetus. It is still a life. I have a serious problem with the ease with which anyone can get an abortion – rather than using it as a last resort, it is used as birth control. That should never have been acceptable. Never mind adoption or the fact that most states allow you to give up a baby safely within a certain period of time after it is born without having to fear criminal reprisal.

As for the requirement that all abortion clinics obtain certification as surgical centers, I believe this is extremely important. Not having such a requirement leaves women vulnerable to unsanitary conditions and unsafe practices. One already has to be a licensed doctor to practice in an abortion clinic, but there are doctors like Kermit Gosnell lurking in every state – animals willing to hire untrained medical techs in lieu of nurses and won’t hire a cleaning staff, won’t use sterilized instruments, and engages in peddling narcotic analgesics (and allowing the staff to do so as well) to make a little extra money. Those types of people tend to prey on the poor and often operate in neighborhoods full of uneducated minorities who are desperate to avoid having a child.

Nearly half of all states have had to raid and close abortion clinics within their borders, but you don’t hear about them on the news. Why? Abortion-rights advocates don’t want the truth getting out. Before the Texas House debate on the current bill, Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) gave an impassioned speech against the bill, asking, “do you wanna return back to the coat hanger? Or do you wanna give them an option to be able to terminate their pregnancy because they have been raped?”

Mrs. Thompson completely skips over reality with her statement. She, like many liberals, uses hysteria and misinformation to drum up opposition for the bill. She also completely ignores the fact that using a coat hanger is actually probably safer than going to a clinic like the one run by Kermit Gosnell; a woman is far less likely to end up with MRSA that way.

The way nearly every major municipality in America works, when you are raped, the first thing you should do – whether or not you require immediate medical attention – is call 911. Don’t call your friends or your parents, you should call 911, tell the dispatcher where you are, tell them you’ve been raped and they will send police and paramedics. Don’t eat or drink anything, don’t shower, don’t brush your hair – if you must, wrap yourself in a blanket, but don’t discard your clothing. Don’t allow anyone to touch you. If you do require medical attention for life-threatening injuries, you’ll go to the hospital and a forensic nurse will meet you there. If your injuries are not life-threatening, you’ll go to a family advocacy center or something similar; a police officer will have to stay with you at all times. A forensic nurse will collect what is famously referred to as a “rape kit” – it is a pre-packaged kit that directs the collection of vital evidence (like bodily fluids containing DNA) and take pictures of your injuries (cameras can often capture injuries that the naked eye cannot). When the exam is over, the nurse will give you a packet of information on getting tested for HIV and other STDs along with prescriptions for several drugs that will help ward off the initial symptoms of any STDs your attacker may have had.

Among those prescriptions will be one for the morning-after pill. It will be your decision whether to take it. A rape kit is not meant to be paid for by you, nor are the prescriptions.

What happens following a rape is fairly simple. It’s easy to obtain a morning-after pill and I have no problem with that in cases of rape and incest. A coat hanger is a solution that would not become a viable one until at least 12 weeks following a rape. Generally, victims have time to do something well before that point. Unless you’re being held captive by your attacker, there is no excuse not to report a rape and get help to make sure you’re taken care of.

And, quite contrary to what shills like Senfronia Thompson would have you believe, the overwhelming majority of women trying to get an abortion at a clinic aren’t there because they were raped. They’re there because of their own choices. They don’t want to live with the consequences of their own actions. They either didn’t have enough respect for themselves to say no or they knew how easy it was to get an abortion and decided to have a night of fun because it felt good at the moment. Our prisons are full of men and women who did things for the latter reason, yet we allow abortions for this reason. We turn around and dress it up as “a woman’s right to choose”.

I’m sorry, but you made your choice when you jumped into the back seat of your lover’s car and went to town. If THAT was your choice, then there should be another consequence that doesn’t involve ending a life. Since I’m certain that abortion will never be illegal again in the modern age, I think it’s important to have limits on it and require “providers” (if that’s what you can call them) to keep a sanitary, safe environment for their “patients”. The fact that anyone can excuse opposing those kinds of common-sense rules is appalling to me.

I am aware of what Rep. Jodie Laubenberg said in defense of the bill. Yes, she actually did say that a rape kit performed in an ER would “clean you out”. That is incorrect, and I’m not willing to excuse her ignorance on the subject – she is not, however, anywhere near as ignorant as Todd Akin was (he was unforgivably stupid and he was rightly called out by most of the very embarrassed GOP). I am also not willing to call her completely stupid about it. She was on the right track even if she wasn’t prepared to properly articulate the reason for the bill. Yes, I wish she had been a little more educated on the subject, but she is not anywhere near the same ball park as Akin.

The Great Planned Parenthood Lie

I’m sick to death of big names in American culture trying to have me believe that, as a woman, I should be a pro-abortion liberal who screams for forced coverage for contraceptives. Scarlett Johansson is a beautiful and talented young woman. So is Eva Longoria. But the fact that they are lined up with other starlets to push their “vote with your ladyparts” campaign is disgusting and extremely off-putting.

In the newest ad, Hollywood is climbing all over Romney and Ryan for promising to de-fund Planned Parenthood. Their choice of words comes across as being dishonest, though – the Obama campaign is accusing Ryan of backing laws that would “allow employers to deny women access to cancer screenings and contraceptives.” In the Hollywood ad, Johansson makes an absolutely deplorable statement: she claims that “we have the GOP trying to re-define rape!”

Oh, yes…she did. She, like Cameron Diaz before her, is trying to accuse conservatives of wanting to undo laws that make rape – particularly marital rape – a crime. There is no evidence of this at all. No meetings or hearings, no drafts of bills being considered in committee, not even the slightest hint that Republicans are actually trying to do such a thing. She is accusing me, my family and most of my friends of trying to decriminalize one of the most outrageous personal crimes that can be committed. As a fire/rescue/EMS worker who has helped rape victims, I am furiously insulted.

As for the meat of the argument, I’m always the kind of person who wants both sides of a story, so I went looking. Michelle Malkin recently quoted a report by Live Action that showed 30 Planned Parenthood offices in 27 states had no direct programs for mammograms. One staffer openly admitted that they don’t provide those services at all. The Alliance Defense Fund asked the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for information on how many PP centers are certified to perform mammograms. HHS said they had no such documentation for PP.

When I wanted to read investigative pieces from the other side of the argument, I couldn’t find any. I found plenty of op-eds, for sure, but none of them offered any tangible evidence to back their argument. Stephanie Todd, writing for The Examiner, quoted PP president Cecile Richards in claiming that 97% of all services provided by PP are “preventive care” medical services. What she didn’t do was ask for proof to back up Richards’ claim – and since she got the quote from a Joy Behar interview, we all know why no probing questions were asked. A Huffington Post article claimed in its headline that “women rely on PP for critical breast health care – period.” That article turned out to be written by Rachel B. Fleischer, who happens to be the Managing Director of Communications for the PP Action Fund. She comes out and admits that PP’s staff OB-GYNs and nurses do not perform mammograms, though she never addresses cervical cancer screenings. She says that PP gives referrals, which she says you need to get a mammogram (this is untrue, as family history can dictate that a mammogram before age 40 is important, as it is in my case). She, like President Obama, claims that PP is vital to women who are underinsured or uninsured.

What none of the PP cheerleaders have mentioned is the CDC’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP). This program “provides access to breast and cervical cancer screening services to underserved women in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, 5 U.S. territories, and 12 tribes” (that’s straight from the website). There’s no information immediately available for how much money is spent on the program, but the website boasts that in 2011, 333,302 women were screened for breast cancer, with 5,655 diagnosed. 253,312 women were screened for cervical cancer, with 4,695 diagnosed. With those numbers it’s not hard to believe that between the tests themselves (which run anywhere from $75-$120 apiece) and funding for staff, equipment and facilities, funding likely runs into the $300M range.

With PP, the numbers have to be read carefully. If you’re looking directly at their numbers, they they don’t add up. Cecile Richards claims that only 3% of PP’s business comes from abortions. Here’s how their pie chart breaks it down: 35% of services were for testing and treatment of STD’s, 35% for contraception, 16% for “cancer screening and prevention” (which, we’ll talk about shortly, takes place largely through referrals outside the organization), 10% “other” women’s health (which is undefined by the report), 3% for abortions and 1% for “other” (also undefined). Even those figures are doctored, as other notes in the same report show that out of three million people who walked through their doors in 2009 (the latest year I could find expense reports for), 332,278 went for abortions. That would, in reality, be one out of every nine people, or 11%. Also, their revenue shows that 37% comes from actual income from their “health centers” (read: abortions). They recorded a total revenue of $737M (aside from government funding) and recorded net assets of $994.7M.

We the taxpayers gave them $363.2M that year.

Everything that I found showed that PP doctors and nurses give referrals when someone comes in for a mammogram. Who do they refer these women to? Well, bless me – they refer them right back to NBCCEDP! That’s the government program that funds cancer screenings, pelvic exams, biopsies and referrals for treatment. Rachel Fleischer also says that PP works in conjunction with other organizations to provide mobile mammography sites. Considering what’s likely spent on the CDC’s current program, the government could transfer all of the money they’re giving PP to the CDC and expand it so those poor women who are going to PP right now can go to another participating doctor.

And we’re supposed to believe that electing Mitt Romney to the presidency is going to put PP out of business and deprive women of affordable cancer screenings?

It frightens me that those who stand on society’s pedestals are so willing to lie just to support their chosen political candidate. I would never have lied for Bush, nor would I lie for Romney or Governor Palin. I would hope that none of them would ever ask me to – and if they found me doing it, would insist that I stop. I would hope that Obama would have some shred of honesty, at least enough to ask his high-powered followers not to go so far as to claim that the opposition is attempting to de-criminalize rape. That is reprehensible.

If you’re not willing to actually research all of the facts, don’t throw your hat in the ring. Just because you have an emotional reaction to something you’ve heard or read does not mean you’re right.

Contraceptives: The New Age Of Bra Burning

Liberals love to mislead people. They have made it into an art form. When Sandra Fluke went before Nancy Pelosi’s “mock committee” to “testify” about the need for insurance coverage for contraceptives, the deception was on full display, and not one member of the media has vetted this woman or her claims.

Why would they? She’s the perfect proof of their claim that conservatives hate women.

I would beg to differ. I’m a gold star lesbian – that means I have never slept with a man. I am actually kinda proud of that status. I am also politically conservative. I have not met a single conservative who seriously wanted to do harm to women. In fact, I know conservatives who have fought hard for the rights of women in Sharia nations – places in the world where women are required to remain covered from head to foot, not go anywhere without a male relative to escort them, and are barred from getting an education. Where were the liberals when this kind of thing was rampant in Afghanistan?

The entire debate revolves around contraceptives. The new federal law requires all employers to offer health insurance to employees and imposes a stiff tax penalty on individuals who do not carry health insurance. That same law requires ALL insurers to cover quite a bit. One of the requirements is that all insurance plans cover OB/GYN services and contraceptives for women.

There’s one problem with that: the Catholic church teaches that contraceptives of any kind, including condoms, are a sin according to scripture. I disagree with the Catholic church on this point, but that’s beside the point. According to the First Amendment the Catholic church has a right to their belief; since that belief does not cause deliberate physical harm to congregants nor victimize those who are not congregants, that belief cannot be abridged by any law. Here’s where it gets complicated…the Catholic church also runs hospitals and other non-profit organizations. They have more than a few employees. They don’t always require those employees to be in good standing with the church, but they don’t allow insurance that covers contraceptive medication, either.

Enter Sandra Fluke.

Denied entry to the actual committee hearings on the contraceptive mandate, she gave a planned speech riddled with errors and unverifiable claims. One of the first things that she says is that, during law school, contraceptives can cost around $3,000. That statement in itself is misleading; she failed to clarify (I believe she did it deliberately) what that means. There is no way it would cost that much per year. She likely meant throughout the course of law school, which typically runs for around three years. She also said it can cost that much – meaning it’s a possibility. In other words, she’s saying that if someone goes all-out they could spend $1,000 a year on contraceptives not covered by insurance.

Here’s where this gets a little fuzzy for me. According to Planned Parenthood, oral contraceptives can potentially cost anywhere from $15-$50 a month. Wal-Mart carries the generic brands for $4-$7 a month, but we’ll go with the low end of PP’s information. Let’s say it costs $15 a month for oral contraceptives. If you’re on these drugs throughout all of law school, that comes to a total of $540 for three years.

Let’s take a look at some of Fluke’s other claims. She talks about a lesbian friend who was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and obtained a prescription for oral contraceptives. The claim she makes here is that her friend was plunking down more than $100 a month for these drugs because the school refused to cover them. Let’s do the math on this one. If someone is paying $100 a month for drugs, full-time at the end of law school that comes out to right around $3600. So, by that math, sure – it could cost three grand. Where I get lost is why it cost that much and why birth control pills were the only treatment a doctor was able to come up with.

First of all, the most expensive name-brand oral birth control pill currently on the market costs $90 without insurance. Generics that are just as effective when they’re really only being used to treat medical conditions like PCOS are available for free at federal Title X clinics and on the cheap at big-box stores I’ve already listed. I’m wondering how this woman ended up paying over $100 a month for birth control pills. Fluke goes on to say that her friend ended up in the ER with a cyst the size of a tennis ball and had to have her ovary removed and later lamented that she’d never, even if she wanted to, give her mother grandchildren – wait, where was mom when she needed top-of-the-line birth control pills as opposed to generic medication? Doesn’t the Obama healthcare mandate also require insurance companies cover adult children up to age 26 as dependents now if the employee wants? Why couldn’t she go with mom’s insurance for that free birth control that she couldn’t be troubled to go to Title X for?

Then she tells a story that actually makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck. She says that a friend was raped, but because she knew Georgetown didn’t cover contraceptives the woman supposedly assumed that was how they treated all of women’s health issues – so, supposedly, the woman never went to the doctor or got tested for STD’s.

When you are raped, whether you are male or female you should go nowhere until you have made contact with the police. Here’s how this works: you file a police report. Regardless of how much time has passed, the police will immediately take you to be examined by what’s known as a SANE nurse (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner). The nurse is highly trained and SANE’s are the only people qualified to collect forensic evidence after a sexual assault. After the exam, the nurse will discuss STD’s and give you prescriptions for three medications – one of which is for a morning-after pill that can be obtained for ten bucks and, in most states, will be reimbursed by victim assistance.

What’s even more galling is her final statement, after talking about how she was told she should have gone to school somewhere else: “And even if that meant going to a less prestigious university, we refuse to pick between a quality education and our health. And we resent that in the 21st century, anyone think it’s acceptable to ask us to make this choice simply because we are women.” She speaks as if going to a school more prestigious than a state university – say, the University of Texas (Hook ’em) – is a right. Elitism at its finest.

The claim she is making is that Georgetown’s policies are so oppressive for women that it’s an untenable situation, and it’s a bald-faced lie. As a woman and a lesbian, I don’t want Sandra Fluke trying to speak for me. I would never want someone who so blatantly twists the truth to represent me for anything – certainly not my health.

Whose Morality?

DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz came out swinging today in an interview on Megyn Kelly’s show on Fox News (H/T to Doug Powers for the link). While talking about the Obamacare mandate that all health insurance for women cover birth control, DWS claimed that “there needs to be a balance” between religious employers who object to the use of contraceptives and the employees who don’t agree. Apparently the Democrats believe it is up to them what employers are willing to cover, religious affiliation be damned.

The First Amendment holds no sway any longer.

The argument has been over the healthcare mandate and the requirement that any insurance that covers women also cover contraceptives, regardless of whether that woman is a lesbian not planning to have children or a woman who has had a hysterectomy and is physically incapable of having children. It also does not take religious beliefs into account. Catholics have always considered contraceptives of any kind a sin. The Catholic Church also runs many hospitals and assisted-living facilities all over the country and have never offered health insurance that covers contraceptives. It has never been an issue until now – now that the Democrats have required every single health insurance policy covering women to cover contraceptives. Democrats are refusing to back down.

The most incredible quote from DWS of all, though, is this: “The flip side of this is that religious institutions shouldn’t be imposing their values, necessarily, on their employees who don’t necessarily subscribe to those values.”

Basically, in saying this for the DNC, she’s saying that it’s perfectly okay for them to impose their values on the entire country, but it’s completely unacceptable for anyone else to do that.

It seems we are locked in a never-ending battle between conservatives and liberals. Both sides believe they are correct in their worldview. Both sides have been angry and defensive at some point or another. Although I have experienced a great deal more vitriol from liberals, I’ve certainly heard of vitriol coming from the right (usually from those as closed-minded and uneducated as those on the far left; of course, I’ve never met a person who came to any extreme beliefs through being educated and keeping an open mind, nor have I met an extremist who admitted to being extreme).

The thing that makes me scratch my head is that both sides think they’re right for the same reasons – yet neither has stopped to ponder the reasons. Those reasons are morality and conscience.

One does not need to be religious to recognize some sort of morality; religion has no corner on the moral market. If you have ever said “that was wrong,” or “this is the right thing to do,” you are speaking from your own moral center, whatever that may be. When you claim that moral center, however, and you fail to live by it, you make yourself an absolute hypocrite – religion holds no monopoly on that, either.

I find it interesting when liberals attack me and my friends (interesting in that “I’d like to psychoanalyze you” kind of way). Liberals always, without fail, attack along the same lines: you’re supporting the people who hate us, you’re a traitor, they’re intolerant, they will never respect you, how can you do this to us, you must hate yourself, you’re a self-loathing closet case, you (insert string of profanities here)!

Gay liberals will point to so-called Christians who uniformly quote a handful of out-of-context scriptures and call homosexuality sick, twisted and sinful – then either call them hypocrites or, without knowing anything about Christian scriptures, try to point out what they see as absurdities in those scriptures. They love to point out that these folks are hypocrites by saying, “that’s not very Christ-like!”

At the same time, they demand the very tolerance that they refuse to give. They say that Christians who harp on homosexuality as the ultimate sin create an atmosphere of hostility toward gay people, then turn around and create an atmosphere of hostility toward any person who doesn’t follow their line of thinking. In so doing, they become the very same monster they have made Christians out to be – tragically, for the same reasons.

You see, gay liberals will explain their behavior away by saying, “I don’t have to tolerate people who are intolerant.” I have to ask, though, who decides who is truly intolerant? Since you’re saying that they are definitely wrong, that means you have some sort of moral center. How did you decide that they were wrong? Your own conscience? If so, what is your conscience measured by? Who or what provided your moral compass – was it faith, reason, or emotional convenience?

If it is faith, then I have to know which god would give us the right to commit the very same sin which we condemn in others. If reason, I must know which school of thought confuses a closed mind with an open one. The only thing that makes sense to me is emotional convenience – I’m right, everyone else is wrong, and my best argument is going to be a slew of personal attacks, but that is acceptable for me because I feel that I have the moral high ground.

How is that any different from people who interpret the Bible to say that gay people should be put to death? On a different level, how is saying that you pity me and my conservative values very far removed from Christians who say that they pity us because we’re sick and need to be delivered from homosexuality?

It all boils down to a single question: how do you know that your morality is more right than another person’s?

If your answer is anything other than, “it’s what I believe, and I don’t think anyone should be forced to see it my way,” you are the very animal you accuse them of being.

Healthcare is a Right

We’ve heard Democrats and hard-left liberals all over America repeat the chant: healthcare is a right. You should never, ever deny coverage to a person who needs it. To deny that coverage is sick and wrong. You’re inhumane if you do that. I get very tired of hearing that mantra being repeated.

There’s a few facts that liberals don’t take into consideration. First of all, if you’re not paying much for a good health plan, then yes – you stand a chance of being denied for certain coverage. My full-time job provides options for health insurance that is actually very good, and I have not once been denied coverage for any procedure I have ever needed. A month ago, while working out, I found a lump on my left bicep; lesser insurance plans wouldn’t have covered the ultrasound I needed to determine whether any other tests needed to be done. My insurance covered it without question. I pay more for it and get more out of it. That’s how insurance works. I’ve had friends and relatives denied for the exact same test, but upon further discussion I discover that they’re only covered by cheap companies that won’t shell out money for coverage on anything that isn’t essential.

Requiring that every insurance company and every plan cover everything from alternative therapies to essential services to some cosmetic procedures has sent premiums sky-high, but you won’t hear liberals admit that. Obamacare is important to them so they’ll put their hands over their ears and scream and shout until they can’t hear those of us who speak reason. They claim that “death panels” don’t exist in government healthcare – then they denounce Arizona’s Republican governor, Jan Brewer, for setting up exactly that on the Arizona government healthcare program, known as AHCCCS. The beef they have with Brewer is that her administration worked to cut funding to some services previously covered by AHCCCS, including some organ transplants. It cracks me up to think about all the vehemence that spewed forth from liberals, particularly from the likes of Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow, when talking about the Republicans’ use of the term “death panels” to describe the bureaucracy that would result if a single-payer government healthcare system were approved by the Democrat supermajority. Why? Because after Jan Brewer’s number-crunchers decided that the looming health care bill from the feds was going to put an undue hardship on the state, “Arizonans Against Brewercare” sprang up overnight and we had Democrats decrying REPUBLICANS for “death panels.”

Should I feel vindicated? Because in a way, I do.

The latest news out of Pennsylvania angers me almost beyond description. I am infuriated at Democrat governor Ed Rendell right now; multiple mayors of Pennsylvania cities, including Philly mayor Michael Nutter (his name is fitting, I think), supported his decision to veto a bill that would have eased restrictions on worker’s compensation for firefighters and other EMS/rescue workers who are diagnosed with certain types of cancer.

A lot of people don’t know that the last few years have produced a great deal of information on firefighters and cancer. Male firefighters are highly prone to testicular and prostate cancer, while all firefighters are highly prone to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (cancer of the blood) and multiple myeloma (cancer of the bone marrow). Firefighters and their support crews are exposed to smoke, ash and soot, all of which carry multiple carcinogens (particularly when the burning building they’re trying to put out is made from now-banned building materials). For a long time, in many states, cancer has been one of those conditions that firefighters have had to prove that their cancer is directly related to their job, and with all four of those cancers – as I said, prominent among firefighters – it is very difficult to prove that. The Cancer Presumption Bill, as it has been dubbed, would have put the burden on the fire departments to prove that the cancer actually wasn’t a product of decades of fighting fires and protecting the public. It would have provided much-needed benefits for firefighters whose insurance and other benefits wouldn’t completely cover it.

Why did Rendell veto the bill? He’s bitching that it costs too much. What’s more, he’s apparently a complete idiot about which forms of cancer firefighters are most susceptible to. He only wanted a bill to cover lung cancer, and believe it or not, the others I mentioned are MORE prevalent.

Please, somebody, explain to me right now exactly why liberals were so irritable when Sarah Palin warned of government death panels over the cost of healthcare. Olbermann, Maddow, Pelosi, Reid, and the Big O himself all barked in laughter at the notion that bureaucratic panels would convene to decide what the government would be willing to pay for and what would be too expensive. The aforementioned journalists took it a step further and openly insulted conservatives like us for suggesting such a notion, denying that they existed…nevermind the fact that they do exist in England, Canada, Spain and other nations.

We now have proof positive in two separate forms that government control of healthcare would be a disaster waiting to happen. As an EMT studying to be a paramedic and hopefully to be a firefighter, I don’t want to one day find that my desire to do something worthwhile in this world has resulted in a medical condition that not only can I not pay for, but the public I served refuses to cover because the government they elected isn’t willing to help. This ranks right up there with Robert Gates suggesting that military healthcare benefits from Tricare be more expensive for our veterans, if not done away with entirely.

I have never been the kind of person to attempt to use my status to get anything for free. Those I respect the most don’t think that we deserve special treatment. Part of it is humility. Part of it is giving back. When it comes to the hazards of our job, though, we’d like to have some backup from the governments we work for.

As for the liberals wailing about healthcare reform…you’re all a troupe of liars and thieves who base your entire set of arguments on irrational emotions rather than logic. I’m sure we’ll never hear a single apology about the insults we took over death panels, but you’re making hypocrites out of yourselves and everyone knows it. Illegal immigrants and prison inmates get better care than rank-and-file citizens, better even than soldiers, police officers and firefighters. How about we make those guys work for their own damn healthcare and give all that money to those who are more deserving?

Common Sense Conservatism: Health Care Reform

“How can health care for everyone be a bad thing?”

Several months ago, one of my friends uttered this quote in an attempt to combat the negative press surrounding President Obama’s health care bill as it was being considered by Congress. The answer to that question, of course, is that health care for everyone is not a bad thing, it is a great thing. Sadly my friend missed the point, and so did many Americans: How do you pay for it when we’re $13 trillion in debt? Health Care Reform gripped the nation as yet another non-partisan issue was politicized for the sole purpose of damaging political opponents. In the end there was no winner; only losers: The American People.

Every issue has an upside and a downside. In 1986, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act required hospital emergency rooms to treat anyone in need of care, regardless of citizenship, legal status, or ability to pay. The upside was that patients were not turned away from needed health care. The downside is that “about half of all emergency services go uncompensated.” The best intentions of government resulted in a huge unfunded mandate to emergency departments nationwide and a loss of $4.2 billion in revenue in 2001 according to the American Medical Association. Nobody wants to see patients denied much-needed care, but how can the government pass laws that help some people and completely destroy others?

Health care reform divided the nation along lines defined by views of big government versus small, and compassion versus fiscal responsibility. At a time when the economy was the top concern for Americans, not health care, Congress unveiled a $940 billion bill which was passed into law on March 23, 2010. Republicans were once again labeled “obstructionists,” even though they didn’t have enough votes to stop the Democrats from passing the bill. Democrats called Republicans the usual names, accusing them of being racists, hating the poor and defending the rich.

Today, 60% of Americans favor repeal.

It seems as if every issue where Democrats and Republicans disagree ends with more Americans believing that the GOP is racist, anti-poor and pro-rich. Why are Democrats so good at convincing Americans of these stereotypes? I believe it is because Democrats tend to politicize with emotional buzzwords and headlines, while Republicans do it with logic. So, are Republicans heartless to oppose a bill that would extend health care benefits to 32 million Americans? Well, let’s consider some of the objections.

The government is notoriously inefficient. In a previous post I went over the resume of the U.S. Government in detail, including the tremendous successes (read: failures) of Amtrak, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, the U.S. Postal Service, the Ryan White CARE Act, and Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac. Even recipients of government funding like Planned Parenthood operate without oversight, as they apparently can’t account for $1.8 billion in taxpayer dollars received over the last decade. This isn’t a partisan problem. The government is inefficient under EVERY administration, which is why a majority of Americans prefer a smaller government. As it is, the bill is already estimated to cost $115 billion more than anticipated, and it hasn’t yet gone into effect.

It is simply a bad law. The health care law is designed to increase access to health care and lower costs so more Americans can afford to purchase health insurance. Correct? Does taxing the manufacturers of medical devices and brand-name prescription drugs help lower the cost of health care? Those increased costs will undoubtedly be passed on to the consumer, who is now forced to carry health insurance because of the mandates in the health care law – no matter what the cost! In fact, nothing in the new law controls the rising costs of health care. It does, however, force businesses to file a 1099 form for every vendor transaction of $600 or more, which creates a pile of paperwork for even the smallest businesses. What purpose does this serve in a health care bill? None! It has nothing to do with health care.

Going forward, individuals will no longer be able to claim medical expenses on their taxes that exceed 7.5% of their income. The new number is 10%, resulting in roughly $800 less in deductions for someone earning $25,000/year. President Obama said those earning under $250k/year wouldn’t see their taxes increase by a “single dime,” but if you can’t claim an additional $800 in medical expenses on your tax return, I think you’re out more than a dime. Medicare payroll taxes are also going up 2.35% for those earning more than $200k, and revenue from the increase in Medicare taxes will not be going to help save or fix Medicare. Medicare, in fact, is being cut by $500,000,000,000.00!

Then there are the mandates. Individuals will now be required to carry health insurance, whether they can afford it or not. Your coverage must also meet minimum government standards to “qualify” as an acceptable health care plan. The penalty for not complying will be as much as $750 per year for an individual, $2,250 for a family, or 2% of your income – whichever is higher. The employer mandates could cause some series damage. Employers who cannot afford to offer health insurance to their employees will pay fines, which could amount to $3,000 per employee, per year. This will unquestionably cause jobs to be cut and businesses to close. That’s a fact that cannot be ignored.

Of course we can’t forget luxury health care plans, called “Cadillac Plans.” These are plans that cost more than $8,500 per year for an individual. They’re great plans, but there will now be a 40% excise tax on them. Yes, that’s right – 40%. It is designed to go after the rich, but it is not indexed for inflation, which means in 10 years when all plans cost $8,500/year or more, everyone will be paying the 40% tax. Many union-negotiated plans are considered “Cadillac Plans,” but if you’re in a union you don’t have to worry about it. President Obama exempted unions from this 40% tax. For the record, only 8% of Americans are in unions.

The new law also allows the Department of Health and Human Services to create “qualified non-profit health insurance issuers” to offer health insurance, with federal grants, and exempt from federal taxes. It requires health care coverage information to be reported to the IRS, and provides funding to hire 16,000 additional IRS agents to ensure compliance with the individual and employer mandates.

What’s not in the bill? Tort reform for starters. We live in a lawsuit-happy society, and doctors must carry expensive insurance policies to protect themselves from frivolous lawsuits and mega-million dollar settlements. Those costs get passed on to patients, contributing to the high costs of health care. Republicans wanted tort reform included. Democrats argued it would not result in a significant savings, however it should be noted that trial lawyers donate almost exclusively to the Democratic Party. Another provision not included in the bill was the ability to purchase health care plans across state lines. This would increase competition and help lower costs, as we’ve seen happen in the auto insurance industry. Again, Democrats refused to include it after it was proposed by Republicans.

The House of Representatives requires 218 votes to pass a bill into law, and when the health care law was passed 253 were Democrats. The Senate requires 51 votes to pass a bill into law, and when the health care law was passed 57 were Democrats. Once again, I need someone to tell me how Republicans were being “obstructionists.” In reality, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi didn’t get to pass the law they wanted because conservative Democrats were pressured to oppose the bill. That’s why the far-left liberals today feel as though the law doesn’t go far enough. Republicans, who opposed the bill almost unanimously through the entire process, didn’t even have to show up for the final votes.

In the end, not a single Republican in the House or Senate voted to pass what is now referred to as ObamaCare. After the Senate passed the health care law, the San Francisco Chronicle stated, “The passage of Health Care Reform means the death of the Republican Party. Can you imagine any Republican effectively explaining to an electorate why they voted against help for the uninsured?” Help for the uninsured, at the expense of the remaining 90% of Americans? This issue is not as black and white as the Chronicle would have us believe.

Nine months later, a clear majority of Americans favor repeal and Democrats face the possibility of losing the House of Representatives. When you politicize a non-political issue like health care, emotions get in the way and eventually you have to start looking at the facts. Almost everyone agrees that our health care system is in need of reform, but if Congress is going to spend years and trillions of taxpayer dollars reforming it, shouldn’t we do it right? “It’s better than nothing,” is simply not good enough.

The simple truth is that President Obama and Democrats in Washington thought health care reform would be their golden moment, ensuring victories in 2010 and 2012. They completely underestimated the political cost of going against the majority of Americans, and I’m happy to see our nation waking up and paying attention to important issues again.

Someday we may even see Americans paying attention to the details of those issues. I welcome it.

Someone Has To Pay

I don’t often write about my work as an EMT; if I do, I only write about other incidents in other states. This is one of those cases, one I cannot ignore any longer.

Much has been made of an incident in New York on December 9 of last year. Two EMT-B’s from FDNY, Jason Green and Melissa Jackson, were on their way out the door at the Au Bon Pain at Metrocenter Plaza when an employee of the restaurant approached them and told them that one of her co-workers was having difficulty breathing. They told the employee to call 911. Jackson made the first call, telling a dispatcher that a woman of unknown age was having difficulty breathing. Both were in uniform.

A lot has been said about this case since it happened. Thanks to the inability of the media to verify facts before reporting something, we largely don’t know what’s true and what isn’t. We know how the family feels. We know that NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg was disgusted when the story broke. When asked if city employees were experiencing burnout, he exploded, saying, “there’s no excuse whatsoever!” I could tell mr. Bloomberg where to shove his self-righteous indignation but it would be unprofessional of me.

Bloggers and media reporters alike have called Green and Jackson lazy, cruel, heartless, cold, and inhuman. EMT’s and paramedics from all over the country have ripped into both of them, saying it is unconscionable that they left without providing care (and those are just the nicer ones; those who believe that their flatulence has no odor have posted far worse in the ems/fire/rescue blogs). So, what’s my opinion?

Both the unbaptized public and the professional EMS service have been far too hard on Green and Jackson.

We don’t know the true circumstances of what was going on. Several news agencies have painted a picture that pregnant Eutisha Rennix, an employee of the restaurant, collapsed right in front of them and was gasping for air when they cold-heartedly turned their backs on her. Others have said the pair was sitting down. What I’ve actually been told by others actually in EMS in New York is that Rennix had gone to the back, away from customers, when she began feeling ill and a coworker came out to ask the EMT’s what to do. That’s not all I’m going on, though.

The two EMT’s weren’t driving an ambulance rig that was waiting outside. They were dispatchers working in the building directly above the restaurant. Without an ambulance handy, they had no specialized equipment. No BSI (body substance isolation) gear, nothing. They didn’t even have an oxygen tank to help. What were they expected to do? I’ve been in a couple of situations where I’ve either been at the scene of an accident or someone has started having trouble breathing, and someone says, “please help!” I can’t do anything without the equipment I’m trained to use. I end up standing there like an idiot going, “um…there’s nothing I can do.” Then, when an ambulance actually does arrive, I’m just in the way. I’m another body filling space that they need to work in.

Something else worth mentioning is their level of training. EMT-B’s are not paramedics. We’re BASIC medical providers. There’s a lot we can do, but there’s a lot that we can’t. EMT-B’s cannot provide breathing treatments with albuterol even if we have the equipment; that’s what our paramedic partners do. Once the treatment begins, we can monitor the patient for a change in vital signs to see if the treatment is having an effect, but we can’t give all the drugs and use the same toys that medics can.

Now…regardless of what I’ve heard or what you’ve heard from the news or people who say they heard this news from a reliable source, we can all agree on a few things that are facts. The EMT’s were in the restaurant. Eutisha Rennix was in respiratory distress. The EMT’s didn’t have an ambulance or equipment. The EMT’s would not have been able to do much of anything even if they had gone to see the patient. They certainly wouldn’t have been able to make the paramedic unit that was called arrive any faster. If they had stayed, Rennix likely still would have died, and the family would have wanted to sue the EMT’s for not having anything with them when they went to the restaurant.

The local anger over this incident is twofold. First of all, the family is angry that Eutisha is dead. If it were my family, I’d be upset, too. They, like many other families I’ve seen in the press, have been too quick to blame the EMS service that was charged with helping because the situation didn’t end the way they wanted it to. We never want to lose our loved ones. But just as the family of a violent felon cannot blame the police officer who kills him to avoid being shot himself, I say families need to stop blaming EMS for bad outcomes that we can’t help. God knows we all live with the faces of those we couldn’t help for the rest of our lives. We don’t deserve to be threatened with losing our livelihood. We also don’t deserve to have to second-guess ourselves because we’ve been sued for similar situations before.

The second part of the local anger is from the city leaders and politicians. As they frequently do, they’ve again inserted themselves into a situation that they know little about because of public outrage. Why is the public so angry? Because they heard bits and pieces of a story and they don’t understand it all. The politicians are now reacting based on people calling them in that rage. To a degree, they’re doing what comes naturally to them. I would really like to know what is so difficult about these politicians asking people to wait until the whole story has come out before they pass judgment. Even more, I’d like to know how these politicians sleep at night after they tear down the career of a person who may well be innocent before they know all the facts.

For a couple of weeks afterward, we heard quite a bit. The story dropped off the collective MSM radar until yesterday, when EMT Jason Green was shot to death outside a popular Soho nightclub called the Greenhouse. If NYPD expects us all to believe the shooting had nothing to do with the Rennix incident, they’re deluding themselves.

The Ugly Truth

It’s amazing what you find when you Google something. Take a name, put it in quotation marks, and hit the enter key and you’ll come up with all kinds of information. Try it with the name “Marcelas Owens” and see what you come up with.

During the hullaballoo over the weekend in the House of Representatives, the debates over health care raged. Jim McDermott (he of Baghdad fame who has been forced to pay nearly $1M to John Boehner for leaking an audio tape of a phone call with Newt Gingrich to the press) took the podium and railed at right-wing pundits Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Malkin for “attacking” Marcelas Owens:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oH7Zvjy5AAQ&feature=player_embedded]

It’s hilarious what’s been claimed against us all for Marcelas.

Google the name and you’ll come up with pages and pages of extreme left-wing idealogue websites (Huffington Post, Democratic Underground, etc.) wailing about how mean the right wing is being to Marcelas. I was on page three of the search results before I found a single Republican-minded website “attacking” Marcelas for anything.

What are the attacks? Actually, they’re not attacks. Folks like Malkin, Limbaugh and Beck are simply speaking about facts in the story. Nobody is attacking Marcelas.

Nobody has really asked any questions about the story that’s being spoon-fed by Democrats who parade this young boy in front of the press. He’s only 11 years old; does he even know what he’s speaking out for? I doubt it. He comes from a family of longtime Democrat activists and his grandmother, who accompanies him everywhere, has long used Marcelas’ mother Tiffany as fodder for her activism for socialized health care in Washington State.

Tiffany Owens had pulmonary arterial hypertension, or PAH. It’s a condition in which the arteries supplying the lungs with oxygenated blood thicken and harden, not allowing enough blood to the lungs. It is often a secondary disease, usually associated with other diseases, such as COPD, lupus, sleep apnea, congenital heart disease, etc. It’s also been associated with living at altitudes over 8,000 feet and chronic stimulant narcotic use. I haven’t been able to find the facts about whether Tiffany’s PAH was secondary, but either way she had it. It’s a lifelong disease, one that requires treatment for a very, very long time. Air travel and being in high altitudes can seriously exacerbate PAH.

Bleeding in the lungs is considered a fatal complication of PAH, and Tiffany Owens was coughing up blood before she died. The short story is that she worked as a Jack in the Box manager and had lost her job because her health was deteriorating and she’d missed too much work. When she lost her job she lost her insurance. She died, however, just nine months after losing her job. What’s more is that she was never denied treatment. When she went to the ER, she was treated. By the time she lost her job, knowing what I know about PAH, she would have been in dire straits already. There is very little chance that, once she was unable to work because of the severity of symptoms, any doctor would have been able to do much. In my opinion it is ridiculous to claim that Marcelas or his mother were abused by the insurance system.

There are other questions to this, however, that most haven’t even thought about, and McDermott, Obama, Pelosi and Reid have failed to answer. The whole problem in the Owens’ story was that Tiffany couldn’t afford insurance. However, Washington State has a plethora of medical aid services available to those in need, and Tiffany Owens never signed up for them. She also didn’t like going to doctors and frequently refused to go until the symptoms were so bad that she couldn’t ignore them. She lost her job in September 2006 and had not yet been diagnosed with PAH; it was two months after she lost her job that she was diagnosed. The following January she was hospitalized for eight days (without insurance). According to Tiffany’s own mother, she didn’t qualify for Medicaid and refused to go to the doctor.

She didn’t qualify. Therein lies the one thing that the Dems haven’t been honest about. Through S-CHIP, VA, Medicare and Medicaid, the US Government is the largest health insurance provider in the country, and they turn people away and deny claims every single day. Why? Because the government can’t cover everybody. They can’t afford to, especially with fraud losses in the tens of billions annually. Do we really think that this bill is going to make things better?

Would it have made things better for Tiffany Owens? No. It wouldn’t have. She didn’t have insurance because she couldn’t afford it. It’s definitely there, but it cost more than she could afford. She also refused to go to doctors until she was already coughing up blood, a symptom that signals the end for a PAH patient. This bill will require that all Americans buy health insurance in some form. If you don’t you’ll pay high tax penalties come tax time. So please, somebody answer this question for me: if a person can’t afford a couple hundred dollars a month, which my health insurance costs me already, how are they going to afford a couple thousand on April 15? Hell, there are people all over the country who owe a couple thousand in taxes and can’t afford to pay it. Do you really think that’s going to change now?

This health care legislation would not have done a damn thing for Tiffany Owens and it will send us down the road to destruction if we don’t find a way to overturn it.

HR-3962 Passes…..”historic change” we can believe in!

I was glued to my television all day yesterday from 2pm until the final vote last night which handed the liberals in the House of Representatives an official victory on HR3962.

Consider the results.  In a House of 435 Members controlled by 258 Democrats and 177 Republicans, the winning numbers were a not-so-impressive 220-215.  218 votes were needed for victory, so the liberals in Congress stole the night’s win with three deciding votes

Of those three deciding votes, we can credit one to Republican Joseph Cao, who today; as Ann Coulter jokes, “fantasizes about being re-elected.”

The Democrats last night hammered on about how “historic” this vote and bill was.  Every person who irresponsibly catered to the President’s plea yesterday – for the sake of serving him as opposed to their constituents – will be remembered from now until November of 2010.  What makes last night’s vote historic is in fact it’s opposition. 

As John Boehner pointed out repeatedly, the only bipartisanship displayed yesterday was the opposition to this bill, not its support.

After all that work to win a majority in 2006, Democrats could not get all of their own people behind them last night – in addition to the majority of their voters.

As this moves toward the Senate now, we must remember that 60 votes will be needed to actually put this travesty into law.  Looking at the worst case, we have 58 Democrats, 2 Independents in Democratic caucuses, and Olympia Snowe.  There is 61 votes.  However; we also have a tiny handful of common sense Senators who may be liberals on some social issues but oppose a public option.  Getting the votes required to put this into law are nearly impossible.

But most importantly, as we move ahead now, let’s remember the political suicide committed by one Republican and 219 Democrats.  Let’s remember how one party trusted by the American people turned on those same voters for the purposes of serving their President and his radical left-wing views. 

Never in history have Democrats made it easier for Republicans to take over a House than they did last night, and for that, I thank them from the bottom of my free-market heart for this truly historic move.