Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Conscience Clauses and Money Laundering

So as I sat there at Price Chopper, with my arm in the automatic blood pressure machine, I looked across the Pharmacy Department to the display of “intimacy products,” which included home pregnancy tests, lubricants…and a huge selection of condoms. And as I thought about that last set of items, I thought for a moment about conscience clauses.

I mean really…people have been making a big deal about the pharmacist who doesn’t want to dispense birth control pills against his beliefs, but what about the cashier on aisle 10 who’s not only scanning condoms that she doesn’t believe in, but is scanning them in for a person she knows isn’t married?

And what about the poor Jewish kid over on aisle 18 who has ring out someone who’s buying bacon?

Seems to me that if we don’t allow it to be an issue for the cashier, then it shouldn’t be one for the pharmacist. These conscience clauses can be part of an extremely slippery slope where we allow anyone to not do anything simply because they don’t believe in it. And that becomes very dangerous.

And then there’s that bit about the Catholic Church not wanting to pay for medical insurance that includes benefits for birth control…again because of the conscience issue. A lot of conservatives and people on the religious right have jumped on this bandwagon as a way of not being forced to pay for insurance that might cover abortions. But what about an organization whose beliefs might cause it to want to opt out of paying for something that most of us think is absolutely essential?

Like blood transfusions.

Suppose the national organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses didn’t want to pay for medical insurance for its non-member employees that covered blood transfusions? Should a Lutheran who just happened to work as a secretary in one of their offices be denied coverage for blood because the organization doesn’t believe in it? Would the conservatives and members of the religious right be quite as eager to jump on this particular “conscience clause” bandwagon, or would they finally draw a line in the sand here?

The thing is, it’s the same bloody bandwagon. And once you allow the Catholics to provide medical insurance that doesn’t cover birth control, you allow the Jehovah’s Witnesses to provide insurance that doesn’t cover any kind of blood work.

But there is a way out of this. It’s called money laundering. At least, that’s what it practically works out to be.

Let’s face it, when you get right down to it, if the Catholic Church was really serious about not paying for birth control, they’d have to follow all of their employees around 24/7 to make sure that they didn’t go to the local Price Chopper and spend any of their hard-earned pay on something from that rather large selection of condoms I gazed at.

In other words, as long as the Catholic Church is employing people who can spend their pay any way they see fit, they’re paying for birth control. The difference is that they’re not doing it directly. The money’s going to the employee, who then makes the personal decision to spend that money on a box of Trojans. And once the money is in the account of the employee, the Catholic Church can wash their hands of any responsibility for what happens with it.

So my solution is for the Catholic Church to just give everyone a health care stipend, which they can spend on any provider that they want. One that provides birth control benefits or one that doesn’t. But once that money is in the employee’s account, it’s no longer the responsibility of the church. There’s no more conscience issue because the Church isn’t directly spending the money. It’s being “laundered” through an intermediary.

But these questions open up a much bigger can of worms and raise more questions than I can try to answer right now. The big question, however, is Do we all get to opt out of paying for things we don’t believe in?

I think you know the answer to that one, but as I said, I’ll tackle that one some other time.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

I See Pretty People

I’d like to have a collection of pictures of all the women I run into on a regular basis that I think are attractive.

No, it’s not for the reason you think, and no, my wife won’t be upset.

You see, for those of you who don’t know already, I’m a dork. Things that most people wouldn’t give a second thought to, I give a third, a fourth, and a 50,000th to. And one of the things that has captured my dorkly fascination has been attractiveness; what makes people attractive to us. What makes Susie attractive to Bobby, but not to Woody? More important, what makes certain women seem attractive to my wife and not to me?

Yes, you read that right, and that’s not where I’m going with this. It’s much simpler than you think.

Every now and then Cheryl will see someone and casually mention to me that she thinks she’s attractive. I almost always take a look at the woman in question and go “no thanks,” because she does absolutely nothing for me.

Then, when I do see women who I think are attractive, Cheryl’s not around for me to point them out to. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to unobtrusively take pictures of them so Cheryl and I could look them over later on, and compare the ones she thinks I should find attractive to the ones I actually do?

Now, to be fair, Cheryl usually agrees that the women I pick out are indeed attractive. It’s the women she picks out that are the issue.

What’s the difference?

Well, not that she’s been pointing any of these out, but I’m not attracted to the “drop dead gorgeous” types. Funny thing is that I can identify what women indeed fit the type; they just don’t do anything for me. No, I’m more attracted to the “girl next door” types, which shouldn’t be any big surprise, since that’s what I married. I once dated a girl next door who kept trying to be a drop dead gorgeous, and it made me crazy. Why couldn’t she like herself the way she was?

That’s the other thing, the women that I think are really attractive probably think that they’re average-looking…but are happy with it.

But I don’t always understand Cheryl’s choices. I’m like, “You think that I should find her attractive? I mean, she’s not ugly, but she definitely wouldn’t get my attention the first time around.”

And as I said, it goes beyond the differences between what Cheryl and I think makes an attractive woman; I’m interested in the whole concept for everyone. But then I know that tastes vary in everything. Some people like spicy food, some don’t. Some people love science fiction while other find it a waste of time. Some people have blue as their favorite color while others favor red. Maybe it’s just a simple case of “people are different,” and I don’t have to think much more about it.

Maybe it’s a matter of me wanting Cheryl to know what interests me before she has me turn my head to check it out, and has me say, “Um, no thanks” again.

Oh well, I guess I just have to take Cheryl to that Post Office, that bookstore, and that Target; and hope that the women I think are attractive there are on duty.

Or I could get to work on using the 12x zoom on my camera.

But then that might end up adding creepy to dorky.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

¿Habla Usted Nederlandisch?

A while back I saw a bumper sticker somewhere that had an American flag on it and said Why should I have to press 1 for English? Well, we know what that person’s hot-button issue is, now don’t we?

I’ll admit that I’m a little annoyed with seeing both Spanish as well as English on the coupons I circle for my daughter to cut from the Sunday newspaper, but that’s not because I have anything against bilingualism. It’s because trying to fit the same thing in two languages on one standard-sized coupon forces them to use really tiny type that I can barely make out. In fact, I’m betting that middle-aged Hispanics are complaining that the print is “mas pequeño.”

But aside from that, I’m not one of those English Firsters who get all bent out of shape when they see Spanish “encroaching” on our All-American culture. Far from it. In fact, I’d like to find the person with the bumper sticker, as well as the person who printed the lot of them, and ask them both a very simple question:
¿Habla Usted Nederlandisch?
Now, in case you haven’t been able to figure that out, that’s bad Spanish for “Do you speak Dutch?” For, you see, Dutch was the language of the 1614 New Netherland settlements that eventually became New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Connecticut when the English sailed into New Amsterdam and took them over without firing a shot in 1664. So one could argue that all signs in New York City, and a large portion of the Northeast, should be in Dutch, rather than the English that came with the “encroachers.”

I can see, however, that those of you who paid close attention to your American History are saying, “Now wait just a minute. Jamestown was settled by the English in 1607, which means that we beat the Dutch to North America by seven years.” And you’re probably using that as the basis to say that it makes perfect sense for English to win out in the “language wars.” And it’s true, as the English settlements spread across the Atlantic coast, those founded by the Dutch and the Swedes ended up becoming British colonies, with English as the de facto language. Some of you are even saying, “We got here first, there were more of us anyway, so English wins.”

But wait a minute. It’s time for the 10-point question. What was the first permanent settlement in North America? I’ll give you a hint: it obviously was neither New Amsterdam nor Jamestown. And it wasn’t even Vinland, the Norse colony in what is now Newfoundland, settled almost 500 years before Columbus (the key word here is permanent).

Give up? The answer is St Augustine, Florida, settled by the Spanish in 1585. It remained under Spanish rule, and the Spanish language until 1763. So is it any wonder that there is so much Spanish spoken in Florida? All things considered, shouldn’t Spanish have become a major language in the United States a long time ago?

And things only get more complicated when you consider the Southwest and California, all of which were once parts of Mexico. Here we took an entire Spanish-speaking region that was almost the size of the existing United States at the time, and added it to our country. Once again, it’s amazing that it took so long for Spanish to gain the foothold that it has today.

So, you see, I’m not bothered by how Spanish is becoming used by more and more people in their everyday lives, nor am I bothered by bilingual traffic signs or government forms. It’s simply the way that languages go. First it was Dutch, then it was English, and next it will be Spanish. That’s just the way it is.

Oh…but wait. It seems that I forgot one very important language. So, for all you English Firsters out there, let me ask you this question:
How’s your Leni Lenape?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

There's Just No Talking to Some People

When the story of Indiana State Representative Bob Morris and the Girl Scouts first broke, I was all set to write a letter to the editor of both our local paper, the Syracuse Post-Standard, and their local paper, the Indianapolis Star, full of the righteous indignation that only a librarian and a former Computer Literacy teacher could bring to bear on the situation. Because this was clearly a case of an elected representative believing the first opinionated rant he stumbled across on the Internet, rather than taking the time to do some real research, and checking out reliable sources. And as much as he wanted to put this behind him as a minor issue and get back to “real work,” when someone we trust to represent us and write our laws is doing so based on bad information, that’s a major issue in my book.

And then I found out that it wasn’t quite that simple. It turns out that Morris wasn’t simply misinformed, he wasn’t simply the victim of shoddy searching. His conclusions about the Girl Scouts and their supposed connection to Planned Parenthood would’ve remained the same even had he gone all the way to the tops of both organizations and gotten denials from them (after all, they could be hiding their connection).

For you see, according to the Washington Post (part of the evil liberal media complex), Morris is a member of a very small, very conservative group of people who are pulling their daughters out of the traditional Girl Scouts for their own American Heritage Girls. These people portray the traditional Girl Scouts and their organization as a group of radical, lesbian, Marxist, feminists, who don’t share “traditional family values” and are pushing abortion and contraception on young girls.

As Bill Cosby’s Noah might say, ”Right…”

When I look at a group of people like this, that is deliberately spreading misinformation, I realize that there’s just no talking to some people, and that trying to straighten them out would be like pouring sand down a rathole. They’re very much like editor J Jonah Jameson in the Spiderman comics, who at least once said, “I’ve made up my mind, don’t confuse me with the facts.” They have their beliefs…their deeply felt and held beliefs…that America is going to Hell in a handbasket, and nothing any of us, librarian or not, can say to them will change their minds, because the only information they will look for, indeed, the only information they’ll believe, is that which supports their beliefs. I’d like to think that the rest of us are a little more open to correction. I know that I am.

But there is some good news here. Despite all their noise, and the 15 minutes of fame they received, there are only 18,000 girls in the American Heritage Girls organization…compared to over 2 million in the Girl Scouts. To put this into context, the American Heritage Girls would just barely fill Madison Square Garden, while the traditional Girl Scouts far outnumber even everyone else in Manhattan. I think this shows just how influential each group is.

And despite the fact that these people seem to be a very exclusive group, who demonize anyone who doesn’t totally agree with them; the fact that they exist is one of the beauties of this country. We allow even the most far-out wingnuts to have a voice…provided they don’t hurt anyone. Conversely, the surest way to give people like this more power is to have them feel that they’re persecuted; so the best thing to do about them is to smile and nod…and then walk away.

But what about the rest of us? While it’s true that you can’t talk to some people, while it’s true that even when confronted with the facts, some people will stick to what they want to believe, the rest of us have a responsibility that this librarian feels very strongly about. That responsibility is to make sure that all of our information comes from reputable sources, and to double and triple-check it. This includes a responsibility to even check to see if those with whom we disagree are actually right, because sometimes they are.

Oh, and while we’re at it, we should each have a Girl Scout cookie.