Monthly Archives: January 2014

Mike Huckabee’s Medication Morality

Did you hear what Mike Huckabee said at the annual meeting of the Republican National Committee last week?

Paraphrasing his words can’t make them more palatable, so here they are, unfiltered:

 “If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it.”

First of all, can anyone point to a Democrat anywhere (or a Republican other than Mike Huckabee himself) who’s actually said anything close to that?  This was ground-breakingly creepy!

Next, does he realize that women’s libidos and reproductive systems wouldn’t actually need birth control if not for men?

And can this mean that he supports marriage equality, because gay and lesbian couples don’t need birth control to avoid unintended pregnancies? What a bargain for Uncle Sugar!

Who the heck is Uncle Sugar anyway – it sounds like the name of a rock band made up of dirty old men.  Again, creepy.

120228_rush_santorum_ap_328After unpacking the layers of crazy, misogynistic, non-ecologically sound Styrofoam peanuts surrounding his intent, I’m left with this nugget of truth: Mike Huckabee believes birth control is immoral.  He’s not alone in this belief:  Presidential candidate Rick Santorum said plainly that contraceptives are “not OK” and are “counter to how things are supposed to be,” while radio host Rush Limbaugh called a woman a “slut” for suggesting that contraceptives should be included in a comprehensive package of health services at her university.  

Just for kicks, I’ll get on this crazy train.  Let’s go for a ride.

mothers-day-ended-my-marriage

Libido under control – thanks, Mike Huckabee!

Let’s agree that some medications become unnecessary with certain behavior changes.  Putting aside the other health benefits of birth control pills (reduced risk of anemia, ovarian cancer, and uterine cancer, treatment of endometriosis, treatment of PMS and painful and irregular periods, to name just a few), you don’t need them to prevent pregnancy if you aren’t sexually active.  Perhaps this kind of behavior modification would not make for happier marriages, but it would give poor “Uncle Sugar” a break from providing all those pesky pills.  Problem solved.

That was easy!  Let’s apply the same logic to other expensive and potentially unnecessary drugs.

Who doesn't love kale?

Who doesn’t love kale?

Consider cholesterol-lowering statins.  They are the second-most prescribed drug in the US, with 94.1 million prescriptions annually. That’s almost as many people as were previously having sex, before Mike Huckabee’s helpful directive to control their libidos (oh, wait, that was only for women).  Cholesterol can be significantly reduced with a regimen of exercise and diet.  Good news, statin-takers!  If you weren’t already pulling your hair out from your recent commitment to abstinence, you’ll be happy to be distracted by 6 a.m. “cross fit” workouts and kale smoothies.

Note to people with Type 2 Diabetes: you’re next with the exercise and the kale.  Insulin is for the undisciplined.

They will pay for all this fun...

They will pay for all this fun…

Uncle Sugar is also sick and tired of providing chemotherapy to cancer patients who brought this on themselves (you know who you are, you sunbathers, smokers, and alcoholics!).  Unlike birth control pills, chemotherapy offers no side benefits at all and is actually poison, so patients should be happier without treatment.  Next time, use sunscreen and cut back on the gin.  Tell your friends.

We can even reduce our dependence on the most widely prescribed drug in the country, hydrocodone combined with acetaminophen (131.2 million prescriptions!).  This drug is prescribed for people with “moderate to severe pain,” to which Uncle Sugar must surely ask – have we become a nation of wussies?  Americans who care about freedom and liberty do not need to suck on the teat of hydrocodone.  To victims of car accidents, retirees from physically demanding careers, and veterans returning with war injuries, Uncle Sugar says, “You should have been more careful!”  Rub some dirt on it.  If all else fails, take the American flag that hangs on your front porch and bite down on the stick until you forget about your pain.

veteran in pain

Did you enjoy this trip into the heart of Mike Huckabee’s America, where no one has sex (well, married couples can have it 2.3 times to produce the average number of children per family), everyone exercises and eats right, and no one drinks or smokes?  Uncle Sugar, happily relieved of his birth control oversight duties, can go lie on a beach somewhere.  I hope he wears sunscreen because no one will feel sorry for him if a mole starts to look weird.

We will never be perfect enough to not need modern medicine – all the superb pharmaceuticals we’ve created help us live comfortably with the various conditions and health ailments we all get.  Maybe we deserve them, maybe we don’t, but who’s to say?  Someone may judge me for the choices I make, but I sure don’t need it to be Mike Huckabee.

Or Uncle Sugar.  I have a sneaky suspicion he’s been helping himself to Viagra.

creepy uncle sam

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Does the “War on Poverty” Have An Exit Strategy?

Thanks to a military-like bombardment of media stories about the War on Poverty, I am 110% aware that we just marked 50 years since President Lyndon Johnson fired the first shot in this conflict, during his State of Union address on January 8, 1964.

Public reaction to this half-century milestone has been mixed.  Forbes.com called the war “a total failure,” while Fox News declared that “victory is nowhere in sight.”

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof , however, thinks we’re making progress.

The Huffington Post lauded the programs and services created by Johnson’s Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) and offered the early declining poverty rates from 1964 (19%) to 1973 (10.1%) as proof that we were in fact winning.

Then there’s U.S. Congressman Danny K. Davis.  The legislator announced on his website that he is “celebrating” this 50th anniversary, which seems to me an odd choice of words but it’s been brain-numbingly cold in his home district this week so I’ll assume he missed the last few words in the official dictionary definition (“To observe a day or event with respect, festivity, or rejoicing.”).   

Whatever your political inclinations and subsequent interpretation of the facts, no one pretends the war is over.  Many of the major weapons in this conflict (such as Head Start, Medicare, and Job Corps) are still around, and probably will be for the next 50 years.

Do we even have an exit strategy?

The answer is no, and to think one exists is naively optimistic.

America is a pretty special country, but to believe we could eliminate poverty was pretty audacious.  We picked capitalism as our economic system, and capitalism creates winners and losers.  It doesn’t claim to lift all boats.

What about other options? Communism looked great on paper but in reality, its approach to poverty was like that of a fussy child toward his vegetables: spread it around enough so no one really notices that it’s all still there. I will not eat Socialism would never work in the U.S. because we like our personal stuff too much – where else could a show like Hoarders run for six seasons?

I think we’re stuck with poverty for the long haul.  Instead of searching for an elusive exit strategy (or claiming victory or defeat), we should approach the engagement more like a peacekeeping mission.  It’s time to put down our weapons, roll up our sleeves, and get to work.  We can live with poverty if we do a few things right.

Soup-Kitchens-During-The-Great-DepressionShore up that safety net.

It’s not ideal to live hand-to-mouth, to rely on subsidized housing, or to wear second-hand clothes.  But people can live with that.  They can’t live with hunger, exposure, or untreated diseases.  A civilized society needs to make the basics accessible.  Period.

 

Think of the children.

Poverty can’t be permanent.  Kids with very limited means need to be able to reach the rungs of the ladder that will allow them to climb out of poverty.  Day care, education, recreation, mentoring, enrichment – our poor kids deserve the very best we have to offer so they won’t grow up to be poor.war-on-poverty

Get rid of poverty clusters.

If you’re poor, you need social, professional, and spiritual connections to raise yourself. And yet most poor people live in neighborhoods full of other poor people.  They only know other poor people, and their kids go to school with mostly poor kids.  It’s a depressing geographic picture and not easy to fix, but we should all be trying.  And on that note…

Try more stuff.

sole train 2We haven’t figured out how to successfully raise people out of poverty, so there is endless opportunity to experiment.  The answer probably lies in a thousand small things rather than one big thing…so let’s try something new every day (internships, counseling, early intervention, special education, etc.) and grow the portfolio of useful tools.

Celebrate generosity and innovation.

Poverty of wallet doesn’t mean poverty of spirit.  What can we learn from the poor who are winning their personal battles and finding opportunity and success?  What about those families who work together to realize their shared dreams?  Family Independence Initiative gets this and the philosophy can’t grow fast enough.

The poor will always be with us. Fifty years from now, I hope we’re not still pointing fingers at each other, but rather opening our helping hands towards those in need.

hands

Hold On Tight – Reentry Can Be a Little Bumpy

After a gluttonous 12-day holiday bacchanal, reality arrived this morning in the form of a snowstorm and a 6:45 wake-up call.

Today the kids went back to school.

In this morning’s barely dawning light, my recently pampered and spoiled children were digging for snow boots and mittens in the horrible hall closet we sincerely meant to organize during the break.  Only hours earlier, our whole happy household had been drooling on our pillows and dreaming sweet, sweet dreams of all the fun we had while school was out. sleepinfamily-235x300

Our dreams may have included any or all of the following:

  • Seeing Catching Fire while getting an embarrassing number of refills on the buttered popcorn
  • Visiting an indoor water park and playing on the water slide for hours
  • Snowboarding at Wachusett Mountain (twice!)
  • Ice skating with old friends
  • Playing dodge ball on giant trampolines at SkyZone
  • Sleeping until nearly lunchtime
  • Enjoying unlimited screen time (my kids consume screen time like a python eats: rarely but with an unbelievable capacity to over-indulge to the point of becoming comatose)

Honestly, the only way this vacation could have been better for my little darlings is if we had rented out Disney World, filled it with puppies, and infused sugar directly into their veins.

puppy disney

But like all great parties, this one had to come to an end.

Sadly, the aforementioned snowstorm was significant enough to require every bit of winter gear that would later cover each radiator on the first floor and drip salty discharge all over my front hall.  Even more sadly, it was not quite significant enough to close school.

Despite heartfelt bedtime prayers for a snow day, the cancellation call never came.  God must like the children outside our school district better, because they all got one more day to sleep in.  Perhaps He looked down at my kids and thought, “Those little brats will just sit around, eat sugar, and fight over the iPad.  To school with them!”

And who am I to argue?  Perhaps God was answering the even more heartfelt prayers of parents everywhere, who desperately need a little peace and quiet and to finally get some work done.

coffee-cup-and-computer

After all, if the kids had stayed home today, I wouldn’t be sitting down with a nice mug of peppermint tea, writing this blog.  I would have had to shush them when I answered the phone just now, so I could hear the recorded message from our school superintendent.

Schools are closed tomorrow.

 

Let the wild rumpus re-start!  What shall we do? Charge up the iPad, bake some cookies, and turn off the alarm clocks?  Stay up late to watch Alabama play Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl?  The possibilities are endless and my kids are about to become even more spoiled.

Until the next re-entry on Monday morning.

Maybe I should make them clean out that hall closet.

messy-closet