Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Sex, Lies, and You - Part I of III

Sex, lies, and you, Part I of III

This series of posts is in direct response to this blog post and the related discussion below.  (What?  It takes me a while to get my thoughts in order sometimes.)  As much fun as comment whack-a-mole is, it does get time-consuming and exhausting.  So I decided to organize my thoughts and put them all in one place.  This will read like a series of lies and my responses, based on observation and experience.  You know, like, facts.  Not baseless assertions, not insults, not condescension.    

Anyway, here we go -

“Sex is just an animalistic act.”
See also: “Sex is the deepest giving of yourself.”
See also: “Women are hard-wired to bond deeply during sex.”
See also: “Men are hard-wired to not commit and use women for sex.”

No.  Well, yes.  Sometimes. 

Sex seems to mean whatever your relationship with the other person means.  It’s that type of “sex has inherent value” thinking that leads to rape and sexual assault victims feeling ashamed and “ruined” (see Elizabeth Smart).

So, yeah – people are absolutely correct when they say that “everyone should decide for themselves.”  Because everyone’s situation is different.  Two spouses who love each other will experience the deepest giving of self during sex.  Two virtual strangers who have a one-night stand merely perform an animalistic act.

Here’s a clue: recognizing that context matters doesn’t mean moral relativity.

Regarding the disparity in wiring between men and women – how can you say this and then turn around and say, “Oh, sex within marriage is the deepest giving of self.”  Do you not see how this undermines the concept of sex being a bonding experience within marriage?  How can anyone possibly bond with such a gross disparity supposedly “hardwired” in?  Further, this nonsense all but excuses the way some men treat women like objects: “It’s in their nature.”

 “God’s law says that only sex within marriage is okay.”

Awesome.  Let’s have that discussion.  Totally separate from slut-shaming, putting virginity on a pedestal, broad pronouncements about “universals” of experience that don’t exist, and all that other crap.  Principles of interpersonal relationships appear to exist independently of what laws God and the Church have in place.  That’s why it doesn’t follow that, for example, “People who have sex before marriage and don’t regret it have inherently dysfunctional relationships.”  It doesn’t work that way.  And when you lie to people, it will only work until they figure out they are being lied to.  Then see if they ever trust you again.

“If you have sex before marriage, you will regret it.”

Maybe.  I’ve noticed among reading many testimonials and meeting many individuals that if you have sex because of other people you will probably regret it.  “Because of other people” means a variety of things, including being pressured into it, seeking love or acceptance, or feeling like you “should” for whatever reason.

On the other hand, simply holding sex up on a pedestal sets you up for disappointment, either in yourself because you didn’t wait as long as you wanted (and now you’re “ruined”), or in sex itself when you finally get married and realize that it’s not anything like the movies.  It’s better than the movies in a lot of ways, but you have to be open to appreciating sex for what it IS, not what you WANT IT TO BE based on books, movies, or porn.

However, if you have sex because you want to, with symmetrical feelings and expectations, those are the people with no regrets, because they had sex for the right reasons.  This is why sex within marriage usually goes so well – if two people love each other enough to get married, it’s pretty clear at that point that their relationship is symmetrical with regard to emotion and commitment.  On the other extreme end of the spectrum we have the one-night stand, another event with two people with symmetrical feelings and expectations (i.e. virtually none).  This is why one-night stands also tend to go well.

Where you run into trouble is either a friends-with-benefits arrangement or a dating relationship.  There is an EXTREMELY high risk of asymmetry, meaning one person has more feelings than the other one.  It’s when there’s a disparity in feelings and expectations that the trouble begins.  Issues are compounded by the fact that these two individuals tend to be immature enough to not SAY anything to each other, or ACT prudently on what they know to be true, so they suffer / assume in silence, while the problem grows.  “Well it wouldn’t be an issue if they weren’t having sex!”  Baloney.  Asymmetry in relationships is ALWAYS a risk in relationships.  Stories abound of unrequited love between friends, or of couples who are dating or even engaged where one person is more in love than the other, as well as the classic left-at-the-altar story where someone’s heart gets broken and there is NO sex involved.  Sex is not the issue; the disparity in expectations is.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Influence in the battle of the sexes

Do me a favor, would you please?  Read this piece, and flip through a handful of comments.

Notice anything?  It appears from the comments that the disparity in research between "how women influence men" and "how men influence women" is ironclad proof of a Feminist Triumph!


First of all, I am assuming that we are excluding for our purposes any research regarding "how marriage influences women" because heterosexual women tend to marry men, if they do marry.  Or it could be that studies regarding how marriage affects women tend to have corresponding studies on how marriage affects men.

That being said, I have an alternative to the "Feminist Triumph!" theory.  Feminism definitely has a footprint, but we are still very much living in a patriarchal, masculo-normative (is that even a word?) society.  Thus, the focus is on how the introduction of women (or "independent variables" as Ms. Waldman states) affects the "norm" of a male-dominated environment.  As such, this disparity in research actually evidences how far feminism has yet to go in creating a society where "maleness" and "femaleness" is seen as equally valuable and equally good.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Five things ACA supporters are just learning (Part III of III)

… that ACA opponents knew from the beginning.  That’s why we were ACA opponents in the first place (duh).

See the full article here

Continued from Part II –

“4. Obamacare is immensely complicated.”

Tell me, what part of “2,000-page bill that no one has read” said to you, “The ACA is simple, intuitive, and straightforward”?  Here’s a clue: the correct answer is “Nothing.”

“5. The exchanges offer limited choice of doctors.”

Not just the big, bad insurance companies here.  Doctors themselves are opting out.  Yes, those paragons of selfishness, who racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, actually want to make enough money to pay off their debt, provide for their families, AND live the decent lifestyle that they have worked for years to achieve.  The horror!

In all seriousness, this is one of the biggest ways that companies cut costs – by limiting the range of benefits and in-network providers.  That’s how HMO’s work.  They are crazy effective at cutting costs, but the price of cutting costs is limited choice.  The ACA’s effect on insurance policies is no different – if you mandate lower costs, the first thing to go is a range of choices.

My designer insurance reform:

1) Get rid of state-specific insurance plans.  Let coverage be nation-wide.  This would increase competition (lower premiums), give each company a wider policyholder base (lower premiums), reduce state-specific administrative difficulties (lower premiums), but would also mean more claims payouts (higher premiums).  On balance, I think this will result in lower premiums.

2) Ditch the insurance-through-employer model (See part II).  This will hopefully eliminate the moral hazard problem as people pay for exactly the coverage that it’s worth it to them to pay for.  I think this will result in lower premiums.

3) Subsidized risk pools (See part I).  This will result in higher premiums, but I think all three points together will result in lower premiums and more satisfaction with coverage, on balance.

If you have any other ideas, or if I am wrong about anything, or I forgot to address something really important, please let me know.  I am genuinely interested in how to help fix our healthcare system without the train wreck of the ACA.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Five things ACA supporters are just learning (Part II of III)

… that ACA opponents knew from the beginning.  That’s why we were ACA opponents in the first place (duh).

See the full article here.  

Continued from Part I – 

“2. Many people will lose their current insurance.”

You don’t say.

Supporters of the ACA accurately state that technically there’s nothing in the ACA that forces insurance companies to take your plan away from you.  It’s the big, bad insurance company’s fault that you can’t keep your plan.

Yes, the big, bad insurance companies are doing exactly what anyone who paid attention in Econ 101 said they would do – change in response to the new regulatory environment.  With the new “minimum essential coverage” guidelines, all these plans are being legislated out of existence.

If I could just digress a moment to discuss these theoretical “junk” plans.  It’s the new talking point that everyone is getting a better plan.  This is just straight-up not true.  Story after story abound *cough* about people having to pay an exorbitantly higher amount for the same or fewer benefits.

Now, that being said, here is an area where I am actually with the ACA supporters – ACA opponents are complaining everywhere that because of the way different types of people are now lumped together, men are having to pay for maternity care, breast cancer, and a host of other female-specific conditions.  They’re not complaining so much that women have to pay for male-specific conditions, so I guess that’s not as big of an issue to them.  /eyeroll.

Listen here kids – if men’s and women’s premiums are all lumped together to pay for BOTH male-specific and female-specific conditions (setting aside maternity care for a second), on balance it’s a wash, unless there’s some huge difference in how common certain conditions are.  Which I don’t think there is; if you can find something to prove me wrong, please do.

Now – returning to maternity care – how do women get pregnant?  What’s that you say?  Because a man voluntarily had sex with her?  Awesome.  Guess why I don’t care that men are griping about having to pay for maternity care?  Show me a man who’s a virgin – he’s the ONLY one with a legitimate complaint in this department. 

“3. You don’t have to buy through the exchanges.”

Now this one right here isn’t technically about the ACA.  This item has more to do with the lack of general knowledge about open market insurance options.  And that makes sense - if most people are getting subsidized premiums through their employer, they have no need to go anywhere else.  It wasn’t until I switched jobs and decided not to pay $2000 a month to insure my family that I investigated my open market options.

The purpose the exchanges serve is a guaranteed place where anyone could buy insurance.  But since no one is likely to get on the exchanges for quite some time, and also since many of the big carriers are opting out of the exchange, I don’t think it’s going to be very effective.

But while we’re on the subject, it’s bullshit that the only way to get an insurance subsidy is to buy through the exchange.  Why can’t I buy a policy on the open market and then claim a deduction on my 1040?  Would that have been so bad?

Also, why are premiums paid through my employer deducted straight from my W-2 wages (thus lowering my AGI), while premiums paid myself are deducted elsewhere on the form and do not lower my AGI?  My AGI is used as a base to calculate the allowability and amount of several different deductions, so buying insurance myself (as opposed to through my employer) is essentially a penalty.

If it were up to me, I would scrap the insurance-through-employer model.  I would also scrap the insurance-pays-for-everything model.  I would make health insurance more like auto insurance.  You buy it on the open market, decide who you want on your policy (self, kids, grandma, down-on-her-luck friend, neighbors, parents, ANYONE), decide what your catastrophic illness deductible is (with the understanding that regular doctor visits are out-of-pocket*), and your price is adjusted accordingly. 

*One thing to remember with health insurance – if you have a high deductible plan and go to the doctor before you hit your deductible, look at your bill.  Your bill will show gross charges, “plan discounts” or some such, and the amount you owe.  Even though you’re paying out-of-pocket, you’re still not paying 100% of charges.  Whenever I’ve gone to the doctor with my high deductible plan, my actually out-of-pocket cost has actually been pretty darn good.

To be continued …

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Cartoon roundup!

All right, everyone, it's time for a cartoon roundup!  In which I comment on cartoons that have struck my fancy, in no particular order -

Now here is one where I actually would appreciate reader commentary, since I'm too busy lazy to do my own research.  Also, I want to hear people present the best of the other side.  I am as pro-life as you can get, but in the meantime, it makes sense to hold physicians who do that sort of procedure up to a high standard.  Especially given the fact that abortions DO go wrong, and when they do, they leave the mother AND the baby dead (as opposed to just the baby).  My (unsupported) understanding is that there are some politics regarding who has hospital admission privileges such that a rule regarding hospital admission privileges wouldn't solve anything.  Also, that supposedly Gov. Brown's bill doesn't result in any reduction in safety to the woman.  Anyway - I'm open to thoughts here.

Yeah.  This one pretty much goes without saying.  More costs to insurance companies, healthcare providers,  businesses, and policyholders.  It just sucks all around.  Tell you what, let's pass a law that sucks up all sorts of costs from various sources and wonder why the economy doesn't recover!

The only thing I would add is that this seems to be a first resort (rather than a last resort) when it comes to criticizing the President.

To be honest, I'm pretty tired of hearing the "you can keep your health plan" drumbeat.  We get it - the President lied.  But I've heard it so much I don't care anymore.  So why did I include this cartoon?  Three words: Smoky the Bear.  Such a well-recognized symbol of good forest stewardship whom I was introduced to in kindergarten; he makes me smile.

This.  Is there anything on the news that's NOT alarmist and sensationalist anymore?

Yeah.  Exactly.  Never mind that the House Republicans were using their Constitutionally designated powers.  Never mind that the Senate Democrats could have agreed at any time to Republican bills that authorized funding the government if only Congress's ACA exemption was lifted.  Nope.  It's all 100% the Republicans' fault.

I think that's enough for now.  Enjoy!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Five things ACA supporters are just learning (Part I of III)

… that ACA opponents knew from the beginning.  That’s why we were ACA opponents in the first place (duh).

See the full article here.  

“1. Premiums will go up for many people.”

Tell me, those of you who paid attention in Econ 101, what happens when you simultaneously:

1) Increase costs of suppliers (forcing insurance companies to cover more services and more people)
2) Increase risks to suppliers (forcing insurance companies to cover those with pre-existing conditions)

Guess what?  Suppliers will grab additional revenue from wherever they can.  In this case: you, the esteemed policy-holder.

Now, I know I’m oversimplifying a bit for the sake of brevity and clarity, but nothing I omitted changes the underlying principles of how market participants respond to market changes.

Having said that, I know that in our current healthcare marketplace, insurance companies essentially function as the gate-keepers to at least half-way decent care.  I also know that these same insurance companies have regularly abused the pre-existing condition disqualifier.  If you have a cold when you attempt to sign up for insurance, oh look!  You have a pre-existing condition and are not covered for anything.  I’m exaggerating, but not by much.

Normally I’m in favor of free market solutions, but when abuse of the little guy is so rampant and widespread, I think we need to do something via government channels.  To address the pre-existing condition issue, assuming no other health reform was taking place, I would have supported simultaneous:

1) Limits on what is considered a pre-existing condition such that any given insurance company could deny someone coverage.

2) When a person applies for insurance, a decision will be made whether to cover them or not within 72 hours.  If that person is denied based on one of the allowable pre-existing conditions, the insurance company issuing the denial has 72 hours to both notify that individual’s state Department of Health and Human Services (or whatever it’s called in their state) AND send a denial letter to that individual either electronically or by mail so they have evidence of being denied coverage.

3) Such individuals are covered through a federal or state-run subsidized risk pool which would hopefully provide better reimbursement than Medicaid.  Such a risk pool would be funded by ….

4) A tax levied on all health insurance companies operating in that state (or at a national level – either way).  The amount would be determined annually by actuaries and would use a company’s premium revenue less claim payouts as a tax base.  Additional reductions to the tax base are allowable for claims paid for any individuals who could have been denied coverage based on the list determined in step #1.

This approach would ideally accomplish:

1) Limitations on pre-existing condition denial abuse by insurance companies (step #1).

2) Incentives for the insurance companies to nevertheless absorb the cost of people with pre-existing conditions (step #4).

3) For those companies who would rather someone else pick up the tab – fine.  But they are going to give the applicant a quick decision (step #2), help pay for it (step #4), and timely provide the necessary documentation to allow that applicant to get coverage (step #2).

4) Coverage for anyone who applies for it (step #2 or #3).

5) Incentives to keep premiums from rising too much (step #4 and the lack of “minimum essential coverage” guidelines) and incentives to keep collections from insurance companies reasonable (step #4).  Any funding shortfalls would have to be made up the next year.

Let me know if I missed anything.

To be continued ….

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

This just in - kale is gross

Yep – I said it.  When I want a salad, I often half-joke that I am craving leaves, but kale is just a bit too dark and leafy-flavored for me.  Although it’s not too unfortunate with some bleu cheese and parmesan peppercorn dressing.

So do I really have to eat it? 

Oooo, shiny.  I have a feeling I should really dig into all those tables and colorful charts and really take control of my diet.

WebMD sings the praises of kale.

But the Herald-Tribune?  "The fiber in kale can aid digestion in general … [but it] can be hard on the digestive system [and] cause bloating, gas, and other abdominal issues.”  First – huh?  Second - uh oh.  My husband is probably not going to like me very much tonight.  Also, kale seems to have compounds that have been associated with kidney stones and gallstones, and others that can suppress thyroid function.  Hmmmm.

So how much should I eat?  Well, since I currently eat, I dunno, NONE, I suppose I can at least eat a little bit more.  With some bleu cheese and parmesan peppercorn dressing, of course.