Other Blog’s Comment Makes Me Angry

Sometimes I read other blogs and see comments that make me yell at the computer screen. Silly, I know.

My mother and grandfather decided to take away my grandmother’s driver’s license when she nearly hit me* over a mile away from our house** as she ran a red pedestrian crossing traffic light. It’s a hard decision to make because you are taking away ease of mobility from someone who often has always been able to go anywhere they want. Nevertheless, these decisions must be made. This is why the following comment from “Leave the Driving to Google” disturbed me so much:

The person who posted this comment is 100% aware that their father is not a safe driver. Apparently, they care so little about their father, about other people who are on or near the roads, and about acting morally that they just let him continue driving. And worse, he has already totaled a car. It’s not as if this is just beginning!

I do not advocate unnecessary removal of licenses from people just for being elderly. Yes, it drives me a little crazy when I get stuck behind an elderly driver who leaves their blinker on for 10 miles on the freeway, who drives 45mph in a 65mph zone or who never keeps a constant speed, but some of these drivers are still relatively safe drivers (although perhaps not if you judge safety based on effect on others’ blood pressure).

When someone’s age is affecting their health, though, and that health affects their driving, there’s a problem. The reason my grandmother nearly hit me? She was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. The father of the person responsible for that comment has dementia, neuropathy in his feet***, diabetes, and he drives too fast when he needs to use the bathroom. That all points to someone who shouldn’t be driving (except the diabetes, that could go either way).

It makes me angry that people don’t take enough responsibility for their family to make sure family members like this aren’t driving. And given that he’s going to church, don’t you think there’s someone that might be available to give him rides?

* Thankfully I was a vigilant kid making sure no cars were going to hit me and also that it wasn’t someone else crossing that day.

** We lived with my grandparents.

***About neuropathy here, or Google it.

Why the “Buffet Rule” is an ironic choice.

In President Obama’s most recent weekly address, he talks about taxes. Specifically, he talks about taxes for wealthy individuals. While I might not necessarily think we need to go crazy raising tax rates, it may be a good idea to raise taxes on our highest bracket modestly.

President Obama talks about the “Buffet Rule,” and mentions that Warren Buffet “is paying a lower rate than his secretary.”

What he doesn’t mention is that this is because of the differences in their sources of incomes. Buffet’s salary is $100,000 plus additional compensation. His total compensation (salary plus additional) was estimated to be $175,000 in 2007 and 2008.* His other income came from dividends and capital gains.

To compare what Buffet paid as a total tax rate (lumping in salary plus dividends and capital gains or income tax plus taxes on dividends and capital gains) isn’t really fair. There’s a reason that taxes are lower for capital gains and dividends – it’s to encourage investment. I won’t go into capital gains taxes and dividend taxes here simply because I don’t think I could explain them without being a bit verbose. See Wikipedia articles here and here for explanations.

So why is it ironic to call this tax rule the “Buffet Rule”? Because Warren Buffet falls in the portion of the population making under $250,000 a year when we judge by his actual salary. It would be far more sensible to name the rule after a billionaire or multimillionaire making over $1 million a year in salary alone, or not name it after anyone.

I also happen to think that naming the rule after a man who is notorious for his belief that wealthy people should pay much higher taxes. Did you know you can make voluntary contributions to our government? You can contribute to paying down our debt or contribute to the government’s income. They don’t have to mandate you paying more taxes for you to contribute higher amounts!

*Wikipedia.

What I’ve Been Reading: March 31

The Friendly Atheist on Glenn Beck and the Reason Rally. Did you know that Glenn Beck used to sound pretty decent and reasonable on his radio show? But he slowly went crazy… Why do I know this, you ask? I worked at a family business and they played a variety of different talk radio shows during the day.

Maybe we should just be more like Japan and use cash all the time. Then we would deal with fewer cases of identity theft and data breaches via credit card use.

The Chicago Sun-Times had an article about a man who killed his wife then committed suicide. Normally I read about murder-suicides and think it’s awful. But this one was a devoted husband who ended his wife’s life 5 years into the course of her Alzheimer’s, and I can’t blame him at all. My heart goes out to the family. This hits close to home.

It’s unfortunate that the government and anti-trust sentiment crippled our once-sprawling rail system. These days it’s unlikely that we could make a cross-country rail system work for passenger traffic. California’s going to try, though. If anything will work, it’s going to be high-speed rail.

Just read a NY Times article about a religious real estate company – that is, they only deal with religious properties (churches, mosques, temples, etc.). It’s a bit of a slow-news-day article – I got to the end and wondered what the point was. It was still interesting to read, especially about how the market for these properties has been affected and the attempts of some groups to discriminate against others even when trying to sell a property. (The pair that owns the company is cool, it’s the clients that try to discriminate).

I don’t find the various methods of communication confusing, but I definitely realize people have preferences. I’m a text or e-mail kind of person.

SAVE THE BEES! If only we actually knew how to do this.

Candy and money in Canada! Woo! (Just for the record, real white chocolate has cocoa butter in it so I’d say it qualifies as real chocolate.)*

I’m so glad I decided to follow No Ruff Days. When I’m stressed or sad or whatever, a photo of an adorable dog goes a long way toward cheering me up. This pup wants all the tennis balls!

In case you needed a little more American politics in your life, feel free to read about the Republican men who just won’t let go. And all the money people are spending throwing away to try to win elections. Random thought: the picture of Romney makes me think of a nice cartoon rat.

Okay… Now Santorum looks even more like a cartoon rat than Romney. In fact, Romney looked like a friendly cartoon rat. Santorum looks like the kind of cartoon rat that the other characters all run away from. Oh sorry, should I be focusing on article content? Santorum, either suck it up and deal or just drop out already. If he’s being quoted correctly at the end of the article, it doesn’t even sound like he’s got the right attitude to hold presidential or vice presidential office.

Etch-a-Sketch!

Ooooh! I can read a lot of books at one time. And unlike a lot of people in the comments, I don’t have to keep them separated from one another or read very different genres. :D I think the most I’ve ever been actively switching between was 6 or 7.

New app called Girls Around Me is a creepy wake-up call for women who are not careful about their online privacy. It’s also just plain creepy.

*If that seemed completely irrelevant, watch the video in the blog post.

What I’ve Been Reading March 30

Justin L. Barrett appears to have written an interesting book about children being born with a predisposition to believe in a higher power. The author of the article has chosen to use this as an opportunity to criticize Dawkins for not using the scientific method to determine the root of belief in children. Barrett, on the other hand, sounds like a very reasonable guy (the kind of believer that I wouldn’t be hard-pressed to get along with).

The Wild Hunt posted about the laws in FL, AZ, and Texas that allow students to offer “inspirational” messages at public schools that can consist of prayer. Well, the post is about a little more than that. It’s well-written.

I’m not sure how I ended up with two Daily Beast links in one day, but this one is about the Duggars. I don’t know how anyone can think overpopulation is a lie, for starters. And then there’s the whole issue that I think it’s terribly irresponsible to be open to more pregnancies when women’s bodies didn’t evolve to have so many children (19 plus a 20th failed pregnancy) and you have 19 children to take care of. Obviously the Duggars are free to make these decisions, and that’s fine, but I don’t have to think they’re making the right ones. Especially not when they place themselves in the public sphere.

Fifty Shades of Grey seems to be a hot topic among writers. I read another article about it not too long ago. It’s a little surprising how much people are reading into it all. It doesn’t make me want to read it, though.

Okay, I kind of get it when people are upset that, say, 1 in every 100 grains of organic wild rice is actually a bug. But I don’t understand getting upset about eating a product derived from insects intentionally. Unless you’re hardcore vegan for non-health reasons, then I don’t understand why you’re getting something at Starbucks.*

I liked the Afternoon Inquisition over at Skepchick yesterday.

I still love The Oatmeal. I think this comic is even better than the last one.

*Though it does make sense that it would bother a vegan that there are insect-derived components in the food.

Thirty Day Book Challenge #30: Favorite coffee table book

I don’t really look at many coffee table books or remember what their titles are. How to answer this question?

I think there’s a sort of coffee table book at my cabin about the history of the area. Lake Vermilion is beautiful, and the history is pretty interesting. It’s full of old photographs, too. I guess we can just call that my favorite, but I don’t know the title.

Thirty Day Book Challenge #29: Book you’re currently reading

Douglas Adams’The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. I love it. I was reading it the other day, and I was a little surprised at just how often I laughed out loud.

It’s full of satire and outlandish situations. I am really happy I finally got around to reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy at the beginning of 2012 and even happier that I’ve continued reading the series.

I am also reading Candide. I started it quite some time ago, but have paused a lot. I haven’t been reading as much as usual in the last month. Too much time for leisurely thought like that afforded by reading a book can be bad if you inevitably think about something really sad.

The Quad Test, Pregnancy Screening, and Aborting Pregnancy

Someone suggested to me that I write a post about the triple screen/quad screen test offered to pregnant women. (See links below for more background) Warning: this raises some very controversial issues.

I am going to start by saying I am not a parent, and I have never been pregnant. I have never been faced with the situation of deciding whether or not to have prenatal screening done. I want my readers to understand the position I am writing from – I have no idea if facing the situation would significantly change my views or not. That being said, you have no idea if my facing the situation would change my views either, so please don’t try to tell me that it would change everything. You have no way of knowing that about me.

The triple screen or quad screen test is a blood test given in the second trimester of pregnancy to measure the levels of three substances (triple) or four substances (quad). Those substances are AFP, hCG, estriol, and inhibin-A (this is not measured in the triple screen test). Combined with other factors like age of the mother, these measurements allow for an estimation of the chances of certain abnormalities (Trisomy 21, Trisomy 18, and other chromosomal abnormalities as well as neural tube defects)*. In other words, these tests do not diagnose problems, they indicate further testing may be necessary.

Many people decide not to have this screening done. They say that even if they knew the results, they would carry the pregnancy to term regardless. Other reasons may be that insurance does not always cover the test and that the mother is of a young enough age that the risk is low. While I understand this attitude, I can see a lot of reasons to get the test.

If you are one who would consider aborting a pregnancy, the test is a no-brainer. There are a lot of reasons why you might abort a pregnancy when told there’s a high chance your baby would be born with a handicap or debilitating genetic/chromosomal disorder. Everything that I’ve ever read says raising such a child is exhausting. Most people do manage to find a bright side – one woman’s description indicated that every victory is fantastically exhilarating – but they freely admit it’s very difficult.

Financially speaking, a handicapped child will likely be a burden if only because they will be your child for the entirety of their life. In addition to this, there may be medical complications, surgeries, or other problems. There will be either an opportunity cost equal to that of the income that a parent would make if not caring for this child, or, in the case of hiring a nanny there is the direct cost of the nanny’s salary.

Emotionally speaking, the toll of raising such a child is not something everyone is willing to pay. Emotional exhaustion, relationship stress, self-blame, self-pity, being unavailable to have another child – all of these are possible outcomes. Add to that the possibility of stress that would come from knowing you and perhaps your spouse are the only people willing and able to love and care for this child for the rest of their life. If you die, what will happen to them? I imagine that could be an incredibly stressful thought.

In the case of some chromosomal disorders, the problem isn’t always how exhausting it will be to raise them, but how long before they will die. Will you be letting your child be in pain for all of their short life? Will you be able to withstand the emotional toll of losing your child at a young age after watching them suffer for most of their life?

Do not think, even for a second, that I advocate for the screening of all children and the destruction of those that might be a drain on parents or society. I think it is fantastic that many parents are willing and able to love and cherish any and every child they give birth to. I think it is fantastic that children with mental handicaps are able to grow up without being treated terribly, institutionalized or called “the village idiot.” If you are someone who, when you become pregnant, is committed to carrying to term and raising the child, that’s wonderful. Good for you. Still, I think you should consider having first trimester screening or the quad test done. Why?

Even if you would never consider aborting a fetus, for whatever reason, these tests can be valuable. Special needs children have special needs. To know ahead of time that your baby may be born with Downs or Edward’s can only be helpful. If you are given the chance to prepare, there will less of a shock when you find out. If you are prepared for such an outcome, and your baby is born completely healthy against the odds, you only have cause to celebrate. From my perspective, knowing what to expect would make life easier.**

Finally, if you do consider aborting, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. As I mentioned, special needs children can be exhausting. If you decide you are not emotionally prepared to raise such a child, you are making a responsible decision. If you feel financially ill-equipped to raise such a child, you are making a responsible decision. If this outcome fits in your moral framework, do not allow others to make you feel ashamed. It is important that you believe you made the right decision within your own moral framework. Whether or not it fits into someone else’s framework isn’t particularly important.***

*Trisomy 21 is Down Syndrome; Trisomy 18 is Edwards Syndrome (this is what Rick Santorum’s daughter has); neural tube defects include spina bifida and anencephaly.

**I do fully accept that not everyone feels this way. I don’t understand why, but I do realize it.

*** I should probably point a couple of things out: I don’t advocate this approach for everything. I am not making a blanket moral statement. This fits in my moral framework for a variety of reasons, perhaps paramount of which is that what I’ve read suggests fetuses don’t feel pain.

Quad Screen description at americanpregnancy.org

Triple Screen description on the University of Minnesota’s Medical Center page.

First trimester screening description on the University of Minnesota’s Medical Center page.

What I’ve Been Reading March 28: the Blog edition

So-named because it is filled with links to other (mostly wordpress) blogs!

The King Heathen’s take on secular death was a good post. Especially loved the Firefly and House references.

There are some things PZ Myers won’t compromise on. And for this one, he’s definitely admirable.

And here’s one from Jonathan Turley. Um, what?

Educations in New York decided that, with such things as Halloween and dancing, the reference to dinosaurs “could evoke unpleasant emotions in the students.” Also banned is the word “evolution.”

Sidenote: dinosaurs are more than “an entire species.”

Oatmeal Extremists! That’ll make sense if you click the link. I guess I’m not qualified to be an atheist extremist since alcohol is not my thing. Does having a tremendous sweet tooth work as an alternative? Personally I prefer the image of an atheist extremist eating cotton candy and perhaps buying the c.c. cart, too. Or mini-donuts! I’ll stop.

Keith Ablow is still at his we-must-have-rigid-traditional-gender-roles game. He came to my attention last year when the Jenna Lyons/J. Crew/boy in pink toenail polish* thing happened. Keith Ablow is apparently obsessed with rigid gender roles. He’s supposed to be a psychiatrist and he works with Fox. Now he’s opining about “The Hunger Games” movie.

Ooh! Plagiarism, that’s fun. Seriously? It’s on a site that seems semi-professional, too.

Was Jesus a zombie? (Or, more appropriately, “Biblical Myths, Metaphors and Fairy Stories – Part 2″). Interesting post by Rowan.

This is a bit random, but a man named Brian Davis is using law enforcement sketch software to make sketches of book characters. I have to admit, though, that most of these don’t really click with me. Mr. Rochester needs a bigger nose.

*If I was even remotely anonymous before I’ve now ruined it. I think I’ve linked to my articles in the past as well, though. Whatever. Yeah, now you know who I am.