Friday, July 21, 2006

CPS - Looking Out For You Whether You Need Them Or Not

There's a lot to scoff at about a family who names their kid "Starchild," and when he gets sick rejects conventional cancer treatments and send him to take herbal supplements in a Mexican clinic.

But should it be illegal? Is it neglectful? Is it child abuse? Is it the government's role to step in?

Virginia CPS and a state judge says it is. Shame on them.

The boy is 16. He has already attempted conventional therapy, and it wasn't working for him. He and his parents made an intelligent, knowing, and informed decision, weighing the risks and making the decision together. Now, it's not the decision most of us would have come to. In fact, I'm not afraid to call it a painfully stupid decision that only a South Park episode can adequately mock. But in a free society, we should let him make that choice.

This isn't a case where a 2 year old is dying from an easily curable condition, but religious fundamentalist parents let her die because they only believe in the medicine of prayer. Even then, I'm troubled that a parent's good faith efforts to do what they think is best for the child's physical and spiritual well being within the tenants of their religion (even if it's not what I would do) is so easily dismissed. But here, had he waited another year and a half to make the decision, it would have been totally legitimate. He is old enough to participate in the decision making process. And it's not like the conventional medical will guarantee his health. His wishes, and those of his parents, should be respected.

If he shot and killed someone, Starchild surely would be would be tried as an adult, and held responsible for those actions. Why can he not make decisions concerning his health?

Surely, there are plenty of cases in Virginia where actual abuse, parental drug use, and neglect is going on. Surely, CPS is not overburdened with social workers just lounging around the office with not enough to do. In Washington State, 45 children within the CPS system have been murdered since 2001 by someone in their foster home. Has Virginia solved all of those problems? Is this really the best way to be using Department of Social and Health Services resources?

I am currently working largely within the juvenile justice system, working with dependency cases where abuse and neglect have been found. I've worked with those parents and those children. I've seen what abuse and neglect are. This isn't it.

I've also worked with enough social workers to be frustrated with what only can be described as their "busibodiness." They work with enough deadbeats to think that's the norm, and as a result their default position is to step in. I've learned how fine the line really is between genuine social conscience and smug, self-righteous paternalism. And as if state paternalism wasn't bad enough, it's totally inconsistent paternalism. I've seen the State declare washing a child's mouth out with soap "abuse," and then pish-posh a child's reluctance to return home to her mother because, "she stopped the pot smoking and pill popping months ago." It can be frustrating. But nothing I've seen approaches this story's absurd level of state overreach.

The tragedy is that the kid will be dragging his feet with the treatment, lessening its impact. And it will divert medical resources from other people who need - and actually want - the help of a modern hospital. The court's order doesn't help the child, the parents, or the community. In the State's attempt to rescue people from themselves, they have made everyone worse off and less free. And that, in a nutshell, is why Big Government, whatever its intentions, should be avoided whenever possible.

Good faith decisions made by parents, especially when done with the input of a near-adult who is fully capable of participating in decisions that will affect his life and health, should be respected. If the state can make this decision for this family, there is no longer any true family or home sanctity.

There is a side irony that's interesting, though. A family of hippies having trouble with Big Government. Hmmm....

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Conscience Clause

Cato@liberty just fired a shot across the bow of those who want to mandate that pharmacists fill prescriptions they find morally objectionable. I've been on the fence on the issue. This post combines all of my arguments on the side of the pharmacists (free market, freedom of religion, etc) and questions the consistency of the liberal forces, to boot. I might now be off the fence, despite my concerns about the momentum in the direction of restricting reproductive rights. I'm just not sure that I buy that a woman's right to choose implies a duty to pharmacists. That would turn a negative right into a positive right. And that's always trouble.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Tax Cuts = Deficit Reduction: Told You So!

Conservative economic policy works. According to the New York Times (which I'm surprised printed it at all):
An unexpectedly steep rise in tax revenues from corporations and the wealthy is driving down the projected budget deficit this year, even though spending has climbed sharply because of the war in Iraq and the cost of hurricane relief.
It might be unexpected to the New York Times and other liberals who don't understand that wealth must be grown (including government wealth), but not to those of us who supported the tax cuts from the beginning.

In one fell swoop, this article demonstrates the laughable falsity of "tax cuts for the rich," or the charges that "tax cuts during a war are irresponsible." And the runaway economic growth we're enjoying at the same time likewise is no coincidence.

The GOP still spends far too much of our money. But with a Democratic Congress, we would not only have more spending, but we would not have the growth that is a direct result of more money in the pockets of American business, individual investors, and of course, that Great Liberal Boogey Man: The Corporations.

How anyone can still support liberal economic policy in the face of these many years of raging success is completely beyond me.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Worst Economy Since Hoover

Record low unemployment. Rising wages. Runaway economic growth.

Kerry was sooooo right. Definitely just like the Great Depression. I'm just sayin'.

Homeless Vet Stories - Grains of Salt Required

Just after the 4th of July, this story about homeless Iraq/GWOT veterans appeared in the local paper. Y'know, just in case we were feeling too good about our country after our nation's birthday.

It's frustrating to read articles like this, because it's clear that the journalist (a) has no military experience, (b) fully expects that this is par for the course in the military, and (c) wants to further develop the idea that military people are victims who have no responsibility for anything that happens in their lives - and are, in fact, completely incompetent to exert responsibility even if they wanted to.

A more competent reporter would have asked questions like, "What does your Platoon Leader/Commanding Officer/Sergeant think about your situation? What about the Commanding Officer of the Reserve Center you drill with? What about the VA? The Navy/Marine Corps Relief Society? Your Congressman?" And then the competent reporter would have had the courtesy to actually call a military official in the know and ask them about what services they do and do not provide.

The military has never in the history of the nation been better about taking care of soldiers returning home from service than it is today. Destitute World War I soldiers marched on Washington, setting up camp to demand promised benefits they literally needed to survive. For their efforts, they were shot at, first by police, and then attacked by military forces. WWII vets were treated better, but in a time where mental illness and PTSD were seen as merely being weak, plenty of them failed to successfully reintegrate into society without anyone saying the war effort was wrong. Vietnam vets, despite the false popular image of them as depressed, drug addled failures torn by guilt over acting like "Jen-jis Kahn," have fared as well or better than the general population. Since then, programs and services, both public and private, have only gotten better.

We as a nation have gotten and continue to get better in the way we treat vets, and that's a good thing. But we need to take some care to be honest about what the problems actually are, and what we should expect of people when it comes to expending a little effort to ensure they get the benefits they deserve.

I spent two years working at a Naval Reserve Center before I started law school in 2004, the last six months of which was as the Commanding Officer. I can assure anyone that plenty of services are available to people who are having a hard time transitioning. There are dozens of people to whom demobilizing vets can turn if they are having a difficult time accessing those services. Here's an example.

One of my people, a senior enlisted sailor who frankly should have known better, was mobilized for a period of time in 2003. He was a cop in his civilian life. Just before he demobilized, he injured his ankle. During the demobilization process, the record of his injury didn't get from the active duty command he was supporting to the Naval Reserve folks processing him out, and he didn't bother to tell them he had hurt himself - he just assumed they knew or would find out eventually. He didn't inform his reserve unit or my own medical staff that he had any issues.

Instead, he showed up for work and told them he couldn't do his job, and applied for medical bennies through his civilian employer. His claim was denied, because they rightly told him that the Navy needed to pay for that care. Still, he never informed us of the problem, apparently assuming we were just handling it. I didn't find out about it until he came in nearly a month later asking me to sign a letter so he could get food stamps. One phone call to any one of half a dozen people at any point in that last month would have gotten him the care he needed, and he could have easily avoided the financial situation he found himself in. That's not too much to ask of anyone, veteran or not. The US Military and the VA are enormous and inefficient bureaucracies (often made larger and usually more cumbersome when well meaning politicians try to "support the troops").

As soon as we did find out, we dropped everything to get him what he needed, which by then was harder because of the time that had lapsed. Of course, that didn't stop him from going to a town hall meeting with one of our Senators and telling his tale of woe about how the country he served wasn't serving him, which was then dutifully picked up by the local media. I never did see a follow up story when he got the care he needed, although if there had been, the media surely would have taken credit for it, falsely assuming it wouldn't have happened without them.

Our veneration for veterans in this country, while proper, sometimes spills over to sacred cow status, which is improper. Conservatives are often the worst about this, frankly.

Veterans are well trained and well educated adult Americans who, while they deserve to be treated respectfully and well and shouldn't have to jump through 5 million hoops to obtain promised benefits, also have a responsibility to, at the very least, keep their chain of command informed about issues that they might have. They also have a responsibility not to marry their girlfriend of 2 months just prior to deployment, or worse, give them a durable power of attorney and access to all of their bank accounts. They have a responsibility to actively look for a job upon return, and contact their VA, VFW, or USERRA rep if they're having a difficult time getting work or if their employer violates federal law by not rehiring them. They have a responsibility not to do drugs.

It's never perfect and often frustrating. Pay issues do happen, and can be crippling. National Guard and Reserve forces are much worse about ensuring a smooth transition home than the active duty side, although it is a HUGE focus of the senior leadership of all the services now. Mental health issues are still inadequately addressed.

But I will go out on a limb and say that no veteran is actually homeless without a significant pattern of poor choices on behalf of the veteran him or herself.

I would be curious to see how many of those homeless vets were kicked out when the military got tough on drugs in the service. I'd be curious to know how veteran status is verified by the keepers of those statistics. Every roadside panhandler claims to be a vet because it increases the sympathy factor and generates more cash - I hope they aren't simply taken at their word.

Sometimes our vets are not treated as well as they deserve to be by the Nation that they served. But it's the rare exception, not the rule. And when it does happen, it takes more than that to lead to homelessness. The stories that appear in local, liberal media are quite simply not telling the story of these people completely or accurately.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Social This Thursday

This Thursday (July 6th) the Seattle University Chapter is hosting a social at the Garage in Capitol Hill. Click here for directions and general info about the Garage. Things get started at 7:30 PM. See you there!