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By Tom Cushing

A few notes

Uploaded: Sep 22, 2015

There's a Lot going on at the moment, with Papal and Presidential visits, debates and ongoing crises that all deserve attention. There's also a lot happening on my micro scale, so there will be no real epistle this week. In lieu thereof, I offer a few observations on other topics.

First, Tim's "Right to Die" Bill blog. I feel the need to counterpoint a few passages from his recent edition on the subject. He did write that 'reasonable minds may differ' on this subject, and mine does. First, this statement:

"For those who see nothing beyond life on this earth, ending pain and suffering is a noble goal. It's also an action that removes a loving Heavenly Father from the equation for those of us who believe that God creates all life and is sovereign."

It's not Tim's statement of his belief that concerns me – he's welcome to it, as are we all to our own. But it bothers me that his belief in the after-life is set forth as a reason to oppose the End of Life Options legislation.

You see, there is nothing in this proposal that commands Anything. It is in the very nature of "options" that they do not require, but merely allow an MD to legally assist a safeguarded patient to make the most fundamental decision and transition of his/her being. In this way, those of us fortunate to not be at that crossroads are currently, blessedly unaffected.

Accordingly, and in a way similar to the same-sex nups debate, those of us who are not involved should butt-out. It is the extension of one's own religious beliefs to others – indeed the infliction of those beliefs by way of public policy-- that is objectionable to me.

I will stay away from ecclesiastical inquiries like whether irredeemable suffering could be meaningful to a merciful deity, or whether such deity could Ever really be 'removed' from any human equation – it's enough for me to request folks who believe a particular thing not attempt to require everybody else to be governed by it.

Later, brother Tim turns to voting. "More voters for the sake of more voters might seem like a reasonable goal, but our state will be served much better if those who cast ballots are well informed." That's both a colossally demeaning shrug towards the fundamental right of citizens in a democracy, and a false dichotomy.

A "reasonable goal??" Are we not taught, rightly and from a tender age, that voting is an important civic function and duty? Do we not bemoan lack of participation in terms of low voter turnout – regardless of our political affiliations?

That statement sounds like a good start on an apologia for the despicable GOP efforts to make voting more difficult for folks who may not share the Party's philosophies. Those are transparent attempts to rig the ballot, in the name of addressing a putative voter fraud problem that demonstrably does.not.exist. It is also thoroughly disingenuous coming from someone comfortably ensconced in middle class-or-better circumstances, for whom such measures may appear doable and even "reasonable." No one is fooled.

Further, to pit 'more voters' against 'better informed voters' is a false choice. That is, unless 'better informed' is code for 'thinks like me.' Those 'informed electorate' arguments have a rich and sordid history in our democracy – recall the Oprah scene from the movie Selma?

Democracy stands for the proposition that the people decide. Period. Frankly, my own view is that if the GOP-as-currently-constituted Really relied on voters who understood the implications of their choices, it would be a fringe organization. So, be careful what you wish for, GOPers, and kindly trust the electorate.

In other news, a few further matters: first, have we finally found a poster-child for the cynical excesses of the US pharmaceutical industry? Meet Martin Shkreli, who heads Turing Pharmaceuticals (please) a fledgling drug company that owns … this pill called Daraprim. The young hedge-funder has taken a pill that's nearly twice his age, that costs about a sawbuck to produce, and formerly sold for $13.50 each, and hiked the price to an obscene $750/pill – overnight. That's a cool 5,000% increase.

The potion treats a debilitating illness called toxoplasmosis, caused by a parasite that preys on folks with compromised immune systems. My question is, if we can find a way to infuse it into Mr. Shkreli's water, might we rid ourselves of HIM?

The situation is hardly unique to Daraprim, as vulture investors have taken other, formerly cheap-as-dirt antibiotics like doxycycline, and skyrocketed them as well. "Doxy" used to cost $20 in 2013 for a bottle of 500 tablets, but by April, 2014, that price was $1,849! More on this issue later, but something's gotta change in the tension between life-saving and unregulated free markets.

And finally, after tiring of all the flatulent press coverage of the Republican debate, I'm left holding my nose. Not at the candidates' remarkably retrograde blusterings (this time – that'll come later) but at the process. Is this any way to cull a field, or choose a presidential candidate, much less a possible President? Best zingers? What is this, class clown nominations in these flavor-of-the-weak competitions?

There is simply no perspective, or seriousness as befits the process of choosing who may have a finger on The Button. Just awful. More on that later, too -- after they clear the room and I can breathe again.