Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Separation Of Church And State?



According to the morning paper, sixteen members of an Amish sect in Ohio have rejected plea bargains which would have reduced their potential jail time from 20+ years to two or three years. Some may even have been eligible for parole.
Their crime? Cutting the beards and hair of fellow church members in order to send a message that they should be ashamed of themselves for the way they were treating fellow Amish! Because short hair and beards are considered to be deeply offensive in the Amish culture, U.S. prosecutors have decided this was a hate crime!
So what is a hate crime? According to Wikipedia, current statutes permit federal prosecution of hate crimes committed on the basis of a person's protected characteristics of racereligion, ethnicitynationalitygendersexual orientationgender identity, and disability.
I suppose an argument could be made that the current crime is an attack on the religion of the victims, but I can't quite buy that. This was not a crime against the religion – the defendants are of the same religion as the victims – but retribution for not following the behavior expected of members of the religion.
It is as if a Catholic priest refused to serve communion to any members who used birth control – I doubt very much that this would be considered a hate crime.
But even if a case can be made that it truly falls under the hate crime statutes, 20 years for cutting a man's beard seems to be a travesty of the “let the punishment fit the crime” principle of criminal justice. While a beardless Amish man may be deeply mortified, it's not like he was physically harmed in any way. The beard will grow back, and as the ancient saying goes, “This too shall pass.”
Also in this morning's news is an article about a man who received a sentence of 10 years for repeatedly raping a 5-year-old boy. And these guys face a 20 year sentence for cutting a man's beard. Give me a break!
Whatever happened to the separation of church and state?
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My books, “There Are Only Seven Jokes” and “The Spirit Runs Through It” are available in paperback, or at the Kindle Store.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Doctors Yesterday and Today


 While waiting for the doctor yesterday, I got to thinking about the ways in which visits to the doctor have changed over the years. I had plenty of time to think - I arrived ten minutes early to a crowded waiting room, and figured I would be there for quite a while.
Thirty-five minutes after my appointed time my name was called, and I was taken to an examination room. “Not too bad,” I thought. Thirty-five minutes after that the doctor showed up! “Not too good,” I thought, “but not unusual today, particularly for a specialist.”
Now to be honest, during the 1940s and 1950s there was a local surgeon with a similar arrangement. You almost always arrived to a waiting room with 20 people ahead of you. When your name finally was called you were ushered into another waiting room filled with the same 20 people! It was usually about a 30 minute wait after you finally arrived in the examining room. But this was very unusual for the time.
Until the 1960s, when one needed to see one's family doctor, one dropped into his office during “visiting hours,” usually two to four in the afternoon and seven to nine in the evening (except for Thursdays). If one were too ill to go to the office, one called him and he came to the house. I believe the cost was two dollars for an office visit and five dollars for a house call. You remember house calls.
At one time one of my sons was stung by a bee, and we discovered he was subject to anaphylactic shock! The treatment consisted of an injection of serum weekly for ten weeks. The doctor kept the serum in his refrigerator, and each week he gave my son his shot for a dollar!
Today if one needs to see the family practitioner, it requires an appointment. The wait is usually not more than ten or fifteen minutes, but the fee, your co-payment plus the insurance company payment, can run upwards of $70 for a ten minute visit. And you are lucky if you get ten minutes of his time, particularly if he is a member of a family group.
In the past, the family doctor performed minor surgery in his office, but not anymore. Unless your problem is very minor, he will probably send you to a specialist.
In 1949 I had a family doctor remove a marble-sized cyst from my wrist in his office. It cost me $35. Today's specialist would probably do the same job in a surgery center for several thousand dollars.
Yesterday the doctor prescribed cortisone shots for my knees,but he didn't actually administer the shots – he had his nurse do it. When I questioned it, she said the doctors don't do the on-hands work; that's the nurse's job. Well, that's probably several hundred dollars cheaper than if he did it.
How times have changed.

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My books, “There Are Only Seven Jokes” and “The Spirit Runs Through It” are available in paperback, or at the Kindle Store.