Unethical Quote of the Week: Slate’s J. Bryan Lowder

“What’s more interesting is his complete refusal to recognize that the uproar around his statements isn’t just about name-calling, but rather his offensive misunderstanding of the importance and uses of birth control. As I wrote on Friday, Fluke’s own testimony was not about her sex life, but rather the painful experience of watching a friend who was forced to have an ovary removed because she couldn’t afford the pill, which, of course, has many medical uses aside from contraception. Many women depend on birth control, not for “social activities,” but for their basic health. And it is in light of his abject ignorance of female biology that Limbaugh’s willingness to demean a woman becomes truly outrageous. This apology only brings that ignorance into sharper relief”

—-Slate blogger J. Bryan Lowder, arguing that the outrage over Rush Limbaugh’s attack on law student Sandra Fluke was not just  because of his cruel and inappropriate denigration.

"Yeah, yeah, the name-calling wasn't cool, but what really ticks us off is that you don't acknowledge that we're right and you're wrong!"

Perhaps I ought to applaud Lowder for his candor, but if sincere, then this is an admission that some of the furious effort to punish and silence Limbaugh is motivated by his opposition to Fluke’s position—that contraception must be paid for in church-run institution health plans. Reminding readers that I a) wrote that the Administration was correct to require such institutions to obey the current laws like everyone else, and b) believe that Limbaugh crossed all lines of decency, fairness and civility in his attacks on Fluke, I find Lowder’s statement a blatant admission that he and his political allies aim to purge dissenting opinions from the media and the public square through intimidation, as well as a confession that the outrage over Rush’s insults was, at least by those who think like the blogger, a cover for the real objective: punishing someone for not bowing to progressive cant.

Fluke wasn’t arguing that only individuals who required birth control for special health problems should receive theirs under insurance plans, but that every woman should. It is not automatically anti-woman or ignorant to disagree with this proposition, although Rush’s characterization of birth control was indeed ignorant. Ignorance on a particular topic, however, is not a justification for running a pundit off the air. If so, we would have to part with, well, all of them.

I insist that commentators should pay a high price for engaging in hate, bigotry and incivility. Lowder and his anti-democratic bullies, however, would silence opposition voices because of “ignorance,” which in their minds can and often does translate into “thinking differently than we do, and we know best, because we are intrinsically smarter and better.” Such people are authoritarian, self-righteous censors at heart, and far, far more dangerous to American values than any blowhard like Rush Limbaugh. Trading his boorishness for their intolerant and close-minded consensus -by-command is a terrible and un-American exchange.

41 thoughts on “Unethical Quote of the Week: Slate’s J. Bryan Lowder

  1. Of note in the excerpt of Lowder’s article, posted above, is a classic example of newspeak. Since the uproar over the contraception issue broke with the ill-timed announcement of the government mandate a few weeks back, supporters of the mandate have attempted to frame the debate as a “women’s health” issue, rather than openly stating that they believe women are entitled to free birth control. Lowder takes this to an extreme, but his commentary is of a piece with other such attempts.

    While there is no doubt that pregnancy does present some additional health issues for women, presenting contraception – and who pays for it – as a “health” issue is disingenuous. Last I knew, pregnancy was almost invariably the result of voluntary activity.

    • Arthur, your argument sounds like you are penny wise and pound foolish. In this instance, a small amount of money can prevent an unintended consequence. By your position could I also assume that you oppose providing free needles to drug users?

      • Arthur, your argument sounds like you are penny wise and pound foolish. In this instance, a small amount of money can prevent an unintended consequence. By your position could I also assume that you oppose providing free needles to drug users?

        So why not mandate that auto insurance companies pay for free brake maintenance, given that working brakes make it easier to avoid car collisions?

        I do not have a problem with insurance companies covering contraception or brake maintenance. If they believe it saves money, so be it. They should not be mandated to, nor prohibited from, offering such coverage, whether in the basic policy or separate rider.

        • given that working brakes make it easier to avoid car collisions

          If brake maintenance was 99.9% effective (like the birth control pill) at preventing accidents than it probably would be covered. But we both know that is not the case.

          should not be mandated to, nor prohibited from, offering such coverage

          Isn’t this the same thing as stay out of my “personal business.” What happens when I’m at the doctors office is between me and my doctor –period.

    • In light of Gregory’s remarks, why then does it become an “insurance” issue? If something of small cost can have such a large positive impact on someone’s life why doesn’t that someone just go out and pay for the medication? And to be really cold-hearted about it, why should a third party (insurer) have to pay for the treatment of something that the individual afflicted could have avoided for little cost to themselves?

      The same with health care in general: your/our health insurance should not be expected to pay for all the doctor visits, cold pills, etc any more than your auto policy should pay for oil changes and wiper blades. The rhetoric over the years has led the sheeple to actually believe that the refusal of Blue Cross to pay for something is a denial of the treatment itself. Not so: the treatment is there, the issue is about who pays.

      • And your comparison to an auto policy is poor — oil changes and wiper blades could conceivably be covered under a warranty not insurance.

        • I like my analogy, since we are talking, generally, about insurance and not warranty. If our bodies come with some kind of a warranty, who do i call– i have some things to discuss, shoulders and knees to begin with.

          If every day that we learn something is thus not a total loss, here is one for today: you can pay real money from your own pocket for prescription medication, Yes you need the prescription, but that can also be had without benefit of insurance.

          • I would like very much to pay for medication out of my own pocket, but the price of my prescriptions would put my family out of our home without anything to eat. And without the meds there would life and death consequences. I hate handouts and work very hard, but without insurance I can’t afford to take care of myself therefore not take care of family.

          • But it is irrelevant to the issue at hand. Warranties relate to items that we purchase — not our bodies.

            Yes, you can pay your hard-earned money for your prescription medication. But if you have a health insurance policy with a drug plan you’d probably hope that anything prescribed from your doctor would be covered and not interfered with by an employer.

            And since you continue to emphasize the role of self-sufficiency I refer back to my original comment regarding this is a small price to pay that has tremendous social benefits.

            • But if you have a health insurance policy with a drug plan you’d probably hope that anything prescribed from your doctor would be covered and not interfered with by an employer.

              If your employer provides the policy, employer interference can not be avoided.

              • employer interference cannot be avoided

                Hence, the whole reason for this discussion in the first place. The legislation removed the ability for your employer to interfere.

                    • So what? Contraception coverage was available before the mandate. Clearly, at least some insurance companies were willing to cover contraception, be it for ideological reasons or for profit or some combination of the two.

                    • Clearly, some insurance companies were willing to cover contraception

                      Clearly, you’re just being dense and changing the issue from employer to insurance. Be consistent with your arguments. This has nothing to do with the willingness of insurance companies and everything to do about keeping an employer from injecting an obstacle between a patient and her doctor.

                    • This has nothing to do with the willingness of insurance companies and everything to do about keeping an employer from injecting an obstacle between a patient and her doctor.

                      If the employer is providing the benefit, the employer sets the conditions of the benefit.

                    • now you’re just going in circles…

                      So now it is the government’s job to ensure women have access to contraceptives?

                      Why not require all restaurants to serve lobster bisque with every order, so that women will be ensured to have access to lobster bisque?

                    • So now it is the government’s job to ensure women have access to contraceptives?

                      It’s the gov’ts role to ensure that nothing comes between a woman and her doctor.

                      Why not require all restaurants to serve lobster bisque with every order, so that women will be ensured to have access to lobster bisque?

                      That statement comes across as sexist–I hope you didn’t intend it that way. The issue is unrestricted access to legal medications controlled by the FDA–not the menu at Sizzler. It’s ridiculous that you take this position on such a beneficial medicine that lowers health premiums for EVERYONE.

                    • The issue is unrestricted access to legal medications controlled by the FDA–not the menu at Sizzler.

                      Why should the two be treated differently?

                      By the way, if a third party is financing a woman’s doctor bills, that someone is necessarily between a woman and her doctor.

                    • Should the company dictate what kind of car you drive (since they’re financing that through your salary)?

                    • Should the company dictate what kind of car you drive (since they’re financing that through your salary)?

                      If they choose to assume direct responsibility for making the car payments, then they can make that choice depending on the make and model.

                      Paying the salary is not the same. There is no guarantee that the receipient will actually make the car payments. If the employee fails to make car payments, the lender can not go after the employer’s assets.

  2. Should we stop having health insurance pay for Viagra, etc. since STDs are on the rise in senior care facilities which is costing the taxpayer in Medicare costs?

    • Not on the basis of that argument (the STD one).

      I’m of the belief that health insurance should be exactly that: insurance to cover catastrophic expense. I don’t think it should be expected to pay for routine body maintenance.

      • You don’t think insurance should be used to cover routine body maintenance? So you think that people should wait until they get sick before seeing a doctor? Or is it just that everyone should have enough disposable income to pay for physician visits out of pocket every few months?

        Really, Arthur, that is a ridiculous statement. I’m pretty sure the notion of “preventive medicine” was a significant leap forward for civilization. Many fewer people die if you address health concerns before they become serious, rather than waiting for something that will constitute catastrophic expense. Knowing this is why medical insurance has to be fairly comprehensive. If it wasn’t, people would – often as a matter of economic necessity – wait until the point of catastrophic expense before going to the hospital. And that would certainly drive up the costs of health care as well as driving down the population of poor and middle class people.

        • Edward, your questions to Arthur cause me to wonder how much you know and understand about insurance. “Comprehensive” is a euphemism for “a ridiculous expectation of promises far in excess of those that can be kept.”

          Insurance is about risk; sustainable insurance is about a population of insured persons literally “placing bad bets.” That is how insurance is effective: it benefits a small minority of the total number of insured individuals. Most who pay in are expected to benefit relatively little, if at all, for a long time, if not for a lifetime. The few “losers” (or “winners”), so to speak, of the bets they place are those “lucky” individuals for whom the impacts (costs) of the adversities that are insured against are less costly than if the individuals “risked alone” – the “lucky” persons are called “beneficiaries.” Insurance is not an asset redistribution scheme, however it may seem so, or may be wished to be so.

          “Routine maintenance,” as an insurable likelihood, is inherently “high risk” by the laws of numbers. There is no “bet” involved with routine maintenance. It is reasonable to expect everyone to perform routine maintenance – and for each to pay for all of it with one’s own assets, separately from costs of insured risks, so as to avoid additional, insurable risks.

          Your questions should be turned on their heads: Do you expect 100 percent of all insured persons to be paid insurance claims that zero-out all their out-of-pocket costs for their routine maintenance? Do you expect to get all your bath soap, towels, toothbrushes, aspirin, organic groceries, gym memberships…the list is theoretically endless…at no cost to yourself? Do you expect some big, ueber-rich handler-of-other-people’s-money to provide that level of benefits to yourself, plus everyone else (of those “other people”) besides? If so, you expect too much.

          If an insurer is expected to pay for every insured person’s routine health care, then the assets available for that level of coverage will be diluted to an extent that it is unrealistic (and unfair) to expect any one beneficiary to receive any more benefits than the value of what he or she has paid in. That is, unless it is assumed correctly that, say, less than 20 percent of all insured persons will actually submit a claim to be reimbursed for their out-of-pocket, routine maintenance costs. But people, behaving as they do and will, can be fairly expected to participate at far higher than a 20-percent rate, if offered the opportunity for “free” routine maintenance. Therefore, insurance for routine maintenance is not sustainable. Paying for routine maintenance is savings, at best.

          “Means-testing” of insurance claimants is merely a “just” -sounding euphemism for theft. It’s like going to Las Vegas and playing a slot machine with a bunch of other people; everyone hits the same jackpot, as shown by the machine. But, unless you can somehow prove to some other party who is in charge of “justice” that you “need” the actual full payout of that jackpot, the payout you actually get out of the machine (controlled by the arbiter of “justice”) will be much less than what some presumably more needy jackpot winner gets. Meanwhile, the “justice” arbiter skims enough jackpot payout to buy more machines and rip off more “winners.”

          So, what’s the incentive for someone to buy an insurance policy that promises NOT to benefit them? Hmmm…that would be almost like…today’s young Americans, taxed for “insurance” of their Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. How comprehensively cruel and unjust.

          • I’m not sure what it was about my commentary that made you think I don’t understand the basic function and structure of insurance, but I appreciate you taking the extra time in your comment, all the same.

            It is reasonable to expect everyone to perform routine maintenance – and for each to pay for all of it with one’s own assets, separately from costs of insured risks, so as to avoid additional, insurable risks.

            No, it isn’t reasonable to expect everyone to pay for routine medical care when not everyone’s discretionary income reliably exceeds the associated costs.

            Do you expect 100 percent of all insured persons to be paid insurance claims that zero-out all their out-of-pocket costs for their routine maintenance?

            No. I expect no American to have to spend a couple week’s salary just to visit with a physician.

            Do you expect to get all your bath soap, towels, toothbrushes, aspirin, organic groceries, gym memberships…the list is theoretically endless…at no cost to yourself?

            No, and I implied nothing of the sort. Do you really think there is no happy medium to be had between no out-of-pocket costs for anything and coverage for only catastrophic costs? That was the original language used here, catastrophic.

            Catastrophic care plans don’t make financial success for the average citizen, and unless you’re severely divorced for the reality that many people face from month-to-month, you know this to be true. Arthur has suggested that catastrophic care should be the only type of medical insurance that exists, and that’s what I am disputing. I’m not arguing for an altogether new system in which insurance magically pays out more than what it takes in; I’m saying that people like you and Arthur need to be willing to sacrifice something to the existing system not only for the financial security that it provides you, but also for sake of securing the public health and social good. The risks and benefits are more complex when discussing the health of a society than they are when talking about a business venture or the like.

    • “We” shouldn’t “have health insurance” do anything. Health insurance companies should cover what their policyholders and shareholders demand they carry. If that’s a problem, other providers are available.

  3. I don’t want to pay for someone’s birth control but I also don’t want to pay for someone’s erectile dysfunction problem either. My problem with Rush is that he made it a personal attack on someone. Misrepresenting Ms. Flukes reasons for the birth control pill was over the line. He suggested that the only purpose of the pill was to prevent unwanted pregnancy through reckless sex. If that is the reason then I can’t really understand how someone needs Viagra, if they are going to use it to have sex. If a woman needs to take the pill for other than to avoid getting pregnant, how are we to know. We know what the primary purpose of Viagra is. It is also used for heart conditions as well. I just want to know where they should draw the line. I don’t really mind Rush’s politics. He has a right to his ideas. He has the right to express his ideas. I think he could have expressed his opinion without demeaning anyone.

    Jack, a few things before I forget. I am not college educated. I don’t use spell check, a dictionary or a thesaurus. Although I know people with more education than myself that don’t know what a thesaurus is. And my use of a keyboard is left to what I call the “peek and poke” method. I call all of that “good enough to get by”. Maybe not in your case but I have survived a while with just that.

  4. Did we read the same quotation? Because what I see is a paragraph of earnest political analysis briefly arguing particular policy position and nothing else. There is nothing remotely unethical in this.

    Jack, I love your blog, but you do this all the time when writing about liberalism and other things about which you feel strongly – you’re highly prone to ascribing to the subject of your post some argument or point of view that he has not actually expressed. Lowder says nothing whatsoever in his post about silencing Rush Limbaugh. He says nothing about purging opinions from the public square. The only commentary he’s made here is that Limbaugh apologized for his language but has done nothing to address the aspect his original comments that makes him, as far as Lowder is concerned, wrong. That’s perfectly substantive and it has nothing whatsoever to do with censorship or intimidation. Unless, that is, you’re somehow right in simply asserting that that’s what Lowder really means.

    His post isn’t a tacit admission of anything; it’s an alternate line of commentary that’s actually striving to get away from the controversy over word choice and back to the question of the content of the associated remarks. The two attacks on Limbaugh’s statements can coexist, and they can also strive towards different ends. What Lowder says of the outcry of fellow liberals is that it’s not just about name-calling. But that doesn’t change the fact that it is partly, perhaps mostly, about Limbaugh’s offensive words. It wouldn’t be indicative of bullying tactics, though, for his opponents to think that Limbaugh is wrong or stupid for holding the wrong position, but also to want him to be removed from the air because of the offensive way in which he expresses his opinion.

    It seems to me that you’re upset with Lowder and other liberals for not utterly divesting their politics from their ethical views, but that’s an unreasonable thing to expect of anyone, and in light of posts like this one, it’s hypocritical.

    • I think the part that is unethical is the part where it is considered ‘offensive’ to disagree on this issue. When it becomes ‘offensive’ to have the opposing view, that is trying to silence the view. ‘Offensive’ views are not ‘appropriate’ views and shouldn’t be taught in school. Only ‘Goodfacts” should be taught there. Only ‘appropriate’ views should be promoted by any government agency, TV broadcast, any nonprofit entity, or allowed in public. Anyone harboring ‘offensive’ views should be fired, expelled from any school they attend, be declared an unfit parent and have any children taken away. They should not be allowed within 1/2 mile from any school, park, library, coffee shop, or museum.

      I think the entire left on this point is sexist and silly on this issue.

      First: Does this bill require the insurance companies to pay for condoms and vasectomies? If not, what is the justification that only women have a “right to birth control” (again, adding another silly right). Do women only have a “right” to “control their bodies”? How is this compatible with the equal protection clause?

      Now the silly: What is the logic for requiring breast pumps to be covered with no copay? Why not gas drops and diapers? What about formula for women who can’t breast feed. I think I spent more money on gas drops than on the breast pump. And formula…could have set up a good college fund for what I spent on that. Are they just randomly picking things that only women buy and making them required to be covered with no copay? It sure looks like it. If you can mandate these things, then what else? What CAN’T you require?

      • As much as I disagreed with Edward about insurance, I think he raises valid points about Jack’s criticism of Louder’s late quarterbacking. Who, when he feels offended in some personal way by some attack, is going to go immediately to whatever more substantive and less personal matter there is to the attack, and address that aspect? Few of us are like that. I would like to think I am like that, or at least, like that more and more.

        That said, I am more of your and Arthur’s mind, I believe, in being suspicious that Lowder is nonetheless striving to get away with a little bit of “hush-speech.” Maybe more specifically, hush-Rush speech.

  5. What fun.

    Gregory:
    By your position could I also assume that you oppose providing free needles to drug users?

    Nope. Jack will disagree with me on this one, but I view the drug war as an abject failure. I believe it has resulted in the creation of newer, more addictive drugs, and newer, more violent criminals. I view treatment as the optimum but decriminalization as an interim step.

    Gregory:
    And your comparison to an auto policy is poor — oil changes and wiper blades could conceivably be covered under a warranty not insurance.

    Must be nice to own a car that’s so new that it’s always under warranty. Never been there. Current car is under warranty. I do pay for wiper blades and oil changes.

    Michael Boyd:
    I would like very much to pay for medication out of my own pocket, but the price of my prescriptions would put my family out of our home without anything to eat

    Michael, you’re on very special ground here as far as I’m concerned. You helped protect my freedom as a member of the military; while I’m familiar with the downstream benefits of military service I’m also highly cognizant of the upstream consequences – and how little those who serve this nation in the armed forces are paid. In your case, the return SHOULD be down the road in return for the risk you chose to accept on my behalf, and I have no issue helping support you and yours in return. God bless, and thanks. I don’t have an issue with taking care of those who served – or their direct descendents, who also sacrificed.

    But this does NOT extend to your grandchildren, or to people who do NOT give the rest of us anything in return. You have sacrificed for me in ways I’ll probably never understand. The vast majority of those who rely extensively on government will NEVER make the type of commitment you have done.

    And meantime, do NOT settle for where you are now. If you’re not able to provide all aspects for your family, do your damndest to get to where you can. That served our nation well in the past; it can serve it well going forward.

    Gregory:
    But it is irrelevant to the issue at hand. Warranties relate to items that we purchase — not our bodies.

    That’s kind of the point, dude.

    Edward Carney:
    You don’t think insurance should be used to cover routine body maintenance? So you think that people should wait until they get sick before seeing a doctor? Or is it just that everyone should have enough disposable income to pay for physician visits out of pocket every few months?

    Proam covered the response very well. But let me ask you this, Edward – does society automatically assume responsibility for your shelter, merely because you were born? Does it owe you food? Name another species that does that. Just one. I’m waiting.

    We can agree that these are nice ideas. And it’s nice to do them when we can afford to do so. We cannot, however much you might like to “make the rich pay their fair share.” Believe me, amigo, I am far from rich. I have also seen first hand what happens when you make it easy to live on the government teat, and how it destroys people and families for generation. I saw that decades ago, when I was working in a field that brought me into regular contact. In the early days back then, I would have agreed with you; as I learned more about how the idea that the government would always be there for you I came to understand that it was a form of enslavement only slightly more noble than kidnapping.

    • Cheerio Arthur!

      –With the comparison to drug needles why conduct a social experiment for 30 years only to find out that the birth control pill does have significant benefits to society as a whole? And didn’t that Whitney Houston post change Jack’s mind about drugs?

      –Unfortunately, I’ve never owned a car in the same decade that the car was made.

  6. Pingback: Ethics Dunce: Sandra Fluke | Ethics Alarms

  7. Good God, people. Here’s the gist: Does the federal government have the right to mandate that employers fund an employee’s (or student’s) sexual hijinks by providing them with contraception? And if it does (in some dark, forgotten corner of the Constitution that only leftist judges seem to visit) then what on Earth can NOT be mandated? Maybe that “Bayer Aspirin” manuever isn’t so out-of-there, after all.

    • And if it does (in some dark, forgotten corner of the Constitution that only leftist judges seem to visit) then what on Earth can NOT be mandated? Maybe that “Bayer Aspirin” manuever isn’t so out-of-there, after all.

      Conversion therapy?

      Gender reassignment surgery?

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