Monday, October 25, 2004


Yet sometimes our desire to be politically correct quells dialogue. Our fear of being offensive causes us to censor ourselves. Instead of saying what they really think, people say what they think they should say. Rather than talking about the real issues, we talk around them. In an attempt at being politically correct, people foreclose the possibility of having an honest conversation, of revealing their true prejudices, and of being held accountable for their thoughts and practices, politically correct or not.

In a real sense, politically correct discourse is far more insidious. It allows people to hide behind their words, for it gives the impression of tolerance and fairness and understanding. It allows us to ignore the intentional and unintentional prejudices we hold. It allows us to forget the racism and misogyny and homophobia that pervade society. Were I not an advocate for equal rights for all humans, including women, gays, lesbians, people with disabilities, African-Americans, Latinos, Asians and Native-Americans. I might not be able to say the things I said before. And although I do believe in equality for all, it does not mean that what I said was therefore excusable. I do buy into stereotypes. I do use politically incorrect words. I do harbor certain assumptions and prejudices that are unfair and harmful. Yet had I not written them down, had I worried about offending you, had I been entirely politically correct, you might have never known I did.

Politically incorrect speech presents us with the opportunity to call one another out. It holds the potential for real dialogue where the speaker is forced to come to terms with his or her assumptions and prejudices, and where the listener can inform the speaker about the power of his or her words and the fallacy of such thinking.

Now, I am not advocating that people revert back to using racial epitaphs [joke? I presume "epithets" is meant] and telling sexist jokes. Words are messy, complicated little things that possess an unruly amount of power. They can provoke and incite. They can hurt and upset people. They can cause irreparable damage. And there are some words that are so loaded with decades of discrimination and hate that I think they are better left unsaid.

Yet there is a difference between hate speech and offensive speech. Hate speech is violent and meant to inflict harm. It is saying politically incorrect things with the knowledge that they are hurtful and unwelcome. Offensive speech, while it too can also cause harm, is usually less malicious and its effect less understood. It stems more out of ignorance than out of sheer hate. Therefore, it can provide a locus for dialogue, for a rational and productive conversation about the word and its implications. It demands that people express their feelings, acknowledge their inherent prejudices, and work to improve themselves as well as their relations with others. Honest speech, as difficult and painful as it might be, is one way we can begin to break down the walls of hate and intolerance and misunderstanding.

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Socialism is self-reinforcing. Make the government responsible for your health-care and it has an excuse to dictate what you eat -- even though one would think that choosing one's own food would be one of the most basic of individual liberties

"More than a quarter of the phenomenal growth in health care spending over the past 15 years is attributable to obesity, Emory University researchers reported yesterday. With 60 percent of the U.S. population deemed overweight or obese, study author Kenneth Thorpe said the only way to control soaring medical costs is to begin targeting prevention efforts and treatment on the most costly weight-related illnesses, such as diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease. "We've got to find ways to get the rates of obesity stabilized or falling," he said in an interview. "We need to find effective interventions to deal with this on multiple levels -- the schools, at home, in the workplace -- because clearly this is a major driver in terms of growth in health care spending."

From 1987 to 2001, medical bills for obese people constituted 27 percent of the growth in overall health care spending, he found. The jump in spending was attributable to both a rise in the number of obese Americans and higher costs for treating those patients. Treating obese patients was 37 percent more expensive than medical care for normal-weight people, Thorpe and colleagues wrote in the journal Health Affairs. Put another way, obesity accounted for an extra $301 per person in medical spending over the 15-year study period. "The actual numbers are probably higher," Thorpe said, because his team relied on people who self-reported their weight and height.

Obesity is determined by body mass index or BMI (a formula in which a person's weight in kilograms is divided by the square of his or her height in meters). A score higher than 30 is deemed obese; 25-30 is considered overweight. By those standards, a six-foot man weighing 225 pounds is categorized as obese. Federal officials have estimated that treating obesity-related illnesses costs about $93 billion a year, but Thorpe is the first to examine the impact on the overall growth in health spending. The Emory team based its analysis on inflation-adjusted federal data on medical spending and health status. "These numbers show that the prevailing approach for dealing with obesity, which is to blame people who have the problem and hope the situation will disappear, is a fantasy," said Kelly Brownell, director of the Yale Center for Eating and Weight Disorders. "Something dramatic needs to be done to change the environment in order to prevent this problem from occurring in the first place."

"Once you are obese, it is very hard to treat, so prevention makes sense," he said. "And when you focus on children, you get away from the libertarian arguments that adults are just doing this to themselves."" [The would-be dictator speaks]

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