How long is it until we can leave David Brooks out on a hillside to die?

As I have mentioned before, I try very hard not to read anything that David Brooks writes, just in case my brain becomes so revolted it tries to crawl out my ears.

His most recent excresence, however, is so appalling, such a pile of unthinking horror topped off with scads of twaddle masquerading as sympathy, that I can’t leave it alone.

The fiscal crisis is driven largely by health care costs. We have the illusion that in spending so much on health care we are radically improving the quality of our lives. We have the illusion that through advances in medical research we are in the process of eradicating deadly diseases. We have the barely suppressed hope that someday all this spending and innovation will produce something close to immortality.

Obviously, we are never going to cut off Alzheimer’s patients and leave them out on a hillside. We are never coercively going to give up on the old and ailing. But it is hard to see us reducing health care inflation seriously unless people and their families are willing to do what Clendinen is doing — confront death and their obligations to the living.

My only point today is that we think the budget mess is a squabble between partisans in Washington. But in large measure it’s about our inability to face death and our willingness as a nation to spend whatever it takes to push it just slightly over the horizon.

After about ten minutes sitting in front of my computer spluttering and trying very hard (and failing) not to wish a long and lingering death on the sanctimonious pea-brain, I was lucky enough to find this wonderful response from James Ridgeway at Mother Jones which relieves me of the need to formulate rational responses to Brooks’ article:

Here’s how Brooks comes by his position: To begin with, he says: “The fiscal crisis is driven largely by health care costs.” Never mind two futile wars and 10 years of tax relief for millionaires.

Furthermore, he argues, the reason for these soaring costs is that very old and very sick people insist on clinging on to their miserable lives, when they ought to be civic-minded enough to kick off. It’s not the insurance companies, which reap huge profits by serving as useless, greed-driven middlemen. It’s not the drug companies, which are making out like bandits with virtually no government regulation. It’s not the whole corrupt, overpriced system of medicine for profit, which delivers the 37th best health care in the world, according to the WHO, at more than twice the cost of the best (France). No. It’s all about us greedy geezers. We’re the ones who are placing an untenable burden on the younger, heartier citizenry, with our selfish desire to live a little longer.

Brooks writes that “it is hard to see us reducing health care inflation seriously unless people and their families are willing to and their families are willing to do what Clendinen is doing—confront death and their obligations to the living.” And why is this so hard to see? Because conservatives like Brooks don’t believe in challenging the profit-driven health care system, and the people who pass these days for liberals lack the moxie to stand up to them.

Based on models from countries like France and Canada, we could bring about whopping savings in health care expenditures through a single payer system without rationing or compromising the quality of care. Short of this, we could opt for much more regulation and still save more money than we could by pulling the plug on every geezer in the land.

If I have any obligation to the living, it’s to leave them with a better system than we have now—one that values all human life above profits. But I know that’s not likely to happen before my death—which, if I listen to Brooks, could be right around the corner.

Instead I can simply content myself with:

(a) pointing you to this Dean Baker article, charmingly entitled “Is David Brooks Really Clueless About the Inefficiency of the U.S. Health Care System?

(b) noting that you, Mr Brooks, are an irredeemable arsehole.

ETA: In comments, the lovely Mr Levenson notes:

Thanks for this, SP&T. I was trying to summon up the strength for one more Brooks beat-down when I finally read today’s column a little while ago. And now I don’t have to.

You didn’t mention, though, what a vicious monstrous asshole he is for taking an incredibly carefully wrought, felt and thought essay by someone who knows much more of suffering than Brooks closed little mind will ever grasp—and twisting its point to exactly the opposite of what the author wrote. Brooks asks us to die for our country; Clendinen is constructing the timing and manner of his death for his own reason: to live the life he thinks worth and worthy of living, and not one moment that is not.

To get that wrong is to demonstrate one’s own unfitness—not for existing—but for any authority whatsoever.

He’s right. Clendinden’s article is truly lovely – gripping and sad and funny – and for David Brooks to use it for his own perverted ends is malicious and nasty, but sadly no more than we could expect.

[Image: Cardinal Mazarin Dying – Paul Delaroche (1797-1856)]

[Cross posted at Sarah Proud and Tall.]






92 replies
  1. 1
    scav says:

    Or, more classically put
    Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori
    so kick off there gramps!

  2. 2
    No one of Importance says:

    What was Brooks’ position on Dubya trying to keep a brain dead woman on living death support against the wishes of her husband and herself?

    Sacrifices for thee and not for me. The right wing motto (yes, we have the same kind of pustulent liars in Australia too, as I’m sure you know.)

  3. 3
    Nom de Plume says:

    it’s about our inability to face death

    I look forward to David Brooks facing death like a man, and denying himself whatever life-extending treatment is available when he’s old. Or now, for that matter.

  4. 4
    BGinCHI says:

    If you carefully rearrange the words in David Brooks’ name, they spell stupid pompous fucking asshole.

    The only reason terrorists don’t kidnap him is because they don’t want to do us any favors.

  5. 5
    moonbat says:

    I didn’t think the Republicans would get around to admitting that they are really FOR death panels this quickly. I guess summer 2009 was Classic Case of Projection #735.

  6. 6
    Hypnos says:

    Hey I have a better idea: let’s BURN old people in power stations. Solve the energy crisis as well!

    But then it’s liberals who want “death panels”.

  7. 7
    Quiddity says:

    In David Brooks’ defense, he isn’t aware that any other countries exist on this planet.

  8. 8

    We have the illusion that through advances in medical research we are in the process of eradicating deadly diseases.

    Thank FSM that Bobo is there to save us from our delusions that Small Pox and Polio are gone.

  9. 9
    Tom Levenson says:

    Thanks for this, SP&T. I was trying to summon up the strength for one more Brooks beat-down when I finally read today’s column a little while ago. And now I don’t have to.

    You didn’t mention, though, what a vicious monstrous asshole he is for taking an incredibly carefully wrought, felt and thought essay by someone who knows much more of suffering than Brooks’ closed little mind will ever grasp — and twisting its point to exactly the opposite of what the author wrote. Brooks asks us to die for our country; Clendinen is constructing the timing and manner of his death for his own reason: to live the life he thinks worth and worthy of living.

    To get that wrong is to demonstrate one’s own unfitness — not for existing — but for any authority whatsoever.

  10. 10

    @Quiddity

    In David Brooks’ defense, he isn’t aware that any other countries exist on this planet.

    That’s still not a good excuse for Friedman.

  11. 11
    JPL says:

    No one of Importance – That was different. Keeping a brain dead women on iv’s was about politics and that trumps all.

  12. 12

    Ms. Sarah, thank you for taking a bat to Brooks’ knees. I can’t, for the life of me, think why he is considered a deep thinker and someone who should be taken seriously.

  13. 13
    piratedan says:

    my question is, how do idiots like him get these posh gigs that get to speak to millions of readers? Many of whom have this being the last thing that they read and think that maybe it makes sense kinda sorta….

  14. 14
    No one of Importance says:

    let’s BURN old people in power stations.

    YES! Then we turn their ashes into life gems, and sell them back to the rubes who still have any money!

    Pure genius. If you’re a psychopath.

  15. 15
    Ash Can says:

    @Quiddity:

    In David Brooks’ defense, he isn’t aware that any other countries humans exist on this planet.

    The people around him aren’t actually people, you see. We’re all just peculiar little creatures that Providence placed on this planet for the sole purpose of him to tut-tut over.

  16. 16
    MonkeyBoy says:

    @piratedan:

    how do idiots like him get these posh gigs that get to speak to millions of readers?

    A simple answer to a simple question:

    He sucks up to the wealthy so they give him a job to convince a wide audience that it is their duty to suck up more than he does. As long as there are bigger suckers than Bobo he feels that he wins even if he has to suck to prime the pump.

  17. 17
    Violet says:

    Is David Brooks taking any kind of medication for any reason? Why? WHY is he so selfish as to use medication when he could just go without and die, thus allowing others access to the much needed medication.

    Does David Brooks see a doctor or dentist for any reason ever? WHY? Why can’t he stay home, thus freeing up space for those who are truly in need. Yearly checkups be damned. David Brooks selfishly takes up appointment time better used by others.

    Does David Brooks breathe air? Why can’t he recognize his obligations to the living, confront his own death and leave that air for the rest of us.

  18. 18
    Jeffro says:

    I hate to go all Godwin here, but think about a) the degree of pure detachment from the actual reason we’ve gotten the deficits we have, and b) the remedy he’s proposing, to arrive at where Brooks is at.

    Talk about the banality of evil.

  19. 19
    No one of Importance says:

    Does David Brooks breathe air?

    Most slimy creatures can absorb it through their skin.

    Besides, Michele Bachmann assures us CO2 is harmless. Brooks probably survives happily on it, like someone with his houseplant IQ should.

  20. 20
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @ No one : Maybe there’s a way to use the bodies of the sick and elderly for making incandescent lightbulbs.

  21. 21
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    the actual reason we’ve gotten the deficits we have

    1. Tax cuts for cretinous sacks of shit like David Brooks

    2. Wars to entertain and amuse cretinous sacks of shit like David Brooks.

    Did I miss anything?

  22. 22
    Martin says:

    Man, I’m going to burn in hell for this…

    Brooks sorta has a point. I think he merely accidentally stumbled near one, so please don’t take this as a defense of what he’s saying. But here goes.

    1) 70% of Medicare costs go to 10% of participants. That’s not necessarily a problem, but it should make everyone wonder if there really is a problem.
    2) The area of health innovation that is consistently marching on is that of life support. That’s important for all manner of reasons, like making surgeries safer, and permitting new treatments, but it also means that (as Schiavo demonstrated) we can keep more and more people alive almost indefinitely.
    3) One of the best places for hospitals to extract money from Medicare is end-of-life care. Families rarely deny treatment, they want time to make decisions, and often by that point, people have hit their maximum out-of-pocket costs.

    It does lead to a genuine problem. Medicare’s incentive model often works against hospitals making good choices. The march of technology creates new medical ethics problems for doctors and families to deal with (like Schiavo) but often the costs of not knowing how to deal with those problems are borne by Medicare.

    PPACA actually has quite a number of things in it to try and address this problem, at least in minor ways. What it generally tries to do is give doctors, hospitals, and individuals incentives to actually address the problem in the best interest of the patient. Specifically, this is EXACTLY what the death panel thing was about. If every senior had a living will, it would eliminate a lot of grief and turmoil for family members, eliminate liability for doctors and hospitals, reduce costs for Medicare, and help ensure the patient’s wishes were honored. And it does that without imposing anything other than encouraging doctors to help seniors fill out a living will – no restrictions on care, etc.

    The main problem in all of this is that doctors have a pretty good sense of what to do here, but aligning that with the reality of medical liability and getting the general public to accept their recommendations are fairly difficult, particularly when nobody wants to seriously discuss it. [cough]

    Brooks is still a dick, though, particularly in how he frames the problem. He suggests that patients or families are much of the problem, when really the problem is that asking seniors to document their wishes shouldn’t be controversial, and doing so officially should be free since the cost of the paperwork is massively lower than the cost of any care delivered that the patient never wanted. It’s a trivial problem to solve, if not for the morons on the right that Brooks is so eager to protect from criticism.

  23. 23
    redpop says:

    The great Driftglass has been critiquing Mr Brooks’ inanities for quite some time, always accompanied by an excellent portrait of him. My favorite picture tops this list of articles; Bobo as the queen. I would dearly love to put that pic on the desktop of every computer in the Times offices, just to see the look on his face as he wandered aimlessly in horror…

  24. 24
    No one of Importance says:

    Maybe there’s a way to use the bodies of the sick and elderly for making incandescent lightbulbs.

    I suggest doing the pilot research on Brooks, D.

  25. 25
    dead existentialist says:

    Pussies. All this poutage for a fucking Brook column? Kill me now . . . .

    This column is a harbinger of what’s to come Aug. 2 when the debt ceiling pushes down on us. Dave is merely contemplating his own demise at the hands of a thousand angry, old ladies who didn’t get their SS checks.

  26. 26
    BobS says:

    I’m an advocate of single payer (member of PNHP and Health Care Now) who’s well aware of the inefficiencies of our system, and I’m familiar with Brooks smarmy assholeishness from TV so I don’t find any reason to waste my time reading him. However, there is an argument to be made for us as a society collectively making wiser end-of-life decisions. Not a week goes by that I don’t see severely demented patients sent from their extended care facility for pulling out the feeding tube keeping them hydrated and nourished, somewhat less demented patients who require thrice weekly ambulance trips back and forth from the extended care facility where they permanently reside to their hemodialysis appointments, or patients in persistent vegetative states (trached, feeding tubes, urine catheters, etc) who visit us for their recurrent sepsis, which we treat with increasingly ineffective antibiotics so we can get them “healthy”, send them back to their ECF, where they become septic again, wash/rinse/repeat.
    Just because we can do something to keep people alive doesn’t mean we always should.

  27. 27
    Martin says:

    Maybe there’s a way to use the bodies of the sick and elderly for making incandescent lightbulbs.

    Winnah!

  28. 28
    hilts says:

    More Bobo

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But the president — and the president, David, is still saying — he said, I put on the table, and he still is, entitlements, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. And he’s saying this is something that Republicans, an opportunity they passed up on.

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I’m not sure — it is a little exaggerated to say he put it on the table. They may have been sitting on the table and they smelled the aroma from the kitchen… The president is really to be faulted for not ever coming out with a real plan, and for not making the case even for Simpson-Bowles, back when that was around, just to form public opinion. He never really did that… If he and others had spent the last couple of years laying the intellectual groundwork with the American people — I don’t know why they don’t do pie charts. Do a Ross Perot. Go on TV, say, here is the situation. I think people are used to that kind of thinking, and they would respond to it. But they haven’t laid out the case.

    h/t http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb.....transcript

  29. 29
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    If we didn’t have a health care system that actively discourages preventative care, many of the problems would be less of a pain in the ass to deal with.

    People profit from the suffering of others. This has to stop.

  30. 30
    No one of Importance says:

    Where is Monty Python when we really need them.

    Pretty sure you should have linked this one :)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=grbSQ6O6kbs

  31. 31
    joes527 says:

    Wait – Does this mean we’ll be getting Soylent Green in the supermarkets?

    ‘Cause I hear that is _tasty_!

  32. 32
    Martin says:

    He really believes that you and I and our parents owe it to him and those he sees as elites not to use up all these valuable resources.

    True.

    On the plus side, he’s 7 years older than me, so I’ll be able to make that demand of him some day.

  33. 33
    Martin says:

    Actually, I think you guys should have linked this one:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....re=related

  34. 34
    Ash Can says:

    @efgoldman: He’s R-Pfizer until some other bloated and morally-compromised industry’s pet issue comes up for a vote. Then he’ll whore himself out to that one too. Because nothing says “teabagger cred” like propping up robber barons and bringing back the Gilded Age.

    (Edited to fix syntax fail.)

  35. 35
    No one of Importance says:

    Actually, I think you guys should have linked this one:

    Let’s just agree that there is no stupidity or venality to which a bit of Python is not a perfect commentary.

  36. 36
    Martin says:

    I find it consistently amazing that a pretty bad movie, starring a pretty bad actor, still resonates with all youse young punks all these years later.

    Well, that’s really all Matt Groening’s doing. He wrote Soylent Green into many Simpsons episodes, and it’s practically a staple element on Futurama (a fantastic show).

  37. 37
    opal says:

    But in large measure it’s about our inability to face death

    Alone. In a room with Blaise Pascal.

  38. 38
    Nellcote says:

    @#28

    He never really did that… If he and others had spent the last couple of years laying the intellectual groundwork with the American people—I don’t know why they don’t do pie charts.

    Jeezus, I can already hear Bobo complaining about being “lectured” to.

  39. 39
    fuckwit says:

    The whole idea of capitalist health care cost was one of the few topics that would drive me to seriously consider suicide.

    Basically, the corporate capitalist economy and the “for profit” medical system considers the lives of poor people like me to be literally worthless. Therefore, I do not deserve to live. Therefore, whenever I run out of money (and that will be soon), then I must die.

    It has taken a great deal of effort to resist this kind of thinking, since everywhere around me– especially every dealing with doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies– very cleary tells me that my life is worthless and, if I can’t afford to live, then I die.

    To claim that my value as a human being has nothing to do with money, is to contradict everything that every media message and every economic interaction tells me. But, I’m learning how to do it.

  40. 40
    FlipYrWhig says:

    I first heard of Soylent Green when there was a skit on Saturday Night Live about it, in the Phil Hartman/Mike Myers years. It took me a while after that to realize it was a real movie, and I still haven’t seen it.

  41. 41
    MonkeyBoy says:

    @opal:

    But in large measure it’s about our inability to face death

    Alone. In a room with Blaise Pascal.

    Actually a lot of the screwed up nature of modern society comes from this – from “leaders” who promise to protect us from made-up or over-hyped “enemies” to religions that tell us that if we let them rule our life then we won’t die. Excessive geriatric health care has probably cost us less than the Neo-Cons wars of opportunity and the Christianist’s moral enforcement.

  42. 42
    Yutsano says:

    How long is it until we can leave David Brooks out on a hillside to die?

    Yesterday.

  43. 43
    No one of Importance says:

    To claim that my value as a human being has nothing to do with money, is to contradict everything that every media message and every economic interaction tells me.

    Think of it this way – Brooks and his masters have a lot of money, yet are utterly worthless as people.

    Think of all the poor and struggling humans whose loss would cause more genuine pain than any of these wankers, and ask yourself if their lack of money has any impact on their value.

    I’m so sorry you’ve been treated so badly by the healthcare system in your country – rest assured, it’s the system which is fucked up, not you.

  44. 44
    Anne Laurie says:

    Shorter ‘BoBo’ Brooks:

    Why must the proles so stubbornly resist our arguments in favor of healthful, delicious Soylent Green?

  45. 45
    Dennis SGMM says:

    Is there anything like suntan lotion for teh stoopid because right now I’m feeling the burn.

  46. 46
    handsmile says:

    Perhaps this home remedy for the affliction of David Brooks is well-known and practiced around these parts, but before subjecting yourself to one of his epistles, I recommend visiting Driftglass’ website for one of his inspirational images of Bobo.

    Like many potent elixirs it may be a little distasteful at first, but it sure helps one to pass the offal that Brooks is peddling that day.

    While there are a number to choose from, here’s one that I like to keep around the house for ready use:

    http://driftglass.blogspot.com.....mouth.html

    Now with that image in mind, I’m sure you’ll agree that it makes what Bobo says and why he says it so much more intelligible.

  47. 47
    dead existentialist says:

    @fuckwit
    Meh. We are what we are, eh?

  48. 48
    Monkey Business says:

    I work in healthcare, and I see what David Brooks is talking about on a regular basis. However, he draws the complete wrong conclusion.

    Oftentimes, it isn’t the individuals themselves that are choosing to remain alive as long as possible, connected to machines and pumped so full of drugs that your local produce aisle is more likely to gain sentience than they are. The problem is confused and scared families, put in circumstances where they don’t know the vegetable’s wishes, and filled with hope and optimism that they’re going to pull through.

    Let’s talk about rationed care for end of life patients for a moment. Generally speaking, by the time you hit that “end of life” stage, you’ve probably exhausted private insurance, and you’re on either Medicare or Medicaid. Would it really be such a bad thing if these groups reviewed these end of life care plans and said “Listen, this person is a vegetable. Their frontal cortex is non-existent, and even if they wake up, they’re not going to be capable of conscious thought, much less anything even remotely resembling a normal life, or even taking care of basic living functions without significant support. We’re not paying for it/only paying a fraction of it. If you want to keep grandma alive as a vegetable, you can do it on your own dime.”

    As a society, we’ve divorced ourselves from these tough end of life decisions by virtue of the fact that, when we’re just keeping people alive for the sake of keeping them alive without hope of recovery, someone else is usually footing the bill.

    I’ve had this conversation with both of my parents. I’ve told them that if, at any point, they end up as vegetables, I’m pulling the plug. If they have a problem with it, put my sister in charge. I explained my reasoning, the things I’ve seen, etc. They both understood, and agreed with me on principle. They don’t want to be vegetables. They watched their parents go through it, and when they die they want to die with dignity.

  49. 49
    Yutsano says:

    @Monkey Business: My grandmother died three years ago in her house surrounded by family. When she knew there was too little hope to hold on, she immediately had my grandfather call a hospice worker. The only reason they took her to the hospital is because she had finally gone and EMTs cannot certify death in Washington State. I am a huge believer in hospice care and think it is not only a money saver but a saver of souls.

  50. 50
    MattR says:

    @Monkey Business: I agree with your sentiment but am a bit squeemish about your harsh solution. I’d like to see what kind of improvement we could see due to voluntary changes as a result of additional awareness and education first.

  51. 51
    Warren Terra says:

    For FSM’s sake, it’s newborn infants that were left out on hillsides to die (by the Spartans, IIRC). The cliche for old people is ice floes. If Brooks is going to make flippant gestures of this sort, he should make them correctly.

  52. 52
    Martin says:

    Would it really be such a bad thing if these groups reviewed these end of life care plans and said “Listen, this person is a vegetable.

    Well, first, if Medicare is going to provide coverage, mandating that everyone draw up a living will at 65, paid for by Medicare, shouldn’t be controversial. Seniors can do it alone, with family, however they want.

    Second, rather than Medicare reviewing the cases, why not just build an incentive into the program for the doctor to work with the family? In my experience, the doctors have a quite good judgement about this, and they know the case.

    Do those two, and see what happens.

  53. 53
    Martin says:

    If Brooks is going to make flippant gestures of this sort, he should make them correctly.

    Maybe Bobo anticipated the response and he doesn’t like the cold?

    And not the Spartans, specifically. It’s from Oedipus. He had his ankled pinned and was to be left on a mountain to die based on the prophesy.

  54. 54
    Martin says:

    Huh. I wonder if the bungling of that means that Brooks wants to kill his father and have sex with his mother. It’d be irresponsible not to speculate.

  55. 55
    Dennis SGMM says:

    My parents were both diagnosed with incurable, inoperable cancers within a year’s time. This was back in the late Eighties. I am the eldest of three children so my parents’ care became my responsibility and I couldn’t have done it without the help of my wonderful (future) wife. I asked Mom and Dad, while they could still speak and reason, what their wishes were if the worst should happen. They both told me that if it came down to it, that they didn’t want anything done that would extend their lives without any hope of recovery. They died six months apart. When the end came near and they were in turn hospitalized I signed the paperwork necessary to preclude heroic measures to extend their lives. Although I was following their wishes it hurt me right down to the core.

  56. 56
    Nutella says:

    So when Alan Grayson said “Don’t get sick.… If you get sick, America, the Republican health care plan is this: ‘Die quickly!’” he was right? We knew that, but the Repubs stormed around acting all shocked. Will they complain about Bobo’s temperament now?

  57. 57
    El Cid says:

    __

    How long is it until we can leave David Brooks out on a hillside to die?

    Are you asking me? For, like, my permission? Well, do it now then.

    Though I don’t think it needs to be so drastic. Just leave Bobo for several hours chained to a post in the furniture aisle of a Wal-Mart and he’ll expire.

  58. 58
    Dennis SGMM says:

    The problem isn’t Bobo; we all know that opinionated, pompous assholes are easy enough to find. The problem is the people who give him a paid platform and those of his readers who take him seriously. Bobo is just a symptom of the psychological disorder that is American conservatism.

  59. 59
    AnotherBruce says:

    I wonder if David Brooks is aware that 64% of the cost of end of life care is caused by Dick Cheney.

  60. 60
    No one of Importance says:

    Although I was following their wishes it hurt me right down to the core.

    If you were my son in that position, I’d have blessed you for making the hard, right choices.

  61. 61
    Mike Kay (Democrat of the Century) says:

    How long is it until we can leave David Brooks out on a hillside at an Applebees to die?

    /fix’d

  62. 62
    Dennis SGMM says:

    @No one of Importance:
    Thank you. Although I’d love to portray myself as a pillar of strength (Who wouldn’t?) the fact that I was a Navy brat along with my own time in the Nav had instilled in me the notion of Duty to the extent that I did what I was asked to do despite every other part of my heart and mind clamoring “No!”

  63. 63
    Martin says:

    Although I was following their wishes it hurt me right down to the core.

    And that’s part of the reason why living wills should be mandatory for Medicare recipients. They take the burden of that decision off of the family. Doesn’t necessarily make anything there easier, but it’s not uncommon for the family to carry some guilt over the decision – whether you made the right one, or if they changed their mind later, or if you should have overruled them, etc. With a living will, that bit at least is gone.

  64. 64
    Martin says:

    How long is it until we can leave David Brooks out on a hillside at an Applebees to die?

    I think as soon as the salad bar goes in, pull the trigger.

  65. 65
    Suffern ACE says:

    @Martin: Yes infanticide was practiced that way, but Oedipus, as a prince, was protected by fate so that he could fulfill the prophesy. The rich, even in their tawdry tales of incest and madness, expect that the humble shepherd and his wife will just take a liking to them and save them from the outcomes that would be the end of the very people who they expect will humbly save them. Also, when you’re the king and sleep with your mother, its not really your fault, its prophesy, so whocoodanode? Was Sophocles just covering for some very bad behaving, but always blameless men?

  66. 66
    Anne Laurie says:

    For FSM’s sake, it’s newborn infants that were left out on hillsides to die (by the Spartans, IIRC). The cliche for old people is ice floes. If Brooks is going to make flippant gestures of this sort, he should make them correctly.

    QFT.

    Also, the argument I’ve heard about those abandoned infants was that, in theory at least, they might be taken in by a kind-hearted stranger who foresaw a future need for some reciprocal support during their dotage — an early primitive form of Social Security. And those ice-floe-drifting seniors were supposed to be volunteers; during a starvation season, granny or gramps might choose to “wander off” and die quickly of hypothermia to give their beloved offspring a better chance of surviving. Both of these tropes involve strong communitarian bonds which are absolutely alien to Brooks and his ilk.

    On the other hand, just about every peasant culture has some version of the folk tale where the strong young healthy farmer decides that the elderly parent is an unneccesary burden who needs to be abused, exiled, and/or murdered. “Grampa’s so messy when he eats, we’ll feed him from the pigs’ trough” or “I’m going to put Granny in this basket and drown her in the river”. And the punchline always involves the youngest generation — the farmer’s child says, “See, I’m making the trough that you’ll have to eat from, when you’re old and I’m in charge” or “Be sure you bring back the basket, I’ll need it to take you down to the river in twenty years’ time”.

    The argument is not new. David Brooks considers himself a person of faith, and the faith I believe he professes includes a quite well-known incident where an early progenitor demands of his & Brooks’ god “Am I my brother’s keeper?” and is informed, yes, that’s part of the god-bargain. Of course, the progenitor making the anti-communitarian argument is doing so because he’s a murderer and a liar, about to become notorious as someone to be shunned by all of humanity, so perhaps this is what the psychologists call “a tell” on Mr. Brooks’ part.

  67. 67
    Suffern ACE says:

    Now what word triggered the moderation? I’m guessing ‘incest’….

    Yep, it was…

  68. 68
    kdaug says:

    @fuckwit:

    if I can’t afford to live, then I die.

    When I’m terminal, I’ll terminate. Ain’t putting the family through that.

  69. 69
    Martin says:

    Also, the argument I’ve heard about those abandoned infants was that, in theory at least, they might be taken in by a kind-hearted stranger who foresaw a future need for some reciprocal support during their dotage—an early primitive form of Social Security.

    Oedipus is the familiar exposure to it. Oedipus means ‘swollen foot’, in reference to his feet being pinned when he was abandoned.

    But aside from the fictional tale, under greek law parents had the legal right to abandon their newborns to die of exposure (typically if they could not afford to care for it), as they weren’t legally considered persons until 5 days of age. Others did take in these newborns if found, but they became slaves. So, not so much early Social Security but abortion. And not so kind hearted.

  70. 70
    No one of Importance says:

    When I’m terminal, I’ll terminate.

    Yeah, right. You’re hooked up to a respirator, can’t talk, or you’re brain dead, or you can’t communicate your wishes because your brain is active but your body is frozen, and because you haven’t made an advance directive or living will, the doctors *will* force you to stay alive. Or your relatives will, either out of misplaced guilt, or because they genuinely don’t know what you want.

    A lot of people assume that they will have full control of their fate at the end of their lives, that they can just fire the pistol or inject the nembutal, and that’s that. In reality, it’s a lot messier and a lot harder, and because of the Jeebus lovers and the people who sue doctors and because your family is scared of making the wrong decision, the merciful thing doesn’t get done. And to add to the irony, the same morons that would like poor people to just die already, are the same ones who pitch a shitfit over the idea of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia.

    Terry Pratchett recently made a televised plea for these options to be legalised, even showing the death of a man who killed himself in a Swiss clinic before he needed to, because the law demanded he still be able to travel to the clinic and poison himself, otherwise his wife or loved ones would have been prosecuted. The right wing went pfucking insane over it. Because they and the Jeebus lovers won’t let other people control themselves or their own destiny – they want to be the only ones who can say who lives or dies.

    If Brooks had come out with a call for physician assisted suicide to be legal, for euthanasia to be an option, for living wills to be encouraged, for advanced directives to be encouraged, then he could have done your country a real service. But what he and his ilk actually want, and always do want, is power without responsibility. “Please go away and die, but don’t you dare do it on your own terms. *We* make the rules around here.”

  71. 71
    Martin says:

    Was Sophocles just covering for some very bad behaving, but always blameless men?

    I almost got flunked out of college lit course for arguing with the prof over a related point. The prof argued that Oedipus was acting out of a selfish interest in his insistence of learning the truth of who his parents were and many of his actions thereafter. She argued that Oedipus was the bad behaving, blameless man. I argued the opposite, that his actions from the outset centered around seeking the source of the plague that befell his people – and that he continued that effort even when it became apparent that he was likely the source – and from that he exiles himself. He sought the truth even when it was clear where that would put the blame and took responsibility for his actions regardless of whether he could have prevented them or not. That even when there may be some seemingly supernatural cause to the events, the responsibility remains with us, and he illustrates that in the end.

    What makes it a great tragedy is that there is so much to uncover in it, and that both of our viewpoints are valid. What got me in trouble in college was that I swayed the entire class to my position which apparently fucked up her lesson plan quite badly, plus I showed her up in an argument, which is never well received.

  72. 72
    PurpleGirl says:

    In a comment to Brooks column that the Times did not post, I asked Mr. Brooks if he had DNR order on file or if he planned to arrange his demise, etc. I really should have saved a copy of the comment because it vanished. Brooks is loathsome.

    efgoldman: I don’t often read his columns but I often read the comments. Time after time he is taken to task and this column was no different. Plenty of people disagreed with him and called him out. Often the comment began as a semi-agreement and ended with taking him to task.

  73. 73

    I didn’t think the Republicans would get around to admitting that they are really FOR death panels this quickly. I guess summer 2009 was Classic Case of Projection #735.

    Great minds think alike, so you already nailed the most relevant part of the article. However, Brooks is kicking the can ever farther down the road. He wants death panels alright. He just wants the family to act in behalf of the government (by inducing enough fiscal pain there’s little choice).

    Yesterday I posted something on the subject of fiscal responsibility. Haven’t blog-whored here in a week or so and I think this is one you guys/gals will get a kick out of:

    http://thetimchannel.wordpress.....neighbors/

    Enjoy.

  74. 74
    Nora Carrington says:

    @Martin:
    Thank you. I’m unaccustomed to the ad hominem flavor of the comments here, as I mostly hang out at TNC’s joint where it’s not done. So I appreciate your bravery in saying anything in defense of anything The Man Most Hated By Right Thinking People Everywhere has to say. Brooks is right that most Americans fear death and that most Boomers are unprepared both emotionally and financially for the death of elderly parents. We’re Boomers, we’re spoiled and rich so we can have anything we want including immortal parents, right? It cost my father about $1M to die, all paid for by the VA, Medicare, and my folks’ “gap” insurance. They had infinitesimal out of pocket expenses. Was it worth it? He’s my dad, I’d say so. But if you’d asked him 10 years ago if he thought the government should shell out to delay his inevitable demise a year or two, he’d have said not only “no,” but “hell no.” He was lucid, not in pain, but he couldn’t play golf or ski or refinish furniture. His world shrank to the television and spy novels. He was bored and depressed and there was no way to just get on with the business of dying because the health care he was getting was organizing around keeping him alive rather than helping him die. The way care is [dis]organized for elderly people with multiple medical conditions is its own scandal, and my sisters even privately hired a care manager to try to coordinate things [I’m the broke unemployed Boomer in this story]. Once he got on the dialysis train, it was impossible to get off until he was literally drowning from his congestive heart failure. After he was admitted to hospice he was dead in a day, never one to call attention to himself or make a fuss.

    Europe has lower costs and better outcomes not only because they have rigorously regulated insurance and/or single payer health care. Europe has lower costs and better outcomes because they aren’t committed to a practice of medicine that holds life itself as the preeminent good. Europeans know how to die, and we mostly don’t and about that Brooks is right.

  75. 75
    PurpleGirl says:

    Nora Carrington: a very poignant comment.

    However, the (supposed) point of Brooks’ column was that health care costs (especially end of life costs) are the REASON for the financial/deficit crisis. (That’s something any number of people here also forgot.) Brooks made no mention of two credit-card wars or the Bush tax cuts or the role they played in the deficit. Those tax cuts not only deprived the government of revenue but they also did not encourage the job creation that Brooks and others claim come from lower taxes.

    Medicare will need some fixing but it is not the cause of all our financial problems. Unfunded wars and irresponsible tax cuts are.

  76. 76
    hamletta says:

    Martin, I agree with you, except for the idea that living wills be mandatory. I think most people think about what they want when it comes down to it, but some don’t want to go there, and I don’t think it’s right to force them to.

    But that’s academic, since we couldn’t even get voluntary ones written into ACA because of the “death panel” bullshit. All that provision said was that Medicare patients could sit down with their doctors and discuss their options.

    My grandfather took an overdose because he felt another stroke coming on, and didn’t want to become “a veggie.”

    You’re right Brooks is keening toward something worthwhile, but his biggest point is on his head.

  77. 77
    Keith G says:

    The righteous attacks on Brooks are much deserved. Nonetheless, the health care providers that I work with, seem to be of the mind that once the awful rationing mechanism of job (or parental) status is done away with, it will be replaced by some other rationing mechanism.

    This society can not pay for all the medical care that will be demanded at current behaviors and expectations.

  78. 78
    Sly says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    Did I miss anything?

    Short term? The recession has had as much or a bigger impact on revenue than the lower tax rates. We’re looking at a 25% revenue shortfall in 2011 compared to 2001 when you adjust for inflation; not all of that is from the rate cuts. Plus, because medical inflation is (or at least was) increasing faster than core inflation, the costs of mandatory health spending has increased around 30%, which is likely more than the increase we’ve seen in discretionary defense spending.

    Long term? The lower tax rates will definitely surpass the effects of the recession sometime in the middle of this decade and continue to mount up until the only thing beating it becomes interest on debt. This assumes tax policy doesn’t change in the next 30 years and the PPACA is a miserable failure at constraining medical inflation; two assumptions which are rather stupid to make. The impact of Iraq and Afghanistan alone will be negligible, though there may be future increases in discretionary defense spending that add to their costs.

    The bottom line is that conventional wisdom is dictating that we switch a long-term crisis to the near-term and ignore the present near-term crisis completely. The national debt, if the trend continues, won’t become a serious issue in terms of U.S. credit rating for a few decades. Though the usefulness of this analogy is limited, the first President who didn’t have to pay any debt related to WWII was Ronald Reagan, and that spending put the U.S. national debt at over 120% of GDP in the 40s. And we got rid of most of it through inflation.

    But the Beltway is basically saying “Hey, our house is on fire. Better pay off the mortgage!”

  79. 79
    WereBear says:

    I find it quite telling that when you sit down with a senior in their right mind, I’ve yet to find one who commits to the “head in a jar” scenario. Never.

    Yet, I’d say 90% of the time it winds up that way. There are so many institutional barriers to actually giving patients what they actually want, at any time, that it’s no wonder it’s especially bad under end of life circumstances.

    My husband’s grandmother filled out all the paperwork; but didn’t sign it. (I’ve heard that’s very common.) Still, the whole family agreed that right up to the day before, she had made her wishes clear, and that is what we would do.

    I didn’t have a problem chiming in; I’d been her chauffeur for two years. It still took a week, and people got all upset.

    I was upset that she was gone. I wasn’t a bit upset that I’d saved her from more suffering.

  80. 80

    The fiscal crisis is driven largely by health care costs two wars and insufficient tax revenues.

    Ftfy, bobo.

  81. 81
    RossInDetroit says:

    Just gonna repost my comments from yesterday evening when I first discovered Brooks’ latest abomination:

    OT, but I need an intervention to keep me from reading Bobo. I keep expecting him to have something useful to say because he did once recently.
    What an ass. Why does this man enjoy an exalted platform in the Newspaper of Record? He’s just an idiot.

    This fiscal crisis is about many things, but one of them is our inability to face death

    Many things. Like wars, tax cuts, unfunded programs and failure to control the COSTS of health care.
    It’s not about over use, you boob.

    and:

    I held my nose and read the whole Bobo column. He says one of the reasons for the deficit is people with fatal diseases expect treatment at the end of their lives. And of course everyone dies so why bother.

    This is exactly how a sociopath thinks.

  82. 82
    bkny says:

    moonbat – July 15, 2011 | 11:55 pm · Link

    I didn’t think the Republicans would get around to admitting that they are really FOR death panels this quickly. I guess summer 2009 was Classic Case of Projection #735.

    it’s amazing how every single noxious accusation thrown at democrats by republicans always ends with them up to their eyeballs doing just that..

    and the shit alan grayson took…

  83. 83
    Mothra says:

    My Dad is now getting hospice care, after spending over a year fighting cancer. Thanks to Medicare, VA, BC/BS, decades of cancer research that provided the knowledge to develop a treatment plan for him, and ongoing support from his family, he got another year of life to spend with us. I’ll gladly take on Brooks on the issue of whether or not the money was worth it. Yes, it was worth every penny to spend another year with my wonderful father, who always put us first, who loved his country and his fellow man, and who is still funny, smart, and kind, in spite of being so seriously ill.

    People like Brooks think that they can make up any shortfall in government spending with their own resources when it comes to their loved ones. They fail to realize that if lots of people weren’t getting these treatments, the research wouldn’t have been conducted, and his money and fame couldn’t fix that.

    What Brooks writes is so sick, so reeking of real death panels, so selfish, so short-sighted, and so simply evil, that I can hardly stand it. Life is hard enough without assholes like this being given a national forum to promote such a lack of humanity supported by greed and illogic.

  84. 84
    Special Patrol Group says:

    How long is it until we can leave David Brooks out on a hillside to die?

    Funny you should ask. There was an epic Poor Man post back in the 2004 day called,
    “The Continuing Decline of David Brooks – An Amateur Anthropologist’s Analysis”. It’s now lost to the Internets, only available through the Wayback Machine.

    The lede:

    In at least on important respect, life would be different if William Safire was a 18th century Eskimo. At the time, it was Eskimo policy that when their old people became a bit of a nuisance – started rambling on, you know, bothering people with endless stories about how much better things were back in the 17th century, and young people been sneaking into their igloo and stealing their used tissues – they were trundled out on an ice floe, and, as friends and families waved good-bye, were cast adrift into the Bering Strait, never to return. It is not recorded, for obvious reasons, what the senior Eskimos thought about this treatment, but I like to imagine that they found it a bit of welcome relief, and used the peaceful time remaining them to scrawl out their magnum opus on the manifold and largely-imaginary treacheries and debaucheries of former tribal chief Klin’Tun. What I’m trying to say is that what the Eskimos did when their elderly became unfit for general society is they let them drift away on ice floes; what we do, I gather, is give them a twice-weekly spot on the NY Times editorial page and a regular slot on Meet The Press. And we call this progress. One imagines this was a rather poignant moment for those who sent the old folks adrift as well, knowing, as they must have, that one day they would be the ones floating away into the icy ocean, and it would be their children who would be kicking them free from the ice shelf and waving farewell as they disappeared, a lone figure over the horizon, to die completely alone, as, in the end, we all shall. It must have made them think about the meaning of birth and death, the circle of life. When I think of William Safire, then, I think of the old man on the ice floe; when I think of the others, I think of David Brooks.

    The rest is just as totally fucking awesome. Check it out.

  85. 85
    Snarki, child of Loki says:

    Well, like ALL problems that are subjected to ConserviTard Analysis ™, the solution lies in the 2nd Amendment.

    Those old, sickly, expensive seniors? First, make sure to tell them that their medical care has been turned into tax-cuts for the Uber-wealthy. Then they need them some high-power firearms! (preferably of the low-recoil variety, donchaknow).

    And Brooksie’s home address, so he can personally explain why they no longer deserve to live. I’m sure it will all go swimmingly.

  86. 86
    Yui Ricdeau says:

    Boomsday, baby!

  87. 87
    Primigenius says:

    You know, I think the man and the two women in the far right of the painting are the same people touring Bedlam in the final plate of Hogarth’s “The Rake’s Progress.” Wow, they really got around, didn’t they?

  88. 88
    travis says:

    @ Jeffro
    “…banality of evil.”

    That term summed it up perfectly. I don’t think it is hyperbolic to say that people like him are evil. They may not intend to be, they may not really want to be, but they cannot see any solution or even problems outside of their narrow world view. The damage fuckers like Brooks do to real people by sitting around in their little circle jerks agreeing with each other and then going about changing the world to fit their platitudes, is fucking evil. I find myself hoping there is a god if only to give me a hell to consign the sociopaths to.

  89. 89
    Chet says:

    @ FlipYrWhig (#45):

    I first heard of Soylent Green when there was a skit on Saturday Night Live about it, in the Phil Hartman/Mike Myers years. It took me a while after that to realize it was a real movie, and I still haven’t seen it.

    Take it from me, you’re not missing anything. However, the much better Harry Harrison novel from which it was adapted (Make Room! Make Room!) might be worth your time if you’re into sci-fi.

  90. 90
    Bruce S says:

    Just two things – there is no CURRENT fiscal crisis other than a “tax cuts crisis.” The entire “debate” is premised on stupidity about deficits, the federal budget, “fiscal history” and the nature of our current jobs/demand crisis – which was triggered by the financial crisis of ’08.

    Long term, however, our fiscal crisis – and this doesn’t have anything to do with Medicare per se but with the health insurance system – IS located almost exclusively in the absurdly inflated health care costs of the “American” system. ACA will begin to “bend” this cost curve, but not without a major continuation of reforms – in the direction of, first, “Medicare for all”, as well as bringing more rationality and cost-effectivness into the entire system. (France is IMHO the “ideal” such as there’s any such thing. If you’re truly a “fiscal conservative” first and foremost, England’s fully S-Word system is your best bet! Or just turning our entire system over the excellent – and S-Word – VHA.)

    All I’m saying is that this isn’t the craziest pointing of Brook’s finger. Haven’t actually read his full column, but I’m kind of amazed that a right-wing assholier-than-thou is pointing, albeit in a perverse way, to the actual roots of any future “fiscal crisis.” There’s a slim possibility that Brooks’ wife and kids – who were big on Obama in ’08 – have hid the Kool-Aid and he’s coming down…

  91. 91
    I'mNotSureWhoIWantToBeYet says:

    @ No one of Importance

    I’m late to the party, but Brooks’ contemporary column on Schiavo is here – Morality and Reality.

    As you might expect, he paints comic-book versions of both sides, says they’re both wrong, but comes down on the side of the “Conservative” argument.

    The problem, as usual, is that he’s conflating choices between bad (but unavoidable) outcomes that people must make at some point in their lives with what should be illegal. Life is complicated and people in a free society have to be able to make choices that others of us might not make. Liberal congressmen weren’t demonizing her husband and trying to call Terri Schiavo to testify; liberal physicians in Congress weren’t diagnosing her from 500 miles away; a liberal Congress didn’t pass legislation specifically addressing her case. Big government “Conservatives” did that.

    It’s not a choice between “Morality” and “Reality” – it’s a choice between reality and freedom versus ideology and one-size-fits-everyone-else solutions imposed by government.

    Brooks’s “Conservative” brethren want use laws and the state to impose their views about correct choices on the rest of us. In the Schiavo case in ’05, he was “agonized” but ultimately came down on the side of the “morality” of those arguing for federal interference in private decisions for someone who was terminal. In ’11, he comes down on the side of those who want to blame others for the present federal budget problems (“morality” gets in the way).

    He picks and chooses his argument to fit his desired outcome.

    If he were consistent that “morality” (preserving life at nearly all costs, as he paints it) trumps other considerations, then he would have to argue for strengthening the medical system and making it sustainable for the future elderly. And he wouldn’t have written this ’11 column. But he wants to be right, and he wants to be “Conservative”. And he wants to be “Responsible” and “Serious”. He can’t be all of them using the logic he usually presents in his columns.

    FWIW.

    Cheers,
    Scott.

  92. 92
    No one of Importance says:

    Thanks for the detailed reply, Scott. Implicit in my question, of course, was the assumption that Brooks was just as inconsistent and hypocritical as you have demonstrated him to be.

    The difference between Australia and America is that in Australia, we have pundits this stupid, and they are called out all the time. In America, people listen to this moron. I can’t see any earthly reason, moral or intellectual, why they should.

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