Why the Department of Health and Human Services New Definition of Gender is Foolish and Short-sighted

Introduction

The Department of Health and Human Services is attempting to establish a legal definition of sex under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that bans gender discrimination in education programs that receive government financial assistance. They claim that the purpose of the effort is to adopt an explicit and uniform definition of gender as determined “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.” The problem is that they are rejecting established science that proves that gender often cannot be so clearly defined. The proposed definition would define sex as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with.

More information on this proposal can be found at the following locations.

The problem is that gender is not black or white. There are times in which the genitals that a person is born with are not reliable indicators of gender. Some examples of situations in which genitals that a person is born with are not reliable indicators of gender are as follows.

Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome

Androgen insensitivity syndrome is a condition that affects sexual development before birth and during puberty. People with this condition are genetically male, with one X chromosome and one Y chromosome in each cell. Because their bodies are unable to respond to certain male sex hormones (called androgens), they may have mostly female external sex characteristics or signs of both male and female sexual development.

Source: Genetics Home Reference:Androgen insensitivity syndrome

Chimera

It’s possible for one person to have two different sets of DNA. In some cases a person may have both male and female DNA in their bodies. In other words, some cells are male and other cells are female.

For more information see the following.

Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia

Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) is a group of inherited genetic disorders that affect the adrenal glands, a pair of walnut-sized organs above your kidneys. A person with CAH lacks one of the enzymes the adrenal glands use to produce hormones that help regulate metabolism, the immune system, blood pressure and other essential functions.

Source: Mayo Clinic: Congenital adrenal hyperplasia

Intersex

There are various conditions that led to a child being born with both male and female characteristics. These children were once referred to as hermaphrodites. Currently they are often referred to as intersex.

For more information see the following.

Swyer Syndrome

Swyer syndrome is a rare disorder characterized by the failure of the sex glands (i.e., testicles or ovaries) to develop. For more information see National Organization for Rare Diseases: Swyer syndrome.

Conclusion

The proposed definition of gender is not based on science as the Department of Health and Human Services claims. It is in fact based on science denial and right-wing religious ideology.

In addition, there have been some studies that suggest that there are structural differences in the brains of transgendered individuals.

Face it. It’s a mixed-up, muddled-up, shook-up world where gender is concerned, except for Lola.

 

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Are Entitlements Programs Responsible for Rising Deficits?

In the article McConnell Blames Entitlements, Not GOP, for Rising Deficits, it is revealed that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recently “blamed rising federal deficits and debt on a bipartisan unwillingness to contain spending on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.”

Does his claim hold water, or is he lying?

Evidence

I Googled for “do entitlements programs contribute to debt” and “money borrowed from social security.” The following is a summary of what I found.

 


  • Budget Deficit and Entitlements: The Grand Delusion

    A key quote from this article is as follows.

    What this means is that cutting entitlements will not be a major part of closing the nation’s very formidable looming budget deficits unless Americans are prepared to renege on the commitment to assure the elderly and disabled basic income and health coverage.


  • A debt crisis is coming. But don’t blame entitlements.

    Key quotes from this article are as follows.

    The deficit, of course, reflects the gap between spending and revenue. It is dishonest to single out entitlements for blame. The federal budget was in surplus from 1998 through 2001, but large tax cuts and unfunded wars have been huge contributors to our current deficit problem. The primary reason the deficit in coming years will now be higher than had been expected is the reduction in tax revenue from last year’s tax cuts, not an increase in spending. This year, revenue is expected to fall below 17 percent of gross domestic product — the lowest it has been in the past 50 years with the exception of the aftermath of the past two recessions.

    There is some room for additional spending reductions in these programs, but not to an extent large enough to solve the long-run debt problem. The Social Security program needs only modest reforms to restore its 75-year solvency, and these should include adjustments in both spending and revenue.”

    Medicare has been a leader in bending the health-care cost curve. Reforms to payments and reformed benefit structures in Medicare could do more to hold down its future costs.”

    This article mentions that “Medicare has been a leader in bending the health-care cost curve.” The article What does it mean to “bend the health-care cost curve?” explains that without Medicare things would be far worse because health care costs would be even higher than they are now.

     

  • National debt: Why entitlement spending must be reined in
    This article seems to support the claim made by Mitch McConnell. But it primarily focuses on Medicade as an expensive program. Here are two quotes that support the claim made by the aforementioned Washington Post article that Social Security is not the problem.

    Social Security is another story. It has not contributed to the accrual of the country’s current debt load.

    In fact, Social Security has helped to keep federal deficits lower than they otherwise would have been because the federal government borrowed the surplus revenue paid into the program since the 1980s. And federal spending on the program is expected to grow much more slowly than on Medicare.

  • Key Drivers of the Debt
    This article mentions two key factors that contribute to dept; America’s demographics and rising healthcare costs. It makes only very brief mention of Social Security. It focuses primarily on Medicare, Medicaid, and health care costs in general.

    The following quote tells the truth about exactly why Medicare and Medicaid are problems.

    America has one of the most wasteful healthcare systems among advanced nations. Combined with the demographic realities of rapidly growing elderly population, America’s healthcare system leaves us with an unsustainable fiscal future.

 

From these articles we can conclude that Social Security is not a major contributing factor in rising deficits. Medicade apparently is a major contributing factor but it is not due to a flaw in Medicade itself. It is because the American healthcare system is broken!

The following articles discuss the reasons why the American healthcare system is so expensive.


  • 6 Reasons Healthcare Is So Expensive in the U.S.

    The following are two very important quotes from this article.

    In most countries the government negotiates drug prices with the drug makers, but when Congress created Medicare Part D, it specifically denied Medicare the right to use its power to negotiate drug prices. The Veteran’s Administration and Medicaid, which can negotiate drug prices, pay the lowest drug prices.

    Most other developed countries control costs, in part, by having the government play a stronger role in negotiating prices for healthcare. Their healthcare systems don’t require the high administrative costs that drive up pricing in the U.S. As the global overseers of their country’s systems, these governments have the ability to negotiate lower drug, medical equipment and hospital costs. They can influence the mix of treatments used and patients’ ability to go to specialists or seek more expensive treatments.


  • How Price Transparency Can Control the Cost of Health Care

The following is a meme this is often shared in response to discussions about Social Security being a major contributing factor in the deficit.

An often shared meme that makes the following claim. Next time a Republican tells you that ‘Social Security is broke,’ remind them that Pres. Bush ‘borrowed’ $1.37 trillion of Social Security surplus revenue to pay for his tax cuts for the rich and his war in Iraq and never paid it back.

The above meme makes the following claim. Next time a Republican tells you that ‘Social Security is broke,’ remind them that Pres. Bush ‘borrowed’ $1.37 trillion of Social Security surplus revenue to pay for his tax cuts for the rich and his war in Iraq and never paid it back.

The article Did George W. Bush ‘borrow’ from Social Security to fund the war in Iraq and tax cuts? ranks this claim as mostly false.

The following quotes are relevant.

For about 50 years, Social Security was a “pay-as-you-go” system, meaning annual payroll taxes pretty much covered that year’s benefits checks. Then in 1982, President Ronald Reagan enacted a payroll tax hike to prepare for the impending surge of retiring baby boomers, and a surplus began to build.

By law, the U.S. Treasury is required to take the surplus and, in exchange, issue interest-accruing bonds to the Social Security trust funds. The Treasury, meanwhile, uses the cash to fund government expenses, though it has to repay the bonds whenever the Social Security commissioner wants to redeem them.

Experts told us there’s no question that the Treasury will repay the Social Security surplus (including what was accumulated during the Bush years) when the trust fund starts redeeming the bonds in 2020.

Thus, this is not a contributing factor.

Final analysis

I rank the claim made by Mitch McConnell as liar, liar, pants vaporized.

While Medicare does contribute to the deficit, it is because of larger problems related to the cost of healthcare. Simply requiring greater healthcare price transparency and allowing the United States government greater control over the cost of drugs would deal with much of that.

As for Social Security, there are numerous less drastic options for addressing the long-range solvency problem that do not involve cutting benefits. Some of these options are as follows.

  • Increase the Payroll Tax Cap
  • Eliminate the Payroll Tax Cap
  • Reduce Benefits for Higher Earners
  • Increase the Payroll Tax Rate
  • Apply Payroll Tax to All Salary Reduction Plans

A more detailed discussion of suggested reforms to Social Security can be found in the following locations.

 

On the perils of assuming file path manipulation is easy

I recently worked on a bug in which a product developed by my employer was no longer finding user settings files. Everything worked correctly in a prior version of the product but failed in the current version.

The following is a simplified version of the old code.

BOOL GetUserProfilePath(LPWSTR profilePathName)
{
    if (profilePathName == nullptr) return FALSE;
    profilePathName[0] = static_cast<wchar_t>(0);
    std::wstring userPath = GetUserPath();
    if (userPath.empty()) return FALSE;
    TCHAR tempPath[MAX_PATH];
    GetProgramPath(tempPath);
    ::PathAppend(tempPath, userPath.c_str());
    ::PathCanonicalize(profilePathName, tempPath);
    if (profilePathName[0])
    {
        return TRUE;
    }
    return FALSE;
}

The following is a simplified version of the new code.

BOOL GetUserProfilePath(std::wstring& profilePathName)
{
    profilePathName.clear();
    std::wstring userPath = GetUserPath();
    if (userPath.empty()) return FALSE;
    wstring tempPath;
    GetProgramPath(tempPath);
    Path::Append(tempPath, userPath);
    wchar_t temp[MAX_PATH];
    PathCanonicalize(temp, tempPath.c_str());
    profilePathName = temp;
    if (!profilePathName.empty())
    {
        return TRUE;
    }
    return FALSE;
}

At first glance these two implementations appear to be equivalent.

Now, here are a few additional details that reveal why they are not in any way equivalent.

First, due to a previously unknown bug, the GetUserPath function returned a complete path, not a relative path. It was, in fact, the program path. Thus if the program path was “c:\MyApp,” then the value returned by the GetUserPath function was “c:\MyApp.”

Second, the GetProgramPath function also obtains the program path, thus in this example its value would also be “c:\MyApp.”

Thus, when the ::PathAppend Win32 API function was being called it was being asked to append a full path onto another full path. Microsoft chose to, in their infinite wisdom, attempt to protect you from this mistake by trying to *just do the right thing* by generating a valid path despite your mistake. Thus, the bug in the GetUserPath function was harmless.

The person who wrote the Path::Append function was not aware of this. The following was their implementation of the function.

namespace Path
{
    // Various details left out.
    bool Append(std::wstring& dest, const std::wstring& source)
    {
        Path::AddBackslash(dest);
        dest += source;
        return !dest.empty();
    }
}

Therefore, the end result of this change was that the otherwise harmless bug in the GetUserPath function suddenly became a big deal. Before this change, the GetUserProfilePath function returned the string “c:\MyApp” regardless of the bug in the GetUserPath function. After this change the GetUserProfilePath function returned the string “c:\MyApp\c:\MyApp,” which is an invalid path.

I was asked to fix this with the smallest change possible. The GetUserPath function happens to be part of a deprecated component that we are trying to phase out. Therefore, I was not allowed to touch it. As a result, I chose to fix it by simply modifying the Path::Append function so that it uses the ::PathAppend Win32 API function instead of attempting to do the work itself.

I am sharing this in the hopes that it could spare you the difficulties I had over the three days it took me to diagnose and fix this bug.