A BALCONY VIEW:

Last week I began the other part of my new job for the Glendale News-Press. As moderator of the Valley Voice blog (crescenta.wordpress.comcrescenta.wordpress.com), I started adding links to local restaurants and interests like a good blogger should. One day later, I began to ponder the bigger picture, fantasizing about a forum where our community could dig into meatier issues.

Sure. We could blog on the wacky combinations of toppings one puts on frozen yogurt. Or when the line is shortest at In-N-Out. But let's face it, right now there's nothing more relevant than health-care reform. Our president, Congress and citizens are mightily engaged in this argument. So I'm proposing the blog's first official debate be: House Resolution 3200 — otherwise known as the National Health-Care Reform Bill.

Speaking of debate, this is where I'd like our community blog to act as a great social experiment. I'm weary of the inane rhetoric that goes with supporting a position. Great debates are not yelling matches with can-you-top-this sound bites.

As blog moderator, I suggest four simple etiquette guidelines. If we can adhere to them, Crescenta Valley can show the world that it's possible for Americans to have an enlightened discussion of great importance in a civil tone.

Guideline 1: Research your argument before you submit it. I don't know how it happened, but it seems that opinions are often rendered with nothing more than the support of a YouTube video. A better example of research might be a link to the entire actual HR 3200 bill (which, coincidentally I've posted on the blog) or a PDF, which I'll supply to anyone who wants it.

Guideline 2: Respect the opinions of others. Because the only viewpoints allowed are going to be informed and researched, this shouldn't be a big problem. If you want a group who agrees only with your philosophy, go find them. This social experiment is going to be an intelligent discussion rather than Yellapalooza. I believe that is still possible. But what do I know? My journalism career is only 2 weeks old.

Guideline 3: Avoid abstract statements like, “National health care will take my country away,” and don't use phrases like “death panel” to describe things like Advance Care Planning. You may argue against such pre-existing phrases, but remember to check your facts and present them respectfully.

Guideline 4: No guns. Not even the ones you openly carry on your person.

That's pretty much it. Believe me, debating with manners and without semi-automatic weapons is easy. Here's an example of how it works:

I've read Section 1233 of HR 3200 (pages 425 through 432), which pertains to Advance Care Planning Consultation. This is the infamous “death panel” portion of the bill.

After reading, I have discovered that the words, “death panel” simply do not exist. Nor does there seem to be any reference to doctors, groups of doctors or other practitioners who have any authority to determine who lives and who dies.

This section does include guidelines, which force practitioners to be bound by all relevant existing local, state and federal laws. It further defines an Advanced Care Planning Consultation that shall include explanations by practitioners of living wills, powers of attorney and other important patient care directives.

It also describes how a practitioner is to help a patient find appropriate means to ensure their wishes are carried out in the event that the patient is unable to communicate.

And there's no mention of reduced care. In fact, it specifically provides for more frequent care to a patient if there is a significant change in the health condition of the individual, including diagnosis of a chronic, progressive, life-limiting disease, a life-threatening or terminal diagnosis or life-threatening injury, or upon admission to a skilled nursing facility, a long-term care facility, or a hospice program.

See? Keeping the guns holstered and the clichés pocketed is easy.

I look forward to your informed, rational and respectful views. If you can't muster that, feel free to log on and tell everyone how you feel about Cap'n Crunch on your frozen yogurt.

Until next week.


?GARY HUERTA is a Crescenta Valley resident and author who works as a copywriting professor at Pasadena Art Center College of Design. He may be reached at garyhuerta@gmail.com.

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