Posts Tagged ‘politics or governing’


Yes, they’re already elevating Joe Wilson, the Congressman who shouted “Liar!” at the President of the United States, to hero status.
Just the sort of mindless zealotry we don’t need.

Read Full Post »

The President’s Speech on Health Care

A big amen to this (from the Dallas Morning News coverage):
“Despite deep-seated differences among lawmakers, Obama drew a standing ovation when he recounted stories of Americans whose coverage was denied or delayed by their insurers with catastrophic results.
“That is heartbreaking, it is wrong, and no one should me treated that way in the United States of America.” (My bold case for emphasis.)
As a hospital caregiver, I can tell you it happens and it happens a lot. How many patients do I see, week in and week out, who are suffering mental and emotional anguish on top of mental and emotional anguish, from illness or injury, because their insurancer is rooking them. And yes, it’s heartbreaking, it’s wrong, and no one should be treated that way in the United States of America.
It makes me sick, and no pun or joke intended.
Health-care reform is as much a moral issue as an economic one, if not moreso, as far as I’m concerned.
A big amen to this from our President too:
“”I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it’s better politics to kill this plan than to improve it.”
I applaud this president for having the political will and courage to keep the debate going and to keep the issue on the front burner. Politicians have been kicking the can down the road for so long that we’re going to kick the can off a cliff soon.
Most of the medical professionals, i.e. doctors and other medical personnel, that I talk to agree–the status quo in health care just won’t cut it any longer.
And this isn’t just about the uninsured. Even if you think you have very good health insurance, you might be in for a reality check if you’re perfectly healthy and ever have a wreck or accident and spend, say, six or eight or 10 hours in an Emergency Room getting everything from a bandage to a brain scan. That one ER stay can cost thousands upon thousands of dollars–and you can still end up paying specialist after specialist for their readings right out of your bank account.
I know this from personal experience, and more personal than being employed by a very large and richly endowed hospital system. I have very good health insurance, through the very large and wealthy medical system that employs me no less, and had two Ermergency Room stays this year. (2009 hasn’t been my year, but that’s another story.)
The ER doc in the second stay ordered a very expensive brain scan on me as a precautionary measure. My two stays in the ER amounted to about six hours each time. My insurance paid the biggest part of the cost, but I was swamped with bill after bill I’ve had to pay out of my pocket, all coming to a total of more than $2,500. Some of the expense I’m still paying out and will be for many months to come.
I see people who come in the ER who I know are well insured, or supposedly are, who tally up a lot more out of pocket expense than that.
I was lucky–I didn’t have to be admitted overnight for more hours and more tests and treatments and precautionary measures that run up the costs.
I don’t pretend to be smart enough to know what the answer is to health-care reform.
I just know that we have got to have reform and have it now. And I do know that a huge part of the problem lies with the insurance companies.
But some of it lies with all the high-tech, medical bells and whistles that can run up your bill in a flash. Some of it lies with people who work the system, or those going to the ER for their or their children’s sniffles rather than going to the family doctor–or going to the pharmacy and asking the pharmacist for a remedy he or she could recommend.
It’s a multitude of complex problems contributing to the breakdown of the healthcare system.
But the fact remains that there is a breakdown, and I wonder how much more we can bear before a collapse.
I don’t even see it as a liberal or conservative, a Democratic or Republican issue. It’s just an issue that the country is going to have to deal with.
A lot less rancor and political scare tactics would help, along with more reasoned debate–and prayer.
That’s what Christians do.

Read Full Post »

Thank you Mr. President for the inspiring words that our school children so very much needed to hear.
And thank you Mrs. Bush for once again being a voice of reason as you’ve so often been over the years.
PARIS, France (CNN) — Former first lady Laura Bush praised the performance of her husband’s successor Monday, breaking with many Republicans in telling CNN that she thinks President Obama is doing a good job under tough circumstances.

She also criticized Washington’s sharp political divide during an interview covering a range of topics including her thoughts on first lady Michelle Obama, former Vice President Dick Cheney, the situation in Afghanistan and Myanmar, and life after eight tumultuous years in the White House.

Bush sat down with CNN on Monday during a United Nations meeting in Paris, France, where she was promoting global literacy, a cause she trumpeted during her husband’s administration.

The typically reserved former first lady defended Obama’s decision to deliver a back-to-school speech to students, putting her at odds with many conservatives afraid that the president will use the opportunity to advance his political agenda.

“I think he is [doing a good job],” Bush said when asked to assess Obama’s job performance. “I think he has got a lot on his plate, and he has tackled a lot to start with, and that has probably made it more difficult.”

Michelle Obama is also “doing great,” she said, in part by turning the White House into a comfortable home for her family. Watch more of the interview »

Referencing the uproar over Obama’s address to schoolchildren, which will be aired nationwide Tuesday, Laura Bush said it’s “really important for everyone to respect the president of the United States.”

Bush didn’t completely dismiss the concerns of some conservatives but noted that controversial Education Department plans recommending that students draft letters discussing what they can do to help Obama had been changed.

“I think there is a place for the president … to talk to schoolchildren and encourage” them, she said. Parents should follow his example and “encourage their own children to stay in school and to study hard and to try to achieve the dream that they have.”

Bush indicated that she didn’t think it was fair for Obama to be labeled a “socialist” by critics and expressed her disappointment with the intensely polarized nature of contemporary American politics.

Part of the reason for the polarization, she said, was the increase in the number of congressional districts dominated by either strongly conservative or liberal voters.

“We’ve seen that for the last eight years, certainly, and we’re still seeing it,” she said. “That’s just a fact of life.” iReport.com: Share your thoughts on Obama’s speech

Bush conceded that after her husband was elected president, he was unable to replicate his success as governor of Texas in reaching across the aisle to Democrats.

“He was disappointed that that was not the way it worked out in Washington,” she said. “I’m sure President Obama didn’t expect it to be that way [either]. … All of us need to do what we can to come together on issues.”

Despite her husband’s disappointment, he is “doing very well,” she said. Both of them are now working on their memoirs, she noted.

Though the former first lady criticized the excessive partisanship of Washington, she expressed gratitude for Cheney’s decision to vocally defend her husband’s performance.

Cheney has been outspoken in his defense of the Bush administration’s national security record, which has been sharply criticized on, among other things, questions relating to the detention and interrogation of terrorist suspects.

“I think that Vice President Cheney has every right to speak out, and I appreciate that he is defending” the administration, Bush said. “I think that is important. I think there is a place for that.”

Bush also said it doesn’t bother her husband that Cheney’s “out there being critical.”

The former first lady said her husband still speaks with Cheney occasionally. Multiple sources have indicated that the two men parted ways on several issues in the last years of their administration, including Bush’s refusal to offer a pardon for former top Cheney aide Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

Libby was convicted on charges of perjury, obstruction of justice and lying to investigators looking into the leak that resulted in the exposure of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson.

Though Bush expressed confidence that her husband will ultimately be remembered as “somebody who stood for freedom and who stood for the security of our country,” she admitted that she’s worried about the current situation in Afghanistan.

“I’m very concerned, of course,” she said.

“All of us are concerned, and everybody, as they look at Afghanistan from around the world, really hope and want to [do] whatever they can to help the government stabilize, to see that the elections were fair.”

Bush said she hoped people “will redouble their efforts” to help the country fend off Taliban and al Qaeda extremists.

She also repeated her outspoken criticism of the government of Myanmar, also known by its former name of Burma, which has come under fire for imprisoning pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi.

“She’s always been held under house arrest [because] they’re afraid of her popularity. They think that undermines their regime,” Bush said.

“I hope that they’ll see what she really wants. … She wants [the nation to have] a peaceful transition to a democracy and to have the chance for Burma to really build itself [into] a very wealthy and educated nation.”

After her husband’s eight controversial years in the White House, what does Bush have to say to critics who believe he had a negative, destructive influence in the world?

I would say that that’s absolutely not right,” Bush said.

“I don’t think they have either the right view of him or what his responsibilities are and were as president of the United States.”

Read Full Post »

By Craig Medred, Alaska Dispatch
One year ago Saturday, Republican presidential hopeful John McCain hoisted little-known Sarah Palin onto the national stage. Little could McCain imagine the cast of characters she would bring with her or the firestorm she would create.
Isn’t it odd how nuclear explosions alter the time-space continuum? Thirteen months ago, much of Alaska knew Sarah Palin almost as much by her marriage to “first dude” Todd Palin, the Tesoro Iron Dog snowmachine racing champion, as by her political office, and the world — well, the world didn’t know her at all.
Now the world knows not only Sarah but Todd and many of the rest of the players in what has become the Palin Family Soap Opera: Bristol, the teenage daughter who has become a national spokeswoman for teen abstinence. Levi Johnston, Bristol’s ex-fiance and the daddy of the baby she had because she couldn’t abstain. Sherri Johnston, the mother of Levi, and a convicted drug dealer. Meghan Stapleton, the former television talking head who became the bark-at-the-media attack dog for Sarah, who was in turn the attack dog for Republican presidential contender John McCain.
And those are only the main players. Throw in the bit players — people like Palin’s Fox News buddy Greta Van Susteren; Levi’s handler, Tank Jones, and flamboyant attorney, Rex Butler; the gaggle of photogenic Palin children; Sarah’s plain-spoken father, Chuck Heath; even comedian Kathy Griffin, who dragged Levi along as her date to Nickelodeon’s Teen Choice Awards in August — and the show really gets weird.
Welcome to the strange new world of Sarah Palin, one-time Alaska beauty queen, one-time stay-at-home mom, and one-time mayor of the strip-mall town of Wasilla along the picturesque shores of Lakes Wasilla and Lucille in the shadow of the spectacular Talkeetna and Chugach mountains, below which dwell many hardworking people and a handful of the not-so-hard-working whom former state Sen. Ben Stevens once impolitely referred to as “Valley trash.”
The setting here is awesome, the cast of characters intriguing, and the spectacle sometimes hard not to watch.
At least until it gets just plain overwhelming.
Maybe by now you’ve had enough. Even one popular Alaska radio talk-show host was on the air in Anchorage only days ago expressing relief that with Palin gone from the governor’s office and comparatively silent on Twitter and Facebook, there have actually been a few days of quiet since she threw the “death panel” fireball at President Obama’s plan for national health care. The Obama administration, of course, is still trying to calm the “death panel” storm Palin created by posting just a few lines of copy on the Web.
And to think that prior to Aug. 29, 2008, Palin was — at least on the national level — an obscure, Republican governor in a far-off state serving as something of the de facto leader of a pack of Democrats in the state House.
That was then, when Sarah Palin was a uniter, not a divider.
This is now, with Sarah Palin one of the most visible Republicans on the national stage and arguably the most divisive figure in American politics. An ABC News/Washington Post poll in July found 70 percent of Republicans hold a favorable view of Alaska’s ex-governor, but among all voters — Republicans, Democrats and independents — 58 percent view her unfavorably.
She is quite simply the most popular Republican in the country at the moment, and the Republican least likely capable of bringing Democrats and independents into the conservative fold. It’s a long way from those halcyon days of yesteryear when she was cozier with some Alaska Dems than with her own party leadership.

It would be nice to ask Palin herownself what happened, but she can’t be found. The exact location of the former governor is being kept top secret, though there seem almost as many Sarah Palin spottings as Elvis sightings in the Lower 48 these days. At last report, she’d been rumored to be shopping for real estate in Montana, New York and Rhode Island. Take your pick.
She is also rumored to be struggling with marital problems. Who knows. The rumor has been denied vehemently, and yet it persists persistently.
What is known is that Palin isn’t at home in Wasilla.

“I don’t even know where she is right now,” her father, Chuck Heath, said this week from his home near hers in the big valley north of Anchorage.

Read Full Post »

No, this is not a satire; it’s a straight-up news item from the Topeka, Kan. newspaper:

U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins offered encouragement to conservatives at a town hall forum that the Republican Party would embrace a “great white hope” capable of thwarting the political agenda endorsed by Democrats who control Congress and President Barack Obama.
Jenkins, a Topeka Republican in her first term in Congress, shared thoughts about the GOP’s political future during an Aug. 19 forum at Fisher Community Center in the northeast Kansas community of Hiawatha.
In response to inquiries by The Topeka Capital-Journal, a Jenkins spokeswoman said Wednesday the congresswoman wanted to apologize for her word choice and to emphasize she had no intention of expressing herself in an offensive manner.
Jenkins told people at the Hiawatha forum the nation could benefit from inspired leadership of a group of “really sharp” young Republicans in the House, particularly Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va. Cantor was mentioned as a possible GOP vice presidential candidate in 2008 and is thought to be interested in seeking the Republican nomination for president in 2012.
“Republicans are struggling right now to find the great white hope,” Jenkins said to the crowd. “I suggest to any of you who are concerned about that, who are Republican, there are some great young Republican minds in Washington.”
A videotape of the presentation contains footage of Jenkins identifying three members of the U.S. House — Cantor, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. — as future movers and shakers in the GOP. All are white, as is Jenkins.
“So don’t, you know, lose faith if you are a conservative,” Jenkins said in Hiawatha.

Read Full Post »

The record shows that Kennedy, whatever else you might think of him, got the whole Iraq thing right, unlike the Right:
“The Bush Administration says America can fight a war in Iraq without undermining our most pressing national security priority — the war against Al Qaeda. But I believe it is inevitable that a war in Iraq without serious international support will weaken our effort to ensure that Al Qaeda terrorists can never, never, never threaten American lives again.
“Even with the Taliban out of power, Afghanistan remains fragile. Security remains tenuous. Warlords still dominate many regions. Our reconstruction effort, which is vital to long-term stability and security, is halting and inadequate. Some Al Qaeda operatives – no one knows how many – have faded into the general population. Terrorist attacks are on the rise. President Karzai, who has already survived one assassination attempt, is still struggling to solidify his hold on power. And although neighboring Pakistan has been our ally, its stability is far from certain.
“We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction. Our intelligence community is also deeply concerned about the acquisition of such weapons by Iran, North Korea, Libya, Syria and other nations. But information from the intelligence community over the past six months does not point to Iraq as an imminent threat to the United States or a major proliferator of weapons of mass destruction.
“War with Iraq before a genuine attempt at inspection and disarmament, or without genuine international support — could swell the ranks of Al Qaeda sympathizers and trigger an escalation in terrorist acts.”
—- From a speech by Sen. Ted Kennedy at Johns Hopkins’ Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C. concerning the war, Sept. 27, 2002

—- And here’s an excerpt of a Kennedy speech to the Center for American Progress, broadcast on C-SPAN 01/14/04
“The advocates of war in Iraq desperately sought to make the case that Saddam was linked to 9/11 and Al Qaeda, and that he was on the verge of acquiring a nuclear capability. They created an Office of Special Projects in the Pentagon to analyze the intelligence for war. They bypassed the traditional screening process and put pressure on intelligence officers to produce the desired intelligence and analysis.
“As the world now knows, Saddam’s connection to 9/11 was false. Saddam was an evil dictator. But he was never close to having a nuclear capability. The Administration has found no arsenals of chemical or biological weapons. It has found no persuasive connection to al-Qaeda. All this should have been clear. The Administration should not have looked at the facts with ideological blinders and with a mindless dedication to the results they wanted.
“A recent report by the Carnegie Endowment concluded that Administration officials systematically misrepresented the threat from Iraq’s nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs. They also concluded that the intelligence community was unduly influenced by the policymakers’ views and intimidating actions, such as Vice President Cheney’s repeated visits to CIA headquarters and demands by officials for access to the raw intelligence from which the analysts were working. The report also noted the unusual speed with which the National Intelligence Estimate was written and the high number of dissents in what is designed to be a consensus document.
“In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, President Bush himself made clear that his highest priority was finding Osama bin Laden. At a press conference on September 17th, 2001, he said that he wanted bin Laden “dead or alive.” Three days later, in an address to a Joint Session of Congress, President Bush demanded of the Taliban: “Deliver to the United States authorities all the leaders of al-Qaeda who hide in your land.” And Congress cheered. On November 8th, the President told the country, “I have called our military into action to hunt down the members of the al-Qaeda organization who murdered innocent Americans.” In doing that, he had the full support of Congress and the nation-and rightly so.
“Soon after the war began in Afghanistan, however, the President started laying the groundwork in public to shift attention to Iraq. In the Rose Garden on November 26th, he said: “Afghanistan is still just the beginning.”
“Three days later, even before Hamid Karzai had been approved as interim Afghan President, Vice President Cheney publicly began to send signals about attacking Iraq. On November 29th, he said “I don’t think it takes a genius to figure out that this guy [Saddam Hussein] is clearly … a significant potential problem for the region, for the United States, for everybody with interests in the area.”

—- And there’s more and much more on Kennedy’s nearly lone-wolf opposition to the Iraq invasion and his subsequent efforts to hold the warmongers accountable. Anyone can look up and watch the entire speech from C-SPAN, or do a search on Google, and see just how right he got it all in his relentless dissent regarding Iraq.

Read Full Post »



Evangelist Tony Compolo said something that somehow seems fitting on a day when we’re mourning the loss of Ted Kennedy:

It’s about time we realized that Christianity is a call not to conservatism, but to change. Jesus came into the world not to conserve the system as it was, but to change the world into what it ought to be.”

Amen to that.
And God bless Ted Kennedy for trying and always fight to change the world into what it ought to be.

Read Full Post »

Dr. Paul Farmer

Dr. Paul Farmer

What follows is Amy Goodman’s interview, last year, with Dr. Paul Farmer, the Appreciated One this month at jitterbuggingforjesus.com, in which the Appreciated One speaks, among other things, about his unconventional upbringing in a bus and then in a boat–a boat that Farmer’s father tricked the family into living on:
AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Farmer, I want to ask you about Rwanda, where you live now with your wife, who’s Haitian, and your kids, and the clinic. But first, I want to go back to your own personal history, where you grew up and, well, your rather unusual abodes, where you lived with your family. How many brothers and sisters do you have?

DR. PAUL FARMER: I am one of six children, the runt of the litter, and I’m not that small. I’m six feet tall. But I only say that because for many years we lived in a bus.

AMY GOODMAN: In a bus.

DR. PAUL FARMER: In a bus. And it was—my favorite part about it, in retrospect, is that it was one of those buses that was used in American cities to do mobile tuberculosis screening. So it had an area where there was a space for an x-ray machine.

AMY GOODMAN: Were your parents involved in healthcare?

DR. PAUL FARMER: No, my parents were involved in looking for a way to take eight people on a vacation that didn’t involve a plane, because they couldn’t afford airfare. So—

AMY GOODMAN: And this would take care of rent, too?

DR. PAUL FARMER: And this would take care of rent. Well, my father pulled that off on us later. He didn’t tell us, “Oh, this is not just a vacation; it’s home.” He tricked us. But—

AMY GOODMAN: In what state did you [inaudible]?

DR. PAUL FARMER: Well, this—he bought it in Alabama, and we lived in Florida. And so, I grew up in Florida mostly. And after the bus came the boat, another one of my dad’s experiments.

AMY GOODMAN: You lived on a boat?

DR. PAUL FARMER: I lived on a boat, I did.

AMY GOODMAN: And where did he get the boat?

DR. PAUL FARMER: He got it in a sealed bid from the US government. It had been a boat called a “liberty launch” from the USS Saratoga that took people to shore. It’s fifty feet long. So all it was, it looked like a giant rowboat. And my father bought it. He was the lowest bidder. And then, suddenly, he announced, as was his wont, “We’re going to live on a boat.” He actually said he was going to be a fisherman, and we rolled our eyes and said, “Yeah, right, Dad.”

AMY GOODMAN: Is this why you’re always traveling, because you feel like the journey itself is home?

DR. PAUL FARMER: I don’t think so. I’ve been asked that before. But I think I’m traveling because we get drawn into hotspots of disease where we have expertise. So that’s how we ended up in Peru and Russia, is because we already knew a lot about tuberculosis, and it wasn’t from the tuberculosis bus. It was from medical school and taking care of lots of patients. And that led us to Peru, where there was an outbreak of drug-resistant tuberculosis. And we have an incredible Peruvian team. They’ve helped us in Africa now, and just as the Haitians have helped us in Africa. Our Haitian team is, you know, helping to run these projects in Africa. But in any case, that led us to Russia.

AMY GOODMAN: Your wife is also in medical anthropology?

DR. PAUL FARMER: She is, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: And she lives in Rwanda now with your children?

DR. PAUL FARMER: She is the director of community health for our efforts there.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what you did in Rwanda.

DR. PAUL FARMER: Well, Rwanda has been, in many cases, the best experience we’ve had in our twenty-five years, because things that you need that I didn’t understand twenty years ago, you know, to make—to bring good comprehensive system to scale. What I mean by “comprehensive” is, I’m not talking about an AIDS program or a TB program or a maternal mortality program, I’m talking about comprehensive healthcare for poor people. And to bring that together, you need a lot of political will. You need farsighted people at the top. And so, at the same time that the Clinton Foundation asked us to go to Rwanda, the government of Rwanda, the Ministry of Health of Rwanda, asked us to come and try and do this rural model that we developed so extensively in Haiti in rural Rwanda. And so, we were sent to two districts where there was no functioning district hospital, and that was in 2005.

AMY GOODMAN: Or more specifically, just in researching what you did there, you were brought to an area where you said, “No, no, no, this is not poor enough.”

DR. PAUL FARMER: That time, it is true. We went to a town in northern Rwanda, and we went to a hospital that was clean, and it had an x-ray machine, and it had three physicians, a big hospital. It needed more than three physicians. But we went back to the city and said to the minister, you know, you could send us somewhere more difficult. And so we ended up in an abandoned hospital, abandoned since the war and genocide. And, you know, it was—

AMY GOODMAN: Since 1994, that killed almost a million people in ten days?

DR. PAUL FARMER: Exactly. And in addition, about 60 percent of the people living in this region were resettled refugees or internally displaced people. So it was a real mess socially, but we had some things going for us that we did not have in Haiti. I mentioned already we had great leadership at the top in Rwanda, a lot of support locally, because these people had been without medical care. There was no doctor. It was, you know, probably 400,000 people in those two districts, zero doctors. And then we also had the Haitians. You know, we had been working with our Haitian colleagues for sometimes fifteen, twenty years, and they came over with us to help set up the program. And they did that in Lesotho, too. So, you know, people talk about solidarity, which is fine, but until it’s linked to actual pragmatic solidarity that is actually doing something, well, that’s just less fine. So this, I think, was a really good thing.

AMY GOODMAN: In Russia, you’ve worked with TB resistance in the prisons?

DR. PAUL FARMER: Yeah, yeah. We worked with—that actually was another really very good experience. And people said, “What?” You know, “Working in Siberia has been a pleasant experience?” But I’ll tell you, it’s not what I expected. And we found in the prison where we worked, which is in a place called Tomsk, which is in western Siberia—and it’s a vast place, it’s the size of Germany or Poland, and there’s only a million people living there. So there’s a lot of logistic challenges to working—I hate to say this—but working outside the prison.

But inside the prison, we found there to be, you know, good, humane medical personnel. And I talked to one of the doctors when I first went there, and she said to me, “You know, we know what to do to take care of these patients with drug-resistant tuberculosis. What we don’t have are certain medications.” So it was very different from working in Haiti or some of the other places we’ve worked. They did know what to do in many ways. And so, one of the things that we did was to say, OK, we’re going to help rehab the lab, set up the drug procurement.

And just to give you one figure that comes from this one prison, the case fatality rate, the number of people diagnosed—these are mostly young men—diagnosed with TB who died was 24 percent, which is terrible. I mean, that’s far worse than Africa with treatment, or Haiti; we were getting down to two percent in our area. And so, we knew it was something other than noncompliance or the usual patient-blaming kind of explanations. It was drug-resistant TB. And when we introduced the right labs and the right drugs, the mortality fell to almost zero, and very quickly, in the space of two years.

AMY GOODMAN: Before we get to the end of the broadcast, I want to come back here, because your analysis is not just a medical diagnosis, but it is an analysis of the healthcare system, and that’s ultimately what you’re challenging. So we’re in a presidential year. Healthcare is a critical issue, as long as you’re not watching the media, where you hardly see it discussed. But what do you think of the healthcare system in this country? What has to be done? How do you think—what do you think of the candidates and what they’re representing?

DR. PAUL FARMER: Well, my diagnosis of our healthcare system’s problems is that it’s very expensive to give bad medical care to poor people in a rich country, very expensive to give bad medical care to poor people in a rich country. And I can give example after example from my own clinical experience working in, you know, the best hospitals I’ve ever seen in the world. And like I said, when they’re in the hospital, things go OK. But we do not have a good safety net. We don’t have a good primary healthcare system.

And to get into the hospital, the uninsured—47 million people, maybe 50—they have to pass through an emergency room, waste time, and things happen to them there that probably shouldn’t, because they’re primary healthcare problems, they’re in an emergency room. And then again, on top of that 47 million, probably just as many Americans are poorly insured and can be thrown into destitution by serious illness. So, you know, there’s 100 million Americans who are in—are not—they don’t have health security. They don’t know that a devastating illness could not wipe out their savings or make them lose their home. They may know that. I hope they do.

AMY GOODMAN: What does the term single-payer mean to you?

DR. PAUL FARMER: I think it’s a good idea. I mean, again—

AMY GOODMAN: If someone doesn’t understand it, in a sixty-second quote…

DR. PAUL FARMER: Single-payer means, to me, that there’s a national health insurance program that is not divvied up, you know, state-by-state. You know, I was reading about Oregon yesterday on the plane on the way up here, and they’re talking about a lottery to see who’s going to get health insurance. Of the people who applied, it’s going to be some tiny little fraction. Using a lottery to allocate health insurance doesn’t seem to me like a great idea. In Massachusetts, where much has been made of universal access, what’s really happened is that medical insurance is made mandatory, which is different from a national health insurance program or a social safety net. And, you know, I don’t mean to be ideological about this. I’m not. I’m just saying we live in a country that is putting out 16 to 17 percent of our GDP for healthcare and not getting the returns that we need. And from the analyses that I read, having a national health program would cut out some of these unnecessary expenses. I think that’s a sound analysis.

AMY GOODMAN: And you’re

Read Full Post »

Blogger Andrew Sullivan, a conservative, hits the nail on the head:

Violence Over Healthcare
The passions out there are somewhat mystifying to me. Here is what we are debating: should we demand that insurance companies provide policies to anyone regardless of pre-existing conditions? Should we help the working poor buy that insurance with subsidies? Are competitive exchanges for health insurance a good or bad thing? Would a public option or a co-op help bring down healthcare costs? Does it make sense for the government to study the effectiveness of various treatments as a guide for doctors? These are all worth debating – and if you break it down into these questions, a majority would back them. Obama’s proposals were very, very well illuminated in the campaign; there’s nothing here that we weren’t told to expect; in fact, he seems over-eager to placate moderates and keep some Republicans within the healthcare reform tent.

But the vicious anger from the far right, which is to say what is currently the right, seems totally out of proportion to these reforms. Where does that come from? It comes from the same place as the tea-party protests. It’s partisan, of course – most Republicans, including Glenn Reynolds, ignored the deficit under Bush, blamed Obama for it within minutes of his election, and never refer to the impact of the recession on deficits. But it is also surely cultural – an expression of the rage some in white America feel at the new social make-up of their country. I just sat through a PJTV segment on Sarah Palin, in which the host blithely referred to the heartland as “real America.”

If that is what you really believe – that people in cities or suburbs, that minorities, that gays, that blacks and Hispanics are not part of “real America” – then of course, you are angry. You believe a fake America has taken over. You cannot understand this. So you start believing that we have a fascist/communist dictatorship, that there was some fraud allowing a non-citizen to become president, that the government is about to “take over” all healthcare provision … and on and on. And no one is left in the GOP to challenge this, to calm it down, to present practical alternatives to the obvious crushing problems the country and the private sector have in paying for increasingly costly healthcare.

To me, this is a triumph of ideology. And conservatism is now an abstract anti-government ideology, fueled by cultural, racial and sexual resentment. This is a recipe for more violence, and more marginalization

Read Full Post »

“Have you no decency?”
That’s the very famous question that was asked of Sen. McCarthy of McCarthyism Red Scare Fame when Sen. McCarthy got his much-need comeuppance.
Those so irrationally and passionately opposed to health-care reform bills keep reading words and phrases and things into the bills that simply are not in the bills, and as a hospital chaplain, I make it a point to look at the bills and read them, at least the most controversial or debated or contested portions, and I’m continually astounded at how those so rabidly (and irrationally) opposed to Obama’s health care reforms can take a smidgen of truth and inflate it to such an extent as to strike fear and loathing into the hearts and minds of those who won’t bother to actually read the bills, or even so much as the controversial parts in question.
Dear reader, there’s enough that’s good and enough that’s bad about health care reform proposals to be debated and argued without the Palins and so many others reading things into the proposals that simply don’t exist, and passing those nonexistent words and phrases onto the unsuspecting public as hard truths and realities.
Some of those so angry about health-care reform proposal–those who dismiss the proposals as the most evil thing since Dr. Eeeee-vil himself–these are some–make that many–of the same people who lied and lied and lied and distorted and exploited and struck fear in the hearts of people in the Terry Schiavo case.
Remember her, the Florida wife whose husband was out to “kill” her and was being aided and abetted by merchants of death including the hospice in which she was receiving end-of-life care?
I was a chaplain for a hospice at the time, and I and all my hospice colleagues were simply astounded by the lies being told not only about the Florida hospice, but about hospice care in general.
Politicians and far-right Catholic priests and far-right commentators were making claims about the dying process that had nothing to do with the reality of the dying process.
I’ll never forget the Texas Congressman Tom DeLay–remember him?–going on TV rapping the hospice in Florida for “torturing” poor Terry Schiavo by denying her food and water.
Hospices–and hospitals and doctors and ministers and people who actually know anything about God’s natural dying process–know that the worst think you can do is give an eminently dying person food and water. It’s part and parcel of what we in the medical caregiving professions call “pallaitive care,” or comfort care–the only kind that there should be when one is terminal and “actively dying.” (Or, “going home to God,” or “God taking you home” as I and other hospital and hospice chaplains and many faith-oriented end-of-life caregivers prefer to call it.)
I and others in health care have to explain to patients’ families all the time that the last thing their loved one needs, when the loved one is “actively dying,” is food or water, because the body of an actively dying person does not NEED food or water.
I tell people that God brings us into the world in a certain way–kicking and screaming. That’s how we’re born–kicking and screaming.
It’s only natural, the way God made birth.
I also tell people that God takes us home–allows us to die–in a certain way–without the intake of food and water, and we don’t go out starving to death or dying of thirst when we die naturally, the way God intended.
In fact, we die peacefully, in most cases, when we die naturally, without food or water.
And yet politicians who know nothing about the dying process, and–oddly and bizarrely, if that’s a word, right-wing priests who ought to know about the natural dying process, were perfectly willing to go on national TV and lament the hospice and Terry Schiavo’s husband “killing” and “torturing” Terry Schiavo by denying her food and water.
It’s people of the same ilk reading things into health-care reform proposals that aren’t in the proposals whatsoever.
They have no shame.
Here’s Harold Pollack’s response to Sarah Palin and those of her ilk who are smearing the reputations and images of doctors and, in this particular case, Dr. Emmanuel, Obama’s health-care reform guy.
Have You No Decency?
by Harold Pollack, professor at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration and Special Correspondent for The Treatment, which is the health care blog of The New Republic magazine.

“Governor Palin issued the following statement on her Facebook page yesterday. I quote it in its entirety so you can judge for yourself.

“Statement on the Current Health Care Debate

“As more Americans delve into the disturbing details of the nationalized health care plan that the current administration is rushing through Congress, our collective jaw is dropping, and we’re saying not just no, but hell no!
“The Democrats promise that a government health care system will reduce the cost of health care, but as the economist Thomas Sowell has pointed out, government health care will not reduce the cost; it will simply refuse to pay the cost. And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course. The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.
“Health care by definition involves life and death decisions. Human rights and human dignity must be at the center of any health care discussion.
“Rep. Michele Bachmann highlighted the Orwellian thinking of the president’s health care advisor, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, the brother of the White House chief of staff, in a floor speech to the House of Representatives. I commend her for being a voice for the most precious members of our society, our children and our seniors.
“We must step up and engage in this most crucial debate. Nationalizing our health care system is a point of no return for government interference in the lives of its citizens. If we go down this path, there will be no turning back. Ronald Reagan once wrote, “Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth.” Let’s stop and think and make our voices heard before it’s too late.
– Sarah Palin

“To be clear, it is downright evil to establish a “death panel” that decides who is allowed to live based on their “level of productivity in society.” Less clear is what the heck Palin or Bachmann are talking about. I can’t find the words “death panel” in any administration position paper, the stimulus package, or the House and Senate draft health reform bills. Don’t take my word for it. Read the bills.

“Palin and Bachmann take pot shots at Ezekiel Emanuel, one of President Obama’s health policy advisors. Dr. Emanuel, a prominent medical ethicist and oncologist, makes a juicy target because he is Rahm’s brother, and because his paper trail provides incautiously blunt commentary regarding the pathologies of American health policy. It’s easy to lift one or two sentences from him, throw them onto the internet, and set the right-wing blogosphere aflame.

“Palin and Bachmann remind no one of Hillary Clinton in their success in grasping complex policy issues, or in their desire to do so. It may be too much to expect them to trace the origin and veracity of these talking points. These originate in a New York Post op-ed by Betsy McCaughey, which Bachmann essentially recites on the House floor. In the original op-ed, McCaughey mushes together and distorts three articles Emanuel wrote between 1996 and 2008. I wish the Post would exercise greater quality control over what appears in its pages.

“Human rights and human dignity indeed belong at the center of medical care. Americans hold vastly different ideas about how to best honor these values when human life nears its end or when basic physical and cognitive functioning can no longer be preserved.

“I do know four things.

First, these issues are quite separate from the main issues being debated in health reform. Under a single-payer system, a strong public plan, or under a libertarian’s privatized dream-system, we will still face fundamental dilemmas in caring for our loved ones, and ourselves. This is not merely or primarily a money issue. Like other forms of care, end-of-life care is sometimes wasteful or ineffective, but nobody is looking to skimp on or ration such care to finance health reform. Nor should they.

“Second, health reform would address an equally fundamental dilemma of human dignity and human rights: millions of people’s lack of access to basic care. Many of these people are disabled or live with chronic illnesses. Over at Obsidian Wings, Publius yesterday noted the predicament of children with Down Syndrome denied health insurance because they have a preexisting condition.

“Governor Palin writes: “And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled.” It’s telling that she omitted one category: Poor people, whose care is now cruelly rationed in ways the Obama administration and congressional Democrats are trying to address in health care reform. Palin brings genuine moral passion to the issue of cognitive disability. I wish she would bring that same passion to the plight of uninsured patients forced to seek substandard, delayed care, or the millions of Americans facing the dual challenge of serious illness and large medical bills. If you live in any big city, go down to your local public hospital emergency room. You will probably find people in visible discomfort or illness languishing for hours. A society that cares about human rights and dignity would not tolerate this.

“Third, people genuinely worry that comparative effectiveness research (CER) is a stalking horse for rationing or for curtailing care for the sick, elderly, or disabled. This is a misplaced concern. I recently noted an Institute of Medicine CER report. None of the identified high-priority items involved anything approximating the rationing of life-saving or life-extending care. End of life care ranked 28th in their chart of priority areas for CER research. This may be a mistake. Better approaches to palliative care often look very good when evaluated against the standard benchmarks of medical cost-effectiveness.

“Fourth and finally, publicity-seeking politicians subtract a lot from these conversations. Palin, Bachmann, and others score cheap points by scaring people and by spreading falsehoods. Their disrespect goes beyond their own political base to those whose views they so recklessly misconstrue.

“Dr. Emanuel’s oncology career provides more than passing familiarity with the consequences of devastating, sometimes life-ending illness. He has written widely about the dilemmas of relying on medical care proxies in caring for desperately ill patients, chemotherapy at the end of life, and other intimate clinical concerns. There is nothing Orwellian about him. He has prominently opposed legalization of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, for example.

“Emanuel’s work offers a model of sustained achievement that both Governor Palin and Representative Bachmann would be wise to emulate. He deserves better than to be trashed in this way. So do the rest of us.

–Harold Pollack


Read Full Post »

Older Posts »