:: to the teeth ::    thoughts on social justice, medicine, race, hope and beats

"Another world is not only possible, she is on her way.
On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." :: Arundhati Roy ::

"The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any." :: Alice Walker ::
Saturday, January 31, 2004  

Go straight to jail, do not pass GO, do not ever vote again

The big news: The nation's first ever class action lawsuit filed against a state (NJ) for prohibiting ex-cons from voting while they're on probation or parole.

The thinking: an overwhelming majority of ex-cons are black or Latino, so the law is a violation of NJ's constitution's guarantee of equal protection.

The groups involved: NJ chapter of the NAACP, the Latino Leadership Alliance, two Elizabeth City Council members, and 10 ex-cons on behalf of themselves and others (I don't know what I'd do with myself if I was an ex-con and couldn't vote Bush out of office -- it would be horrific!)

Some striking facts from the article: "The complaint filed against the state of New Jersey asserts that while African Americans and Hispanics comprise about 30 percent of the total population in New Jersey, they account for more than 75 percent of the parolee population and over 52 percent of those on probation.

According to Frank Askin, Director of the Rutgers Constitutional Clinic and one of the lead attorneys for the case, laws on voting rights for ex-convicts vary widely throughout the nation. Seventeen states, mostly in the South, bar those convicted of serious offenses for voting for life. Sixteen others, plus Washington, D.C., allow an ex-convict to vote as soon as he or she is released from custody. Vermont and Maine even allow jailed felons to vote from behind bars, he said."

posted by Unknown | 1/31/2004 11:32:00 PM | (0) comments |

Saturday, January 24, 2004  

Some hard questions for docs

Fellow medical student Graham Walker raises some fascinating questions on his reflections of a county medical association meeting. Please check out his very interesting entry, but here are some questions he raised (and I quote):

1. The health care system is one that makes absolutely no sense. No one wants to be a part of it. And why should we have to?

2. How can doctors continue to work on some sort of patchwork system—like suing the insurance companies, like the CMA did with the RICO lawsuit—but not fight for a long-term change?

3. Honestly, how much of this “doctors are barely getting by” mantra am I supposed to believe?

4. The malpractice issue aside, who’s struggling out there? And I mean struggling. When you’re “struggling” to make car payments on the BMW or the 5-bedroom house, you don’t count.

5. Isn’t it more the expectation of a certain level of income that’s the problem? Not the absolute income, but the level relative to one’s societal expectations as an all-important doctor?

6. “Political feasibility” and “tax increases” were cited as the reasons that single-payer wouldn’t fly. “The public would never support it.” “No one would be willing to pay for the tax increases.” I don’t buy either of them. The economics aren’t as bad as they seem—otherwise, how could any other nation be insuring everyone, have higher general health outcomes, and spend less?

On point, Graham, I couldn't have posed these questions better myself. On the topic of malpractice insurance problems, I KNOW that it's a big problem for docs. But I dont' support caps on non-economic damages, instead I support a reform of the insurance system (why do premiums keep increasing? nobody's asking this of insurance companies, we've just got docs and lawyers going at it, and ALL the other important health problems of our time, that docs should be caring about, going down the toilet). Also, Donald Palmisano, the current president of the American Medical Association, said this last week:

"The real crisis is when an expectant mother cannot find an obstetrician to deliver her baby, or a trauma patient can’t reach a neurosurgeon in time. We need a solution that’s a proven performer – real reform – to end this crisis."

Which crisis is he talking about? HE, who is supposed to represent, as the AMA website states as its motto, "Physicians dedicated to the health of America". No -- SURPRISE! -- he's not talking about health access barriers facing the 44 million uninsured, or the fact that the uninsured in emergencies often don't go to the emergency room because of the tens of thousands of dollars in bills they'll have to deal with later. Nor is he talking about the news of the MONTH -- the recent findings of the 6th and final Institute of Medicine report on the consequences of being uninsured, which in no simple words states that EVERYONE in America must have access to universal coverage that is affordable to individuals, families, and socieities, that is continuous, and that is high-quality and equitable (see related post here). He's talking (and the AMA's focusing on) the medical malpractice crisis. Yes, yes. Thankfully the priorities are straight at the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) , not to be confused with the AMA.

posted by Unknown | 1/24/2004 09:03:00 AM | (0) comments |


Someone else's tab

A great commentary on the details of Dick Cheney's hunting trip last month (on which I believe he was accompanied by his friend, Supreme Court judge Scalia, who is supposed to be objectively investigating the possible Cheney/energy companies backroom energy deal for our nation. Thanks to Suburban Guerilla for the link:

Nossir, our man Dick, he has himself flown over, in Air Force 2, on the taxpayer's tab... Dick and about nine other overfed white guys sitting in a comfy luxury blind with their manly shotguns, waiting for the Westmoreland guy stationed behind them on a hill to release clusters of stunned, fat, tame game birds from a net. Then they shoot them... Lots and lots of them. And then they slap each other on the back. And they grunt and say nice shot as the birds drop like flies as dogs race back and forth hauling dead or dying birds into huge piles. Whee what fun... More than 400 birds were killed in one lackadaisical afternoon... Are we not all sitting here saying, wow, that Dick Cheney guy, he of the massive alleged Halliburton corruption scandals, he is one studly dude, slaughtering a small mountain of docile, stupefied birds that had no chance of escape. What a guy...

Do you, as Dick Cheney obviously does, see the world as your personal blood-sport playground, where you can take anything you want, kill whatever you like, respect nothing nature has to offer, suffer no ramifications, and do it all on someone else's tab?...

This last paragraph (surprisingly) speaks well to today's Boondocks cartoon, below:

posted by Unknown | 1/24/2004 08:37:00 AM | (0) comments |

Monday, January 19, 2004  

Should he steal the medicine to save his wife?

Hopefully soon I'll get a chance to read Katherine Greider's The Big Fix. There's a one page excerpt from it here, and I love the first paragraph of it:

"Researchers studying the moral development of children sometimes ask them to consider a hypothetical known as the Heinz dilemma. It goes like this: Heinz's wife is very sick. If she doesn't get a certain medicine, she's sure to die. The trouble is the medicine's so costly Heinz can't possibly afford it. Should he steal the medicine to save his wife?"

But right now i'm slowly but surely getting through Lawrence Lessig's The Future of Ideas. 20 pages in for now... truckin' along. And William Greider's "The Soul of Capitalism" looks fascinating too.

posted by Unknown | 1/19/2004 04:31:00 PM | (0) comments |


Mr. President, there's no such thing as a free launch

EJ Dionne has a great read on Bush's proposed initiative to inhabit the moon. He points out two very important things here: (1) Bush Jr's continuous borrowing from future generations:

"But that is the beauty of this administration's approach: It's not asking current taxpayers to finance this adventure. It is going to keep cutting taxes and is putting only modest new sums into NASA...[the first President Bush] was willing to bear the burden of financing the government through those tax increases that helped doom his chances for reelection in 1992. The current president, by contrast, is leaving behind a trail of IOUs: his tax cuts, a Medicare drug plan whose full costs won't be felt for years to come and now a promise of the moon and Mars for his successors to keep."

and (2) the fact that Bush Jr ain't askin' the masses what we want to do with our taxpayer money (Dionne highlights some important health-related facts about inner-cities):

"How many Americans know -- I didn't -- that the percentage of children with asthma has more than doubled since 1980, from 3.6 percent to 8.7 percent; that deaths from asthma have increased by more than 75 percent; that 25 percent of all children in central Harlem have asthma? These numbers come from an IAF paper that, I warn you, makes for gruesome reading: "The explosion of asthma and other respiratory problems has been triggered by the overwhelming presence of roach droppings and rat urine in the projects and tenements that house these children." When these hazards are "combined with the harsh pesticides and cleaning agents often used to remove pests . . . you have the polar opposite of an oxygen tent in a sanitized hospital room."...So here's an offer: We'll forget that this President Bush is being a copycat on his Mars endeavor if he begins an experimental program to make our inner cities more habitable for the humans who live there."

posted by Unknown | 1/19/2004 08:04:00 AM | (0) comments |

Thursday, January 15, 2004  

Guess who's going to be on the radio?

"They haven't got a name or a launch date yet, but the entrepreneurs who dream of launching a liberal radio network have just landed themselves a lead man: Comedian and best-selling author Al Franken... Progress Media planned to announce Tuesday that it has reached an agreement with Franken to host a live, three-hour daily broadcast that would form the anchor of the programming schedule, according to people familiar with the matter."

posted by Unknown | 1/15/2004 08:11:00 PM | (0) comments |


Dear senior citizen: you are being screwed with propaganda about Medicare

"Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle accused the Bush administration Wednesday of sending seniors propaganda rather than explanations about changes in the Medicare program...Daschle was reacting to a two-page fact sheet that Health and Human Services Department officials said would be the basis of a letter sent to 40 million older and disabled Americans who participate in the government health insurance program...

"Recently, President Bush and Congress worked together to pass a new law to bring people with Medicare more choices in health care coverage and better health care benefits," the fact sheet says. "This new law preserves and strengthens the current Medicare program."

"Daschle, D-S.D., challenged just about every word in those sentences. 'This is just a piece of propaganda that I believe has no business being paid for by the American taxpayer,' he said from Sioux Falls, S.D., in an interview with several reporters... Daschle and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., sent HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson a letter Wednesday asking him to provide the cost of the mailing and to obtain an independent evaluation of the letter before it is sent.

posted by Unknown | 1/15/2004 08:06:00 PM | (0) comments |

Wednesday, January 14, 2004  

What part of "universal" do you not understand?

From a landmark report released today: "Lack of health insurance causes roughly 18,000 unnecessary deaths every year in the United States. Although America leads the world in spending on health care, it is the only wealthy, industrialized nation that does not ensure that all citizens have coverage. To help policy-makers, elected officials, and others judge and compare proposals to extend coverage to the nation's 43 million uninsured, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies offers a set of guiding principles and a checklist in a new report, Insuring America's Health: Principles and Recommendations. The report is the culmination of a series that offers the most comprehensive examination to date of the consequences of lack of health insurance on individuals, their families, communities and the whole society."

The committee proposes a clear and compelling overall recommendation — by 2010 everyone in the United States should have health insurance -- and urges the president and Congress to act immediately by establishing a firm and explicit plan to reach this goal...

In Insuring America’s Health: Principles and Recommendations, the committee offers a set of guiding principles, based on the evidence reviewed in the Committee's previous five reports and on new analyses of past and present federal, state, and local efforts to reduce uninsurance:

Health care coverage should be universal.
Health care coverage should be continuous.
Health care coverage should be affordable to individuals and families.
The health insurance strategy should be affordable and sustainable for society.
Health insurance should enhance health and well-being by promoting access to high-quality care that is effective, efficient, safe, timely, patient-centered, and equitable.

(This is the FIRST major report to STRONGLY come out and say that health care coverage should be universal. For all those who are proposing just expanding healthcare to all children, or expanding the private market, etc -- a friend of mine has said before "What part of UNIVERSAL do you not understand?") Thoughts?

posted by Unknown | 1/14/2004 04:03:00 PM | (0) comments |

Monday, January 12, 2004  

Free Market 101, the American Way

"A car company can move its factories to Mexico and claim it's a free market.
A toy company can outsource to a Chinese subcontractor and claim it's a free market.
A major bank can incorporate in Bermuda to avoid taxes and claim it's a free market.
We can buy HP Printers made in Mexico. We can buy shirts made in Bangladesh.
We can purchase almost anything we want from many different countries BUT heaven help the elderly who dare to buy their prescription drugs from a Canadian (or Mexican) pharmacy. That's called un-American!
And you think the pharmaceutical companies don't have a powerful lobby? Think again!"

(The words below are travelling far and wide, to email accounts around the free world. I received it, I don't know who wrote it, but it brings the issue home)

posted by Unknown | 1/12/2004 07:55:00 AM | (0) comments |

Wednesday, January 07, 2004  

Where do we get off as a nation?

From an op-ed in the NYTimes by Kristof: "Over the holidays, Vice President Dick Cheney's Christmas card symbolized all that troubles me about the way politicians treat faith — not as a source for spiritual improvement, but as a pedestal to strut upon. Mr. Cheney's card is dominated by a quotation by Benjamin Franklin: "And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?"

Yes, some of us use religion to further our imperialistic ways, subtlely. Others use it unabashedly. This kind of language is unacceptable, especially from our nation's leaders...

thanks to alex for this article...

posted by Unknown | 1/07/2004 07:51:00 PM | (0) comments |

Monday, January 05, 2004  

So this Mad Cow thing....does it mean that beef is bad?
Oh yeah, and Power to the People!

So a few months ago, someone sent me this link to an alternative reality called The Meatrix. Since then, I've been just a tad hesitant about the products I consume, wondering if they're really real or just real. Now, with Mad Cow on everyone's mind (ha ha! er, sorry), more and more people are thinking about the reality of the meat industry. (I don't know why, but what's really getting to me is the glycerin aspect.)

Anyway, the US Department of Agriculture is attempting to make some reforms to the current cutthroat meatpacking climate, including the following:

--> "Effectively immediately, USDA will ban all downer cattle from the human food chain. USDA will continue its BSE surveillance program."

--> "USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service inspectors will no longer mark cattle tested under the BSE surveillance program as “inspected and passed” until confirmation is received that the animals have, in fact, tested negative for BSE. This new policy will be in the form of an interpretive rule that will be published in the Federal Register. "

How comforting. Especially in the context of the following reaction quoted by Reuters Health Information correspondent Charles Abbot:
A meat industry official said the new restrictions might prompt slaughterhouses to refuse to accept downer cattle. That would impair USDA's mad-cow surveillance system, which relies on spotting suspect animals at slaughter.
"The practical reality is most plants will say 'no downers'," the meat official said.

Speaking of meatiness, memories of Upton Sinclair and that uplifting work of his, The Jungle, come rushing by. I remember finishing this book in high school and mentally declaring..."Yes, I am a progressive!". Then I read his World's End series (whew!) and decided that socialists were a bunch of pink pansies. Ich! Activists! Insert evil capitalist laugh here.

posted by Rahat | 1/05/2004 01:38:00 AM | (0) comments |

Friday, January 02, 2004  

What does it feel like to get a taste of your own medicine? A doctor finds out.

posted by Rahat | 1/02/2004 03:29:00 PM | (0) comments |

Thursday, January 01, 2004  

posted by Rahat | 1/01/2004 08:44:00 AM | (0) comments |

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