:: 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 ::
Wednesday, April 28, 2004  

Do you have a FLAAAAG?

These words were yelled out by comedian Eddie Izzard in his show Dress to Kill -- he was referring to the power of flags in colonialism (British leaders could just walk into India and say the land was Britain's, and when the Indians tried to refute that claim, British leaders shoved a flag on a flagpole into the ground and said "Do you have a flaaaaaag?" and claimed the country).

This whole re-flagging Iraq situation reminded me of this skit, partly because it seems so imperialistic and partly because it's SO bizarre. It seems like we're trying to get ourselves in too deep with the Iraqis...messing with their flag! Here's the new flag, designed by the brother of an Iraqi Governing Council (read: US puppets) leader. I don't even know where to start with what's wrong with it, but i'll give it a try:

1. WHAT are we doing messing with other countries' flags? How near and dear do so many Americans consider our flag to be? We're asking for all out "guerilla insurgence" by messing with this. And not EVERYTHING in Iraq is there because of Saddam Hussein. An Iraqi citizen states: "That flag is not Saddam's flag. It was there before Saddam and it represents Iraq as a country. The whole world knows Iraq by its flag."

2. WHY did we aim to get rid of the "God is Great" from the Iraqi flag while flouting "In God We Trust" on the U.S. dollar and proclaiming "under God" in the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance? Apparently our god is better than their god.

3. IS this a big joke? WHY does the new Iraqi flag look like Israel's flag? Especially when, as Matthew Yglesias points out, all the Arab Republics have similar flags. Was this an oversight? A joke? Done on purpose?

4. This has GOT to be the newest U.S. tactic to anger and humiliate Iraqis. More than a year ago, a joke story and joke flag were posted about the US imposing our flag beliefs on Iraq. And it's come true.

5. If it angers me that we're doing this to Iraq's flag, I wonder how much it angers Iraqis. And for what?

posted by Anjali Taneja | 4/28/2004 04:03:00 PM | (0) comments |


Some Problems with Democrats

Jonathan Schell has an interesting article in The Nation about some of the spinelessness in the Democratic party, especially around the war issue.

"Such is the archeology of the dilemma that Kerry and the Democratic Party face today. Their flip-flopping, which is real enough, is between the truth as they see it and politics as they know it to be. The party is an antiwar party that dares not speak its name. Its candidate is energized, but with a borrowed energy. He has a backbone, but it is a borrowed backbone...

"The antiwar movement that has lent Kerry and his party this energy and this backbone faces a dilemma, too. On the one hand, it needs Kerry to win, even though he refuses to repent his vote to authorize the war. On the other hand, neither the movement nor Kerry can afford to let the antiwar energies that were and remain a principal source of their hopes and his die down. The movement must persist, independent of Kerry and keeping him or making him honest, yet not opposing him. If truth must be an exile from the mainstream of politics, let it thrive on the margins."

And in Face the Iraq Fiasco, Senator, Robert Scheer's comparison of Kerry's "safe" positions to those of Gore's in the 2000 elections is so telling (and makes me want to vomit -- can't we LEARN from our mistakes? TWO democratic candidates against Dubya who don't end up looking much different from him?)

"In the end, if Kerry is not to become the next Al Gore - triangulating safe positions just this side of a Republican who is probably the most irresponsible American politician in a century - he must challenge President Bush's entire vision, not just his tactics. What Bush is doing in the name of fighting terrorism has nothing to do with making us safer and everything to do with dressing up the grim goals of empire as a grand (and all-too-familiar) experiment in bringing
enlightenment to so-called backward people at gunpoint."

posted by Anjali Taneja | 4/28/2004 11:17:00 AM | (0) comments |


Oh, the Things we Do in Bushworld!

Maureen Dowd describes Bush's reality. Some things that happen in Bushworld:

It's their reality. We just live and die in it.
--> In Bushworld, our troops go to war and get killed, but you never see the bodies coming home...
--> In Bushworld, flag-draped remains of the fallen are important to revere and show the nation, but only in political ads hawking the president's leadership against terror...
--> In Bushworld, we can create an exciting Iraqi democracy as long as it doesn't control its own military, pass any laws or have any power...
--> In Bushworld, we can win over Falluja by bulldozing it...
--> In Bushworld, it's fine to take $700 million that Congress provided for the war in Afghanistan and 9/11 recovery and divert it to the war in Iraq that you're insisting you're not planning...
--> In Bushworld, you don't consult your father, the expert in being president during a war with Iraq, but you do talk to your Higher Father, who can't talk back to warn you to get an exit strategy or chide you for using Him for political purposes...
--> In Bushworld, you can reign as the antiterror president even after hearing an intelligence report about Al Qaeda's plans to attack America and then stepping outside to clear brush...
--> In Bushworld, you can claim to be the environmental president on Earth Day while being the industry president every other day...
--> In Bushworld, the C.I.A. says it can't find out whether there are W.M.D. in Iraq unless we invade on the grounds that there are W.M.D. ...
--> In Bushworld, it's perfectly natural for the president and vice president to appear before the 9/11 commission like the Olsen twins...

posted by Anjali Taneja | 4/28/2004 10:08:00 AM | (0) comments |

Sunday, April 25, 2004  

It's time to March for Womens' Lives!

It's a crazy world when we've gotta march for womens' lives, but here i go to join the rest of the expected 3/4th of a million women and men descending on the National Mall in DC today! See you there, if you'll be there. There's going to be a great contingent of health care justice groups, and a medical student contingent comprised of members of the American Medical Student Association, the American Medical Womens' Association, and the awesome Medical Students for Choice. I'll post pictures to the Direct Action space on the AMSA website. It'll be interesting to follow the media coverage of this march.

posted by Anjali Taneja | 4/25/2004 07:06:00 AM | (0) comments |

Thursday, April 22, 2004  

The Onion has some great tips to help prepare patients for a trip to the hospital. Some of them are posted below.

--> Before entering a hospital for treatment, weigh your holistic health-care options against your wish to actually get better.
--> If you have a wok at home, it's a good idea to get some bedpan practice before the pressure is on.
--> Bring your regular medications with you to the hospital. God only knows where the hospital finds theirs.
--> Whatever you do, don't check into any facility called "General Hospital." That place is full of back-stabbing, narcissistic lunatics.
--> Pack several extra pairs of slippers. Slippers in the hospital are like cigarettes in prison.
--> Many patients complain that hospitals cut their stay short. Don't be coerced into signing out until you're dilated to 10 cm and the baby's head can be seen.
--> Bring $500 in fives to "grease the wheels," if you get my meaning. The good mashed potatoes.
--> Keep in mind that, today, many procedures can be performed on an outpatient basis. Some can even be done outside.

posted by Anjali Taneja | 4/22/2004 02:40:00 PM | (0) comments |

Saturday, April 10, 2004  

SCAMINON tactics

Speaking of tactics -- this one's fun, entertaining, and attention-grabbing. Oregonians for Health Security came up with this ad that parodies the ubiquitous pharmaceutical drug ads. It pictures a pharm company CEO playing golf and stating "As a pharmaceutical company CEO, I used to feel guilty making so much money off seniors and people that were really sick... but then I tried Scaminon. It helped me to realize, 'Hey, a guy's gotta make a living!' ...."When the guilt becomes too much to bear..."

posted by Anjali Taneja | 4/10/2004 10:26:00 AM | (0) comments |


Tactics that work, and don't...

I just read a post on a fellow medical student's blog -- Blogborygmi (an awesome name for a weblog!) -- that discussed "punishment" tactics that students at his medical school were using to educate and mobilize others about global HIV/AIDS. I know a lot of movements use such tactics, and they're effective in some instances, and turn people off in other instances. Though I believe strongly that activists should employ a variety of tactics, not all scare/guilt/punishment type tactics, I feel like we've become very complacent, as a nation, and as individuals about pandemics like Global HIV/AIDS, and if we're not given some shock tactics, we're not going to deal personally or politically with such important issues.

Especially with the global AIDS issue, every victory has been won by unrelenting AIDS activists using punishment tactics to get people in power to change their policies and to get the general public to get involved. At the same time I'm interested in hearing about other tactics that have worked, and suggestions for tactics that could mobilize students and others around the country without punishing them.

On a related note, I'm working with a few others on carrying out an anti-racist training of medical students nationwide, and one of the organizations that we're working with, The Peoples Institute, in knowing that the punishment/oppression model of talking about racism (in which white people would automatically become defensive or feel guilty) DOES NOT work and has replaced it with a more collective model, of understanding how we're all affected by racism and not placing blame. This has worked extremely well for them, and I'm sure we can all learn something from this approach.

posted by Anjali Taneja | 4/10/2004 09:26:00 AM | (0) comments |

Friday, April 09, 2004  

Yesterday I spoke at a panel discussion on universal health care and medical student activism at the UMDNJ-School of Osteopathic Medicine, in Stratford, NJ. I hadn't ever been to that campus of UMDNJ before. I was invited by Tana Shah, one of the Sea-Couver study tour participants who organized an amazing panel. Dr. Adam Tsai, a Fellow in Clinical Epi, spoke about the problems in our health care system and the single-payer solution, and as always, spoke very articulately and convincingly. Then a family doc from the area spoke about her uninsured patients, and next the Chair of Health Care for All/NJ, Ed Purtill, spoke about his experience in his group, and what they've lobbied for (Health Care Access Resolution, etc) recently.

Mr. Purtill mentioned some very interesting things about NJ and health care reform -- in the early 80's a referendum on health care reform passed in the state of NJ, and I dont' remember the specifics but it was overwhelmingly in support of a change to universal health care of some sort in the state. Nothing ended up happening, but there was support. And he was so cute, he mentioned that his group is made up of retired old people who all have Medicare and don't have to worry about their health, but who care about the health of the nation. He said "I'm 76, and I'm the youngest of our group." That's so true -- I was able to attend one of their board meetings and everyone's very very old, and very very cute. I hope I stay an activist for that long.

I spoke last, about what medical students can do, and that's always fun. It was fun talking about Sea-Couver, the UHC Task Force, etc. The students there are excited about reviving their AMSA chapter, but there's some administration resistance to creating another group on campus, especially when there's a SOMA group -- Student Osteopathic Medical Association, whose parent group is the AOA, American Osteopathic Association. It was interesting to see the tensions of possible competition between AMSA and SOMA, and to hear the stories about how older docs think AMSA is part of the AMA, and would not want students at an osteopathic school to join AMSA because the AMA has trampled on osteopathic docs in the past. They're also worried that SOMA membership would decrease. We had a great discussion, a few medical students and I, about how an AMSA chapter (which would have tons of great resources and opportunities from the national AMSA organization, and has the ability to fight for many issues that the AOA and AMA don't fight for because we're so independent) would really benefit the school, but how to have to the AMSA and SOMA chapters possibly working well together instead of competing. I mentioned that osteopathic students are equals with allopathic medical students in AMSA, and how osteopathic students are actually leading the way in the Humanistic Medicine Action Committee and other places in amsa's national leadership to better educate all premedical and medical students about humanistic medicine. But it was interesting to see this tension at a local level -- I guess this is an issue at many schools where AMSA may become a "dominant" looking group. It was interesting to get back into the local politics of perceptions of competing student organizations.

Lastly, I spoke with Dr. Adam Tsai afterwards. He and a bunch of other activists in Philly put a ballot initiative last year in the city's elections, which would call for the city to come up with a plan in one year's time, to come up with a proposal for universal health care in the city. It passed overwhelmingly, and now he and his friends, including Dave Grande (past amsa national president) and Dr. Uwe Reinhardt, a respected Princeton economist, are actually coming up with the plan! Now THAT's fun.

When I left the campus, I was really hungry and looked for a Taco Bell for an evening snack before my 2 hour drive. But the first thing I saw was a Checkers burger joint, on which was advertised in big letters -- "8 meals for under $3 -- burger, fries, and drink". DAMN. No wonder there's so much obesity in the US, and why it's such an epidemic in low-income areas. That's so much cheaper than making a healthy dinner. And after this thought, I had my $3 dinner at Taco Bell.

posted by Anjali Taneja | 4/09/2004 10:38:00 AM | (0) comments |

Friday, April 02, 2004  

follow up from yesterday's post. it worked.

we 'won' two of our goals today. i represented the coalition to a board meeting of the hospital. my first time there. i had the task of apologizing to the board for missing last week's meeting. i was sincere. forgiven. and then i had the platform and threw a one-two punch to the chest and gut. :> i shared our interpreter proposal which was well received and will likely get the budgetary support it needs to be fulfilled, that was expected. Then I called the CEO out in public on his sliver of legal logic endorsing discriminatory pricing against undocumented immigrants. That D word from a white doctor to a public hospital board shook the room up and woke the room up. CEO actually backtracked and admitted we have a "very valid observation" on the reality of his ignorance. Vice President stood up, spoke up, seeking to be included in the loop of communication. he was nervous cause he is the one who has to face the legislators. division of labor. we fractured them, broke their solidarity along lines of individuation. institution is so weak, so easy to tweak, so vulnerable to the truth spoken from a position of simple human strength. especially when you have a lawyer on your side. Once broken, it just needs a broom to sweep up the mess. still alot of work but fairly routine. man there were so many beautiful details.

so that was just the surface. here's the part that matters. it wasn't me speaking. it was an expression of the combined intention of my entire team to care. it was our solidarity. i got individual credit for standing there, and i did stand there, accepting the risks and growth and beautiful details. but the grace that flowed forth were the prayers and sweat and gentleness of my team and our loved ones channeled thru the shallow end of my stereotyped existance ("white male young idealisitic but serious doctor") interfacing with racist, classist, institutional minds that only respond to like images of power. we changed policies, but i can hope that we also liberated each other from the wieght of oppression to slow the flow of dysfunctionality and give us some time to breath.

posted by andru | 4/02/2004 11:09:00 PM | (0) comments |

Thursday, April 01, 2004  

i'm pondering the notion of success today. recently my activist team experienced some fairly lame internal organizational capacity and we "failed" to make an important meeting with some board members of the hospital who can make or break it for some of our demands. on one level, we looked terrible, unorganized, unprepared, inept. on that level, we could have gotten mad at each other, blamed our staff person, blamed each other, attacked each other. etc. but there was another level to consider. we are human. we have fulltime jobs. our staffer is new and part time. and the person who called the meeting was the opposition, the CEO. we know that part of his strategy is to wear us out with meetings. it takes us alot more time and energy to prepare for the meetings than it does him. they are paid to participate by our tax dollars, we all have to take time off, volunteer our time, find babysitters and coordinate this between five to seven people. a friggin nightmare. at the same time negotiating against a man in power for over 20 years. So, i'm thinking that while in the short run it kinda sucks, we are not giving up. this could also help us. it encourages our CEO to think that we are inept, which is great cover. he'll likely continue to underestimate us. As long as we don't underestimate ourselves, and support each other thru the rough times, and stick together against the challenges, we are going to win. our success in this loss was that we treated each other with the respect we deserve for the magnitude of the struggle we are in. and we are still together, prepared to take another step forward, as slow or as fast as we can.


posted by andru | 4/01/2004 08:21:00 AM | (0) comments |

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