:: 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 ::
Monday, June 28, 2004  

Just what the doc ordered -- Moore to take on healthcare system!

Yes, it's true! This morning, I came across this article -- Moore to turn Guns on US Health System.

The director and author will attempt to save as many lives as he can by simply intervening with his camera crew during the course of 90 minutes of filming. He hopes to embarrass health insurance companies and hospitals into continuing to care for patients with no cover - highlighting holes in the American system...

Moore said he had the idea when making his TV show, The Awful Truth, shown in Britain on Channel 4. 'We had this guy who was going to die because his HMO [insurers] wouldn't pay for his transplant so we went with him and conducted a funeral rehearsal,' said Moore. 'The HMO was ashamed and paid for the transplant and he lives to this day.'

THIS is what we need! In related news, the Sea-Couver video from the Sea-Couver health systems study tour that I co-organized in February (where two of us working at the American Medical Student Association took 12 medical students to seattle and vancouver for 5 days to talk to policy experts and people on the streets of downtown in both countries about their health care systems). My brother Nalin (who is an amazing designer and musician and movie score producer) has edited up an amazing 25 minute video from our trip, including discussions among the med students, talks from policymakers and docs, and interviews from our street teams, of people on the streets and their perceptions. In the next week, we'll be finishing up some editing of it, so that it can be unveiled at the AMSA Chapter Officers Conference, and distributed to AMSA chapters at medical schools, along with discussion guidelines, as a tool to stimulate discussion about our health care systems.

And here I pose a question to you -- what kinds of facts would you want to know (and imagine you're coming from this without knowledge of the healthcare system) about the United States and Canadian systems? Do you have other ideas on what you'd like to see in a short about med students exploring the two countries' approaches to health and healthcare? Please feel free to post in the comments section, or to email me about this. Thanks.

posted by Anjali Taneja | 6/28/2004 10:08:00 AM | (2) comments |


Sunday, June 27, 2004  

back to back in the day

today marks a seminal event in my life as a physician activist. after years of dreaming and networking i made my first deal to open a community based, non-institutional, integrated health care clinic in albuquerque, new mexico. this ain't no woo woo boutique endeavor. we've got a mix of service, advocacy and organizing coming from a core team of providers and promotoras as well as a wide network of friends and allies. the core team of providers includes the fabulous women of the Kalpulli Izkalli, who are trained in traditional and alternative medicines, and a few allopathic providers tuned into the notion of bridging modalities.

our service goal is to provide affordable, holisitic primary and urgent care with open access evenings and saturdays for uninsured and marginalized people in our community. we'll eventually have x-ray and ultrasound available for our patients at affordable prices. we aren't taking any insurance except medicare for the elderly and i'm not paying for malpractice insurance. minimal paperwork, good charting that the patients get to keep for themselves, and payment only accepted AFTER satisfactory service. imagine that...

our advocacy goal is to help individuals and families gain access to necessary tertiary care health resources and to learn for themselves how to navigate our fragmented, racist/classist health care system.

our organizing goal begins at the level of empowering each other and our patients and families to engage in a political process pursuing a fair distribution of our immense amount of public tax dollars going into health care by holding our safety net clinics and hospital system accountable to their service missions in their policy and finance decisions. without a doubt, we also plan to be a vital and integral part of the growing universal health care movement in new mexico.

i'm gonna discuss the growth (pains and joys) of this clinic effort on to the teeth. many health integration efforts fail for all kinds of reasons from ego issues to financial bankruptcy to poor team spirit. and we've got a thick political agenda which may stabilize some aspects of the process but will certainly stress other aspects. either way, win or lose, this is happening and anyone interested in health justice and integrative medicine can learn from our mistakes and our successes in real time. i have a knack for being brutally honest, although a little circumspect with details because these posts are widely available and the politics of power come first.

so next steps for us are to rehab a house where we'll begin the clinic. it's on the property of one of the Kalpulli Izkalli leaders. That's all about hauling away old cars, painting stucco, helping neighborhood kids paint a mural on a new empty wall, landscaping, dealing with the bureacracies for permits and searching around for used medical equipment and supplies to reduce our startup costs.

i'll keep it posted here.

aziwa

posted by andru | 6/27/2004 11:07:00 PM | (0) comments |


Friday, June 25, 2004  

Refreshing debate about blacks in higher education

Some might use this article as ammunition for scrapping race-based admissions to college and evidence for the need to move to a solely class-based system, but I say "not so fast!" We must reform the system instead of scrap it, for so many reasons (another really long post).

It seems that a majority of blacks in elite institutions are actually West-Indian or African immigrants or their children, or children of biracial couples. Most colleges do not have a way of finding out if a black applicant is an immigrant or from the United States. Therefore, the question arises -- are we really reaching out to blacks who were descendents of slaves in the United States, or are we instead accepting others who haven't faced centuries of discrimination and glass ceilings?

I think it's of extreme importance to provide higher education possibilities for black "descendents of slaves" as we're calling them in this article, to provide for past injustices that have held them down. Surely, as someone quoted in the article says, immigrants and children of biracial couples probably face a certain amount of discrimination too, and it still matters whether you grow up black or white in America. But the history of what we've done to blacks who've been here since the birth of our nation needs to be addressed. Perhaps applicants can be asked about their descendents? Perhaps we can do a better job of outreach to historically disadvantage communities?

And to address the class issue -- I strongly believe that we need more class equality in higher education. But to completely dismiss, after only 40 years after the Civil Rights movement, that race no longer factors in, is in my opinion, historical amnesia. I'm waiting for the reparations movement to gather more steam, and maybe we'll actually give payback one day -- 40 acres and a mule, that blacks were once promised.

Here's a telling quote from Professor Mary Waters, Harvard University:

"You need a philosophical discussion about what are the aims of affirmative action,'' Professor Waters said. "If it's about getting black faces at Harvard, then you're doing fine. If it's about making up for 200 to 500 years of slavery in this country and its aftermath, then you're not doing well. And if it's about having diversity that includes African-Americans from the South or from inner-city high schools, then you're not doing well, either."

posted by Anjali Taneja | 6/25/2004 11:46:00 AM | (0) comments |


 

Bush: big government cheerleader when he wants to be

The Washington Post today has a story on how President Bush wants to gain more federal government control over HIV/AIDS funding in the U.S., funding that has previously had state flexibility on its uses. Seems to me, conservatives who hate big government and love state flexibility when it comes to education, block grants, etc., seem to want control when they've got a federal agenda. He wants to provide more doctors' services and treatment instead of social services (ah, prevention doesn't mean shit anyway, does it?), and funnel more $$ to abstinence-only programs and faith-based programs.

How hypocritical of the conservative agenda to want more federal control.

posted by Anjali Taneja | 6/25/2004 11:32:00 AM | (0) comments |


 

Police brutality again -- in L.A.

Another police brutality case in LA. 1992 all over again, pictures and evidence included.

"In a tape shown repeatedly on television, Mr. Miller is seen sprinting from the car and then stopping to raise his arms in surrender and crouching on the ground; at that point the officers can be seen leaping on him."

posted by Anjali Taneja | 6/25/2004 11:26:00 AM | (0) comments |


 

Fryin' up a Malpractice Crisis

Bob Herbert's got an op/ed piece in the NYTimes, one of the first pieces of media I've seen that tries to take apart the AMA hysteria over the malpractice "crisis". I'm going to be a physician soon, I completely understand that physicians are dealing with a serious problem here, with malpractice premiums blowing out of proportion. But I've got some serious issues with the AMA making the malpractice "crisis" the #1 priority in their $17 million lobbying efforts, and putting aside other more important health crisis issues, like the millions of uninsured Americans, the racial and ethnic health disparities that exist, etc.

This is the organization that is supposed to be representing, as their motto says "Physicians dedicated to the health of America". But I won't go into that discussion, it would be too long. Instead, focusing on Herbert's piece, he highlights the AMA's "crisis map" of states that it claims patients have less and less access to care in. Herbert points out that in New Jersey, one of the "crisis states", malpractice payments declined by 21% from 2001 to 2003, while malpractice insurance premiums surged. And in Missouri, the MO Department of Insurance stated "Missouri medical malpractice claims, filed and paid, fell to all-time lows in 2003 while insurers enjoyed a cash-flow windfall."

The Congressional Budget Office put out a recent report on Tort Reform. One of the conclusions from the report was:

"State-level tort reforms have decreased the number of lawsuits filed, lowered the value of insurance claims and damage awards, and increased insurers' profitability as measured by payouts relative to premiums in the short run."

Increased insurers' profitability? Perhaps we're fighting the wrong battle -- letting the corporations who overcharge us go free, and instead fighting patients' rights.

OTHERS blogging about Herbert's article: I just saw that HealthLawBlog has a post on how docs are being sold a bill of goods about the causes of their insurance premiums, and Atrios throws explitives at the AMA (and some interesting comments ensue on his post).

posted by Anjali Taneja | 6/25/2004 11:21:00 AM | (0) comments |


 

Gut reactions to an outsourcing piece

I can't help feeling like this outsourcing piece, published on Father's Day, will instill more feelings of hatred towards Indian people, or other people who are gaining work that Americans used to perform. It seems our emotions are being called to the wrong enemy -- people in other countries benefiting from "globalization" (something that America has been benefiting from for many years now). I absolutely understand the anger of middle-to-upper class people losing their high-tech jobs (and the anger of many blue collar workers who have been dealing with this phenomen for MANY more years, at least since NAFTA started 10 years ago), but shouldn't the anger instead be placed on the U.S. companies that are doing the outsourcing and not providing new jobs for their workers, or the government for its policies, not the individual people of another color in another country?

posted by Anjali Taneja | 6/25/2004 09:00:00 AM | (0) comments |


 

Larium, War, Agression, our Soldiers...

The Veterans' Administration is now telling its docs to watch out for possible long-term side effects of agression, suicide, psychosis, and balance disorders, in patients at these hospitals who have taken Larium (mefloquine), and anti-malarial drug. This is fascinating, because this is a drug that was possibly having these side effects in the soldiers who fought in the Gulf War in 1991, and the drug was still used in THIS iraq war, years later. And only now are doctors being told about this.

But even more intriguing is the intertwined relationship of the post-war effects of Larium and the post-war effects of, well, say... war. What a confounding factor this war thing is -- how does one scientifically measure the effects of an antimalarial drug when most of these side effects can be explained by a big ol' war that can easily leave soldiers with post traumatic stress disorder, psychosis, agressive behavior, suicide, and balance/neurological problems?

One of my friends thinks that blaming Larium is a cover-up for the horrendous effects that war has on people, months and years later. I'm not sure what I believe right now, but if mefloquine DOES have these effects, it's a damn shame that we sent soldiers into Iraq dosed up with this drug, years after there was some evidence about this drug.

posted by Anjali Taneja | 6/25/2004 08:06:00 AM | (0) comments |


Wednesday, June 23, 2004  

National Political HipHop Convention, and so much going on...


So much to share, so much happening...

There's so much to say about this. Last week, we had a partial to the teeth reunion. I say partial because Rahat wasn't able to join us - she was moving into her new digs in Boston, as she's starting her medical internship year there. But the partial reunion was due to the fact that Andru Ziwasimon, a family doctor from New Mexico, and a contributor to this weblog, flew to Newark, NJ to hang out with us and to attend the National Political Hip Hop Convention with us! We met some amazing people at the conference, and networked with some local folks for some near-future meeting and scheming.

And speaking of scheming, that's what we did in the evenings, whether after hiphop concerts, or over dinners. Andru's so positive about everything that being around him instills a feeling of optimism in a world where it's a surprise not everyone's a pessimist. But then again, Michael Kingsley pointed out yesterday that optimism alone ain't no great thang. Either way, a positive attitude is a MUST for activists, because it's so easy to get burnt out and not only become ineffective, but also become a downer to friends, family, and the movement. Our newest schemes included preliminary work on building a movement of physicians who care deeply about the public's health and would place these passions over the guild-like passions and interests of the conservative physicians dominating the American Medical Association. We also schemed some more about community organizing, public hospitals and their responsibility to the public (especially the uninsured), the pros and cons of working on the inside vs working from the outside, race and health, etc.

In the few days before the convention, Barbara and I set up our new place, as she recently returned from Guatemala, and as Pooja (Barbara's previous roommate and a dear friend to us) moved on to her pediatric residency in Long Island, NY. We now have a "study/dj" room, with our desks, printer/scanner, and my dj equipment. Our balcony is beautiful (pictures to come). And our living room looks fabulous, with an added sound system for fun movie-watching, and bookshelves upon bookshelves filled with books.

SO yeah, summer's here, and we're scheming, aligning, nurturing, and enjoying.

posted by Anjali Taneja | 6/23/2004 11:14:00 AM | (0) comments |


Monday, June 14, 2004  

Why do doctors fear to speak out?

for the last couple of years, i've been part of a group of advocates and activists who are working on reducing the access barriers to health care for uninsured and undocumented immigrants in albuquerque, nm. i had to step out of my department and out of my hospital to find allies willing to speak up about the horrible abuses of power that we all knew were happening in the hospital at the highest levels. the proponents of primary care had been silenced years before by threats to their funding streams and the specialists had been bought off with a shift in the mission of the public hospital to benefit their departments with more money and more prestige. noone wanted to speak out, except the labor union who was already marginalized and ignored.

it wasn't a lack of good doctors and nurses. plenty of them, compassionate and dedicated, willing to advocate and stand up for individual patients, willing to fight for access, to lie and steal and cheat to get their patients care. i saw it all done, and did it all. i ripped up ER charts and threw them in the garbage after seeing uninsured people who couldn't pay and landed in the ER for minor things because there was no urgent care available anywhere in the city. no way i was sending them a bill for $400 or $1000 for an ear ache or a cough or an early miscarriage. no fucking way.

but why then was I reticent and outright scared to speak to elected officials or the media about the systemic problems and abuse that we all knew were there? after a few years of "silent" protest, i finally found my voice when I marched with 30 patients and advocates (no other docs/nurses) on the ER to confront the CEO on the 10 worst problems at our public hospital. that day i felt my fear of speaking out full force. i was shaking and scared and ready to disappear, to give up. what got me thru the experience was standing next to young immigrant mothers and old ladies and fiery advocates whom i'd worked with for years already. i wouldn't have been able to do it alone. it was the potent memory of my patients who had survived sexual violence and physical violence and were still standing and struggling to create beauty in the world. i limped along on my fear with crutches of courage lended to me by these amazing people.

so now after two more years of "finding my voice" and organizing for social justice, launching editorials and public officials at the hospital (metaphorically speaking), we've reached a point in our efforts where other nurses and doctors are finding their own courage on their own paths and our path's are combining. i write this post to share a profound sense of hope because this is the first time in my life that i'm speaking out with other doctors and nurses, all of us prepared to lose our jobs, to be ridiculed and attacked, to speak the truth of abuse of power within our own hospital that is profoundly affecting our patients' care and our own well-being.

for those familiar with the culture of medicine, another level of hope is that the folks prepared to speak include an ER doctor, an FP doctor, a MICU nurse, an ICU nurse manager, and an outpatient NP. that's a rare alliance in and of itself. and we're just the tip of the iceberg. as people see us standing up and facing our fears, their fears are put into perspective and their integrity becomes activated and accessible to the political process. fear is so strong and so weak.

so we're meeting with four elected officials in two weeks. one small step against fear and one huge step for doctor-kind.

aziwa


posted by andru | 6/14/2004 11:01:00 PM | (0) comments |


 

THAT explains...oh, nevermind

Interesting story -- women may be more likely to have sex on the 6 most fertile days of their menstrual cycle, EVEN when they're not trying to get pregnant. A study in the journal Human Reproduction shows that in a group of women who had tubal ligations or were using intrauterine devices (clever study -- they tested only those who were not looking to get pregnant), the women had sex an average of .34 times a day (1 in 3 chance of having sex that day) during the 6 days in their cycle in which they could most easily get pregnant, versus having sex an average of .27 times a day other days of the month (24% decreased chance these days). Seems like there's a hormonal relationship here. That's another downside of having unprotected sex when you're not looking to get pregnant -- the odds are AGAINST you. I always we women had cpatterns of increased libido, but my friends didn't believe me. Now i've got EVIDENCE!

So it's also good news that the number of employer-provided health insurance plans that cover birth control pills and other contraceptive devices shot up in the past decade. Supposedly, Viagra's immediate coverage (1998) under several plans provoked outrage from women that contraception wasn't covered (contraceptive drugs were regarded as "lifestyle drugs"). Also, I didn't know this -- In 2000, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that employers who did not provide health insurance that covered contraceptives in prescription drug could be charged with sex discrimination. As someone in the article mentioned, it really IS in the health insurance company's interest to provide low-cost contraception rather than provide more expensive pregnancy or abortion coverage (or health effects from either) later.

posted by Anjali Taneja | 6/14/2004 08:36:00 AM | (0) comments |


Sunday, June 13, 2004  


The *real* solution for the 10 dollar bill. Thanks to dailykos for this link.

posted by Anjali Taneja | 6/13/2004 01:18:00 PM | (0) comments |


 

On Dinesh D'Souza and why he's a disgrace to Americans, couched in a retrospective look at Reagan on AIDS and Reagan on Blacks

Long title there, yup. So much to say, so much to vent. Dinesh D'Souza, a conservative who is as detached from reality as Samuel Huntington and a few others, answered questions about Reagan (he wrote a biography of reagan) during a live online discussion on Washington Post's site. He said many offensive things, but two that struck me the most relate to Reagan's inaction on AIDS, and Reagan's racism.

Boston, Mass.: Someone asked you about Reagan's response to AIDS and you ignored that part of the question. Why?

Dinesh D'Souza: AIDS was first discovered in the 1980s. At first very little was known about it. All we knew was that lots of homosexuals were getting AIDS, and that the homosexual activists were insisting that homosexuality had nothing to do with AIDS! The gay activists browbeat the media into saying that "AIDS is an equal-opportunity killer." There was a real effort to frighten the general population, partly in order to push condoms and other "safe sex" programs. Some on the right urged a quarantine of AIDS victims because this is what was done in past epidemics. Reagan cautiously waited until more was known about all this. He didn't endorse either the "equal opportunity" rhetoric nor the "quarantine" rhetoric, and both turned out to be wrong. AIDS is not a "gay disease" but homosexual sex is the most common means of transmitting AIDS. And we have also learned that quarantines are unnecessary because AIDS cannot be casually transmitted as was originally feared. Contrary to popular myth, AIDS was lavishly funded during the 1980s: it got (and still gets) a great deal more money than other diseases that kill far more people.

Wow. So many things to respond to in that one. First of all, D'Souza claims that "at first, very little was known about it" - but what defines "at first"? a month? six months? a year? 6 years? And he "cautiously" waited to talk about AIDS? By the time he said anything public about the disease, more than 50,000 Americans were infected with HIV, and more than 20,000 Americans had DIED from it. D'Souza makes the "homosexual activists" look like devils, with "browbeating" the media into saying that AIDS was an equal opportunity killer. It *IS* an equal opportunity killer, and way before Reagan said anything about AIDS publicly, it was affecting women, drug users, and recipients of blood transfusions. D'Souza mentions how activists tried to "frighten" the public into using condoms and other "safe sex" measures -- ah yes, frighten -- those lefty liberals, always scaring the public, and always pushing their "safe sex" agenda. Quarantining AIDS victims -- great idea, just like that Japanese internment thing back in the 40's. "Homosexual sex is the most common means of transmitting AIDS" -- interesting. D'Souza has written several books, has been a fellow at several different organizations, and is respected (by some), but he doesn't even know his facts on AIDS. Current stats show that in the United States, 60% of new HIV infections in men are from MSM (men having sex with men) but 75% of HIV infections in women are from heterosexual sex. And worldwide, 80% of new HIV infections are from heterosexual sex. The last claim spouted is that AIDS was lavishly funded in the '80's. I don't even need to discuss that one.

Dryden, N.Y.: A difficult question. Watching the SIMI viewing I have been struck by the overwhelming whiteness of the crowd. This to me is one dark facet of the Reagan legacy, a man who chose to start his campaign in Philadelphia, Mich.. Why do you think he was so tone deaf on the vital American issue of race?

Dinesh D'Souza: Reagan had an unfailingly inclusive vision of America. His view was that it didn't matter where you came from or who you were. What mattered was what you could do. Immigrants found this appealing. Blacks in general didn't. Blacks are at a peculiar point in their history where many of them believe that "race does matter" and "race should matter." A different vision from what Martin Luther King held in his "I Have a Dream" speech. So Reagan didn't reject blacks, blacks rejected Reagan. It's unfortunate, but I don't think it tells against Reagan. Maybe there will be some reconsideration of Reagan now by African Americans.

I almost had an aneurysm while reading this. D'Souza actually WROTE a book called The End of Racism. From his website, a description of the book:

'In a scrupulous and balanced study, D'Souza shows that racism is a distinctively Western phenomenon, arising about the time of the first European encounters with non-Western peoples, and he chronicles the political, cultural and intellectual history of racism as well as the twentieth century liberal crusade against it. D'Souza proactively traces the limitations of the civil rights movement to its flawed assumptions about the nature of racism. He argues that the American obsession with race is fueled by a civil rights establishment that has a vested interest in perpetuating black dependency, and he concludes that the generation that marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. may be too committed to the paradigm of racial struggle to see the possibility of progress. Perhaps, D'Souza suggests, like the Hebrews who were forced to wander in the desert for 40 years, that generation may have to pass away before their descendants can enter the promised land of freedom and equality.. In the meantime, however, many race activists are preaching despair and poisoning the minds of a younger generation which in fact displays far less racial consciousness and bigotry than any other in American history. The End of Racism summons profound historical, moral, and practical arguments against the civil rights orthodoxy which holds that "race matters" and that thus we have no choice but to institutionalize race as the basis for identity and public policy.'

And from Media Matters: D'Souza also argued, in a September 1995 Wall Street Journal op-ed, that "[t]he best way for African-Americans to save private-sector affirmative action may be to repeal the Civil Rights Act of 1964."

He even angered conservative Blacks: On August 22, 1999, The Washington Post reported, "[E]fforts by conservatives to build support among blacks were set back by the angry reaction of African-American conservatives Glenn Loury and Robert Woodson to books on race by two conservative authors, neither of whom is black: Charles Murray ("The Bell Curve") and Dinesh D'Souza ("The End of Racism"). In a highly publicized decision, Loury and Woodson resigned in protest in 1995 from the American Enterprise Institute, where Murray and D'Souza [were] fellows."

I especially feel a deep sense of anger that an Indian-American who immigrated to this country from India, could be so arrogant about another "minority" group. But it's time for bed, more on this topic tomorrow or the day after, as I've got more to say on it. Oh yes, Amardeep Singh got me thinking about this from a post on his blog.

posted by Anjali Taneja | 6/13/2004 12:49:00 AM | (0) comments |


 

The Onion on the Medicare drug discount card

The Onion came out with a cartoon on the features of the Medicare Drug Discount Card...check out the link. It's got some great lines, such as:

-> Cardholders can save 11 to 17 percent off the 800 percent mark-up on prescription drugs.
-> Fine print states that if an unmarried individual's annual income is not more than $12,569, it's really a shame.

posted by Anjali Taneja | 6/13/2004 12:39:00 AM | (0) comments |


Saturday, June 12, 2004  

The Impact Fahrenheit 9/11 Will (or won't) Have

Some say the film Fahrenheit 9/11 may have a slight impact on the voters, come November. Others (like my dad...who likes Moore's films) believe that the documentary will not have much of an impact because only liberals (who will vote against Bush) will go to see it. Seems like I'm the one with all the faith. I think this documentary is going to capture some of America's MANY MANY swing voters and younger generation voters (and my optimism has blinded me to think that even some Republicans will be moved by the film). Some more opinions on the film's impact:

"Feeling motivated, to the extent you make that extra effort to vote on your way home from work - that matters," said Thomas Hollihan, a communications professor at USC's Annenberg School for Communication...

And on young voters and how to 'get em':

"A main target of the film is younger voters, who tend to turn out in low numbers. Studies have shown that younger voters increasingly get election information from non-traditional campaign media, such as late-night television comedy shows and the Internet...

"For younger people, who may or may not be all that interested in politics, these entertainment formats are a key way to bring them into the political discussion," said Stephen Farnsworth, a political scientist at Mary Washington College in Virginia."

Check out the Fahrenheit 9/11 trailer -- it's good stuff. And one scene in the trailer features Representative John Conyers (Michigan) telling Moore that Congresspeople don't READ bills that are introduced and passed. Conyers rocks -- in this past year working at AMSA, I got to talk to him one-on-one several times, and though he rambles a lot as he's getting older, he still tells it like it is.

posted by Anjali Taneja | 6/12/2004 11:23:00 PM | (0) comments |


 

Some words about religion

I just saw these (and more) on Witte Quotations, the site that had the Ray Charles quote from the previous blog entry. I don't know anything about this site as I haven't read anything other than the quotes page, but I enjoyed these four quotes.

The last time we mixed religion and government people were burned at the stake.

Man created God in his own image.

Fundamentalism means never having to say "I'm wrong."

Two hands working do more than a thousand clasped in prayer.



posted by Anjali Taneja | 6/12/2004 11:16:00 PM | (0) comments |


 

Ray Charles is God

Some words written about one of the coolest cats ever:

"God is love.
Love is blind.
Ray Charles is blind.
Therefore, Ray Charles is God." - Troy Witte

(Thanks to O-Dub for that link).

I remember listening to Ray Charles while growing up, and I loved watching him too. Too bad I never made it to a live show. The LA Times has a beautiful piece on him. I didn't know he grew up in abject poverty -- supposedly he saw his brother die falling into a washtub and drowning, and Ray Charles had glaucoma at age 5 and lost all sight by age 7. He put himself through music schooling, and his dad died when he was 10, his mom died when he was 15. And my favorite quote from the article:

"How do you deconstruct genius?" Jerry Wexler, the noted producer and record executive who worked on many of Charles' recordings for Atlantic Records, said Thursday. "He took the Lord's music and the devil's words and make this amalgam they call soul music.

posted by Anjali Taneja | 6/12/2004 07:51:00 PM | (0) comments |


Thursday, June 10, 2004  

What if everyone HAD to vote?

I was just reading an article about Peter Garrett, lead singer of the Australian band, Midnight Oil, and how he's an environmental activist who's running for Australia's parliament. Interesting. Exciting, even. Then I started wondering how many musician-turned-politicians there are in this world. But THEN I decided to finish reading the article and came upon a line in the article that mentioned that voting is mandatory in Australia and is punishable by a fine. For REAL? Have I just been ignorant of this well-known fact?

So I searched for info on this, and found an article by John Dean at findlaw that discusses this issue. He also makes a passionate case for mandatory voting laws in our country. Apparently, 33 countries -- all democracies -- currently have mandatory voting laws.

I don't think mandatory voting is such a bad idea for a few reasons. Apparently, the United States ranks 139th out of the 172 countries we have data on, in terms of voter turnout. Pathetic. Furthermore, can we really call ourselves a democracy if so few people actually vote? But what about those who don't feel like they like any of the candidates? He's got a solution for that -- as one of the ballot options there could be a "no acceptable candidate" box that you could check off. AND -- taking this even further -- if the number of votes for no acceptable candidate exceeded that of the candidate who has the second largest number of votes, the election is called off and a new one will have to take place -- true democracy. Additionally, this would be a huge boost for the democrats because a majority of people who don't vote now fall into the categories of class/race/age/geographic area that would lend votes more typically to democrats. (for this reason many conservatives are vehemently against any such measure).

On the con side, I guess making Americans do something that many of them may not care abot may not be well received. And the term "mandatory voting" wouldn't go over well, it would have to be re-termed. Plus, is it constitutionally ok? (John Dean argues that there's no reason it would violate the constitution). Would people who don't care to vote start selling their votes (I'll vote for this candidate if you give me $50 -- though I guess there's nothing to prevent that from happening now). Such a law would have to allow for people to take time off from work (paid time off preferably), and maybe we can learn from other countries and extend the possible voting hours more than the 12 hours we allow now (in India's recent election, I believe voting booths were open for a few days). And my biggest issue -- such a measure could NOT stand alone -- it would be imperative to couple it with other measures aimed at educating voters, instilling pride in voting, and generating more personal empowerment around the process and the meaning of the electoral process.

posted by Anjali Taneja | 6/10/2004 04:26:00 PM | (0) comments |


 

Protestor faces charges more serious than the criminals

So the story goes -- a 21 year old Boston College student stood outside an Army recruitment center, wearing a black hooded sheet and holding thin wires that were connected to a crate he was standing on (obviously portraying the Abu Ghraib torture as street theater -- he has caught on early in life that this is more effective than many other forms of action). He stood there for an hour, and then the police arrived. I understand that they need to be suspicious of possible bomb threats, especially with wires connected to things. But they did not even warn him that he could be arrested, and...

Within hours he was facing charges more serious than any US soldier is facing for their role in the actual prison abuse in Iraq. Previtera was charged with three crimes: disturbing the peace, possession of a hoax device and making a false bomb threat. If convicted he could face years in prison.

posted by Anjali Taneja | 6/10/2004 04:16:00 PM | (0) comments |


 

Compassionate Interrogation -- can it exist?

Well, it sho' has existed in the past. David Gregg, who worked for the CIA for many years, has an editorial piece in the NY Times today about his experiences in the Vietnam and Korean Wars, and how he strongly believes that humane, compassionate treatment of prisoners of war is probably more effective in the first place than torture. Revolutionary! (maybe this is a lesson also to be learned by our prison industrial complex).

posted by Anjali Taneja | 6/10/2004 03:30:00 PM | (0) comments |


Monday, June 07, 2004  

Framing universal health care in terms of family values

It's true -- if we ever want to achieve meaningful reform of the health care system, we're going to have to start framing the issues differently. We need to find common ground, because true health care reform is truly American (or at least I believe so). Katha Politt has a piece in The Nation (yes, I've been reading the nation a bit lately), that should pique the interest of compassionate conservatives. An excerpt:

Untreated or inadequately treated illness means stress and anxiety for the whole family. When a patient goes bankrupt, like Mr. M.--and healthcare costs are involved in 50 percent of bankruptcies, which have risen 400 percent in the past twenty-five years--the whole family suffers. Conservatives are always worrying about divorce--what about divorce as triggered by the financial and emotional stresses of uninsured illness? Maybe universal coverage could be sold as a family value.

posted by Anjali Taneja | 6/07/2004 06:55:00 PM | (0) comments |


 

Reagan remixed

This past week I've been travelling -- DC, South Carolina for a wedding, and back to New Jersey. I was driving for a chunk of that time, and in my usual habit, I scanned the radio stations often to get a mix of jazz, hiphop, talk radio, and conservative and liberal radio stations alike. Also, while in South Carolina, I watched some TV in the hotel room that I stayed in. Why all this info? Because i've been INUNDATED with references to Reagan's wonderful presidency and remembrances during this past week, and it's not done yet, and the worst is -- not much of it is TRUE. As a people, we really like to idolize dead leaders, and I'm used to that, but I'm not enjoying the misinformation about a past president whose policies had more long term negative effects on our country than positives.

Reagan has often been referred to as the most popular president in our history. Check out the graphs on daily kos's site for a definite rebuking of this oft-claimed "fact". Furthermore, on the radio call-ins and talk shows on TV, people are for the most part SLAMMING ANYbody who says anything negative about Reagan, and adding all kinds of moral and emotional appeals to their statements ("it's not right to slam a dead president", or "in a time of war, these liberals are always saying bad things about our best presidents", or "reagan was the greatest man in america and *sob* bless his heart and *sob* America gained the most under his presidency", etc). It's as if censorship is the way to go when we're talking about supposed american 'heroes'.

For some left-wing truth about Reagan, check out a piece of commentary by Mark Weisbrot. Back in 1998, David Corn wrote an interesting short piece called "66 things to think about when flying into reagan national airport". But on a more positive note, the one thing that Reagan definitely did well was to stick to his conservative ideology and seem "at ease" with his ideology. Liberals could learn from this. As John Nichols from the Nation writes,

Just imagine if Bill Clinton had been as committed to advancing an activist liberal ideology as Reagan was to his conservative agenda. America might have a national health care plan today. Labor law reform could have been a reality, rather than an empty promise. The United States would certainly have a more progressive judiciary. And here's another notion: If Clinton or Al Gore had put as much energy and enthusiasm into educating Americans about and promoting a liberal agenda as Reagan did for his conservative ideals, the United States would today have a different Congress and president.

posted by Anjali Taneja | 6/07/2004 05:04:00 PM | (0) comments |


 

Robo-Doc!

Explained as "replacing your presence, not your knowledge or cognitive function", Johns Hopkins researchers found that a robot that visits patients' rooms in a hospital, with a television screen that allows physicians to remotely interact with patients, has been a wild success.

Wow. This sounds like the coolest thing since sliced bread! While reading this article, I found myself listing ways in which this could be used positively -- including checking on patients in the evenings when doctors are home, being able to more frequently answer patients' questions (relieving them of unnecessary anxiety too), allowing resident physicians to have more humane working hours (they can interact from home too!), and allowing for better transition of patients from one physician to another (both the new doc and the patient can be in the room, while the old doc is on remote tv helping them through). I think i'm too excited about it right now to think of ways in which a robo-doc system could be abused. THIS is the future of medicine that *I'm* excited about.

posted by Anjali Taneja | 6/07/2004 11:16:00 AM | (0) comments |


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