My President

I went to a friend’s mother’s wake last night, didn’t see the State of the Union.

A year ago I was joining up with people I found on the net, to watch President Obama’s speeches on TV, but my heart isn’t in it now.

He’s potentially one of the best presidents we’ll have, he inherited a range of crises all happening at once. Things are bad, but they could be worse. Still, I had hoped for so much.

If the people lead, leaders will eventually follow. I know this is not a time to give up, but rather to get more active. I’ll keep on with health care, I sent an email to Congressman Kennedy last night. His famous uncle, after all, didn’t aim to get ‘sorta near the moon’.

It’s exhausting to think of government as an endless campaign, but that’s what is necessary. I’m gonna get another cup of coffee and go to work now.

A Little Bit’a Sugar

Due to the fact that last time I checked you don’t need to update your credentials to be a Certified HIV Counselor, I think the test I passed in the early 90’s at the Rhode Island Department of Health still covers me.

I haven’t done HIV counseling in years, and I would absolutely get an update if I expected to counsel anyone now. A lot has changed.

In the 90’s, they were just finding the meds that are keeping a lot of people alive today. I did counseling with patients prior to the HIV test, and counseling when giving results. After all, this might be dire news, and you didn’t want your patient to lose all hope. You also wanted to educate them for prevention.

Today, we can light a candle, and the AIDS quilt with its acres of squares dedicated to all the people we lost has not come to Rhode Island for a long time. Sorrow fades, we survive.

When I was actively counseling, I had a guy come in for his results–negative. Good news, absolutely. However, I read his chart for primary medical care, and there was bad news of another health threat in it. He had uncontrolled diabetes.

So the conversation went something like this–

“Good news, your HIV test was negative.”
“Oh, thank God!”
“Yes, but I have to tell you that your chart shows that your blood sugar was 356 last time you came in to see the doctor. You really need to schedule an appointment to talk about your diabetes.”
“Yeah, I know I have a little bit’a sugar, but I don’t have AIDS.”
“As far as the test can tell, you are HIV negative [explanation of the limits of testing, plus safe sex advice], but I’m concerned about your blood sugar.”
“Whatever. I’m just relieved I don’t have AIDS.”
“But diabetes could kill you!”
“Yeah, but I don’t have AIDS.”

What counsel can we give the American public today? We are being destroyed from within by a commonplace malady– one that kills our relatives, neighbors, and nameless people who show up in the statistics. But we’re used to it. A terror like AIDS will mobilize us. A terrorist who killed tens of thousands of Americans yearly would generate outrage.

But death by incompetence, greed, blind stupidity and cowardice? We’re used to it.

I wish we were able to reach a consensus that every American should be able to get health care. Other countries have done it. It’s not easy, and it is expensive, but the alternative is paying more for less, as we are doing today.

In the older population, which is my patient base, diabetes affects over 10%. The consequences are horrific. I think that if we could step back, and see how the number of Americans suffering and dying from lack of health care outnumbers the Americans dying of HIV we would have more sense of crisis.

Part of the fear of HIV was the possibility that we might be next. But if you are average, you certainly know someone who is afraid of losing their health insurance. Who is on COBRA. Who is running up their credit card with medical expenses. Can you catch unemployment? It does seem to be spreading.

Universal Health Care, like peace, has to come eventually. Let’s skip the rest of the war and just do it now.

Just Wondering

I’m really slammed with work, sadly unable to write much.

Last night I was in the parking lot of East Side Market with NPR on the radio. They are all worked up over bioterrorism, and someone said that there’s an urgent priority to develop an anthrax vaccine.

I remember the still-unsolved anthrax attacks after 9/11. Several people got sick, a few died. We still don’t know who did it. I went to the post office, where the postal workers were wearing rubber gloves, and I thanked them for doing their jobs on the front lines. You’ll remember that US Mail was a target.

And this was very bad. Innocent people died, more got sick, and many were threatened in their workplace by tainted letters, real or fake. I’m not downplaying it.

However, we all know that thousands of Americans die each year from lack of health care because of a broken and unjust system. We know that denying care to our fellow-citizens has made some people very rich. And the best chance of reform in sixty years is falling apart.

How is it we can realistically expect the money to flow to an anthrax vaccine to fight bioterrorism, when we are making it explicit that we can’t afford basic health care for all Americans?

Whoever launched the anthrax attacks intended to do much more damage than they did. Any evildoer who could mess up our country and hurt Americans as much as our dysfunctional health care rationing profiteering wild west would put themselves in the criminal hall of fame.

A Survivor

While the New York Times online is still free, see Leah Carroll’s poignant account in ‘Modern Love’ of a child left behind. This story is local, the Providence Journal is part of it.

I felt a nervous flutter at finally seeing him, but my tension was not romantic. He wasn’t a love interest but rather a journalist who had written years ago about my mother’s murder, and about the men who murdered her. And about the economic decline and culture of despair in early-’80s Rhode Island that contributed to her dying as she did, at the hands of crazed drug dealers who suspected her of being a police informant instead of the mere addict she was.

A crime like murder kills more than an individual. It kills relationships and leaves a hole in a family. Leah Carroll makes it real.

Paul Harvey and J.Edgar Hoover

Before Rush, even before Morton Downey Jr., there was Paul Harvey.

In the 1980’s I was working in a factory pasting up business cards. Every day I had to listen to Paul Harvey’s unctuous voice on the radio. The room was small and I was newly hired, so I had to put up with it. I have to admire Harvey’s talent for insinuation, his use of inflection and tone to convey so much more than you would read in a transcript. He could be fatherly and reassuring, or contemptuous and sneering. He slid the commercials so smoothly into the stories that you would find yourself believing that he bought each and every one of the products he shilled.

My BS detector went off regularly, also my racism detector. He was unmistakeably a right wing tool.

Now the Freedom of Information Act opens the books on Paul Harvey and J.Edgar Hoover. Harvey wasn’t much of a journalist, mixing entertainment with news and not trying too hard to be factual. But he had a persona of a regular guy. No one knew he was taking his scripts from the F.B.I.

Why should we care about a deceased radio flack? Because Paul Harvey was a pioneer in faux news.

Today you can channel surf and land on what looks like news, only to find it’s Pat Robertson’s 700 Club. Fox Network covers extreme right to center right. Hate radio is a tried and successful formula. Now corporations will be able to produce infotainment that endorses a political agenda and broadcast it prior to elections. They are persons, according to the Supreme Court, and mere mortals just better move over.

This court ruling is just another gift that keeps on giving from the Bush administration. To see how far they went in compromising the free press, see my prior post, ‘Ministry of Truth’.

If it sounds too nice and neat to be real, you are probably right to doubt. I feel a little vindicated that my BS meter was well-tuned thirty years ago, when I suffered tedious hours at a boring job, forced to listen to Paul Harvey lying through his teeth.

Also, thanks to FAIR for their continued exposure of faux news of all kinds.

Taking their Money and Voting Against Them

The New York Times has an article discussing the new Supreme court decision which takes restrictions off corporations giving money to politicians. The article includes quotes from social scientists saying there is little evidence that all our attempts to restrict corporate giving to politicians come to any good.

I have another idea. How about if politicians were required to wear their corporate giving on their sleeve? What if, like race car drivers, their corporate sponsors were emblazoned on their clothes and cars? What if, when going to Jack Reed’s office, you had to pass through a hall of corporate sponsors before meeting the honorable Senator? Perhaps, at least then, we would know what was what. The United States Government, brought to you by Bank of America.

Maybe we can make this work for us, in our ailing state as a nation. Maybe we could have daily corporate sponsors — for each day of the year, one corporation would fund all the costs of government. That’s what I would call being a good corporate citizen! If only there was a way to ensure that corporations would give as much as they receive when buying politicians. Then this new “free speech” might make more sense.

Playing With Fire

Cable Car Cinema is showing the documentary, ‘Waiting for Armageddon’. Check their website for showtimes.

If you didn’t have enough to be anxious about, for years American evangelicals have been touring the Holy Land, visiting the Muslim holy site, the Dome of the Rock, and making provocative statements about leveling the Dome in order to clear the site for a new Temple. The people in the film weren’t likely to act out– just likely to nudge someone more violent to start something.

It’s one of history’s tragedies that a place sacred to three religions has so seldom seen peace.

The film gives a window into the world of American churchgoers whose best hope is the end of the world. A strange way to live, and I speak from experience as an ex-fundamentalist.

Featured is an interview with Gershom Gorenberg, whose book, ‘The End of Days’ is a basic resource for anyone who wants to know about the intersection of religion and politics in the careers of men like Pat Robertson and James Hagee.

It’s scary stuff, all those nice people who long for the agonizing deaths of millions. It’s scary to see so many politicians ask for their blessings. ‘Waiting for Armageddon’ runs through Thursday.