Monday, May 25, 2009

Saturday, May 23, 2009

bill moyers - single-payer health care

Bill Moyers program on single-payer health care was excellent and the advocates for a single-payer system articulate and accurate.

I am a Canadian who has lived under both systems and there is no question that the government run single-payer system is far superior to the private insurance system that preceded it.

americans spend twice as much of their GNP on health care as Canadians to support their private profit system but canada scores higher in the UN Human Development Index health care indicators than does the united states. I suffer from a progressive degenerative disease that requires 5 different precription drugs. because the government of my province negotiates drug prices with the pharmaceutical companies, i pay a very small amount for drugs compared to americans who suffer from the same disease. I also have family living on both sides of the border and i can tell you from personal experience that the canadian system is far superior. my sister had 2 miscarriages and a toxemia complicated live-birth. her insurance companies refused to pay for the miscarriages nor for the complications in the live birth. she was forced to submit to a state operated bankruptcy process and her child was 10 years old before the dead babies were paid for. I only mention this case because of the false ads on US TV that suggest there are long line ups for treatment in canada and that people are forced to leave the country for treatment in the usa. in fact more americans come to canada to get treatment or buy drugs that they can't afford in the united states under the for-profit system.

It's hard for canadians to believe that over 40 million americans have no health care coverage at all. they are forced into tax-starved public hospitals or into waiting lines in charitable facilities. many simply accept illness, death or disability as inevitable.

I was fortunate to have been a friend and colleague of TC Douglas, the founder of canada's medicare system. Tommy was not a godless socialist. he was a baptist minister and a social gospel christian. his medical care commitment should be considered within that framework. I asked tommy how he could implement medicare over the opposition of the doctors and virtually every other political party in canada and in the absence of a model elsewhere in the world. douglas told me that canadian soldiers observed that in world war 2, americans had the best field hospital system of any country in the conflict. after his election as premier in 1944, he told me that he called the US president and had one of the experts from the surgeon-general's office seconded to his cabinet to help him put together the saskatchewan provincial hospital care plan which was Canada's first step towards a single-payer health care system. The fact is that canada's first medicare system was partly based on an american military model. What could be more patriotic?

I think Barack Obama is one of the best things to happen to the United States in many decades. I believe that he would like to establish a single-payer health care system in the united states but he is enough of a realist to know that he is going to be opposed by the real power in the usa: the health-care and insurance industries - organizations that have managed to pay off enough politicians - since Ronald Regan 1948 - to deprive Americans of a comprehensive health care health care system. How many people have suffered and died as a result of the "health" industry's lavish bribery and lobbying is anyone's guess. I believe that if advocates of single-payer will support Obama's effort to set up a system that is partly single-payer, eventually, the single-payer system because of its efficiency will absorb the rest

Posted by: niki nomo | May 23, 2009 3:26 AM

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Introduction of Barack Obama by Fr. Jenkins, Pres NDU

As the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council wrote in their pastoral constitution Gaudium et Spes: “Respect and love ought to be extended also to those who think or act differently than we do in social, political and even religious matters. In fact, the more deeply we come to understand their ways of thinking through such courtesy and love, the more easily will we be able to enter into dialogue with them.”

If we want to extend courtesy, respect and love – and enter into dialogue – then surely we can start by acknowledging what is honorable in others.

We welcome President Obama to Notre Dame, and we honor him for the qualities and accomplishments the American people admired in him when they elected him. He is a man who grew up without a father, whose family was fed for a time with the help of food stamps — yet who mastered the most rigorous academic challenges, who turned his back on wealth to serve the poor, who sought the Presidency at a young age against long odds, and who – on the threshold of his goal — left the campaign to go to the bedside of his dying grandmother who helped raise him.

He is a leader who has great respect for the role of faith and religious institutions in public life. He has said: “Secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square.”

He is the first African American to be elected President, yet his appeal powerfully transcends race. In a country that has been deeply wounded by racial hatred – he has been a healer.

He has set ambitious goals across a sweeping agenda — extending health care coverage to millions who don’t have it, improving education especially for those who most need it, promoting renewable energy for the sake of our economy, our security, and our climate.

He has declared the goal of a world without nuclear weapons and has begun arms reduction talks with the Russians.

He has pledged to accelerate America’s fight against poverty, to reform immigration to make it more humane, and to advance America’s merciful work in fighting disease in the poorest places on earth.

As commander-in-chief and as chief executive, he embraces with confidence both the burdens of leadership and the hopes of his country.

Ladies and Gentlemen: The President of the United States.”

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Response to a friend on my letter re: stem cell research

Hi S----- -thanks for your interest and comments. I think many scientists are reluctant to get involved in political debates - sometimes just getting footnoted in a political article can result in research funding being terminated or program cancellations. Even though I agree with much of what the new president says, and the courage he has demonstrated in some of his actions, I think that scientists will continue to be cautious until they are more certain about the outcome over the long term. (doesn't that restate the scientific world-view?) The conservative position taken by the drafters of the new NIH stem-cell research guidelines indicates to me that they still don't know how far the new president will allow them to go especially in the face of the reaction from the Council of Catholic Bishops. The NIH probably had a more liberal set of guidelines drafted but decided to lead with the conservative ones until they are more certain of the president's support - that might be decided at Notre Dame this weekend!

Most people who are involving themselves in the stem cell debate are like you - family members or friends of people who suffer from diseases potentially treatable - even curable - through embryonic stem cell research. Many of those people are devoted christians who disagree with the clergy on this issue but are afraid to speak out. (despite what Roosevelt said - there are more things to fear than fear itself - one is being exposed to your co-religionists as a tool of satan and being shunned by your former friends and family. A daily form of terror that we should make war against!) My case of Parkinson's sounds more like your father's - up to this point mainly tremors - more a nuisance than a disease. Thanks again for your comments and support on this

Friday, May 15, 2009

The CIA lies to Congress

I'm not surprised that the Republicans have targeted Nancy Pelosi. Throughout her career she has been a partisan and a progressive and the Republicans have been the target of her criticism. But for the media - and particularly for David Gergen - to suggest that the CIA doesn't lie to Congress is a joke. Intelligence Agencies are created to lie to the public to justify whatever the government wants done.

Lying is just one technique in their repertoire of dirty tricks. How many ex-CIA agents were involved in the Watergate break-in or Iran - Contra - if you can be ex-CIA - and how many of them are now talk-radio hosts and occasional contributors to CNN.

Oliver North exploited his intellgence connections in Iran-Contra and bragged about lying to Congress. TV News hosts who talk about Pelosi impugning the reputations of people defending their country are the one's who are lying. Congress needs to revive true oversight committees like the one chaired by Idaho senator Frank Church in the 70's. Unfortunately most of the CIA's illegal activities such as domestic spying, assassination, torture and other crimes were covered up by successive administrations.

Isn't it ironic that Nancy Pelosi is being attacked by the media, the CIA and the Republicans for accusing those innocent honest professional CIA defenders of lying to to Congress about the fact that they were illegally torturing people to extract information to justify an invasion of Iraq.

The CIA is like some TV News announcers - You can tell when they're lying because their lips are moving.

my comments to the National Institutes of Health on Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Dear Sirs/Mesdames:
Although I am not an American citizen, my family has lived for three generations on both sides of the 49th parallel so I hope you will take my comments into consideration when you are developing guidelines for embryonic stem cell research. When I was diagnosed as suffering from Parkinson's disease in 1999, I was told that many promising research leads were being followed for the treatment and cure of Parkinson's. The greatest potential for a cure - for Parkinson's and for diseases such as juvenile diabetes and spinal cord injuries - was in embryonic stem cell research. You can imagine how disappointed - in fact, depressed - I was when, under the previous administration, embryonic stem cell research was limited to a few cell lines, funding was restricted and serious impediments were imposed on this area of science - ostensibly for ethical reasons

Ten years have passed since my diagnosis, and although important developments have taken place in Parkinson's research, I believe that the discovery of a cure has now been placed beyond my lifetime. I ask what kind of ethics allows millions of people to suffer the loss of control over their bodies and be forced to live in humiliating dependence on their families and their fellow citizens because a tiny minority of influential clerics believe that life is created at conception whether the embryo survives or - more likely - not. Like those clerics, I am not a scientist but I know what ethics are and I do not believe that a small group of people should have the power to impose their ethics in opposition to the ethical views of a majority of Americans as expressed in resolutions of the last Congress and vetoed by the last president. I am hopeful that NIH in its new guidelines for embryonic stem cell will take into consideration the ethical views of a majority of Americans - including a majority of religious Americans - and eliminate the barriers to research imposed by the previous administration.

I was fortunate to have had an opportunity to attend the First World Conference on Parkinson's in Washington a few years ago and was able to learn about some of the amazing research that has been done from the from the first 'awakenings' with the use of dopamine on encephalitis lethargica by Sachs/Calne to the therapies in dance, exercise and speech development designed to allay specific symptoms of the disease. Unfortunately there was a sense of silent despair at the conference because one of the most promising areas of research had been suppressed based on disputed ethics. With the current presidential order to lift the research ban, the hopes of many Parkinson's sufferers have been restored. Unfortunately, that hope has ebbed because the new NIH guidelines seem to concede too much to those who who consider themselves moral and ethical authorities


1. Please do not give undue weight to clerics and religious organizations who can organize letter-writing campaigns by a committed minority while the silenced majority of their congregations practice contraception, accept choice on abortion and support embryonic stem cell research to help friends and relatives afflicted with diseases like Parkinson's.

2. Remove the barriers to embryonic stem cell research and accelerate this research to overcome the delays caused by the policies of the last administration.

3. Remove barriers to research on stem cell lines developed from sources other than surplus embryos from in-vitro fertilization at fertility clinics. Stem cells developed by parthenogenesis and using Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer should be funded.

4. Encourage research that can be quickly transferred to those who are currently suffering to decrease their pain and increase their independence.

I appreciate your consideration of my suggestions and I look forward to a time when, as a result of embryonic stem cell research, diseases such as Parkinson's, juvenile diabetes and paralysis due to spinal cord trauma can be reduced or eliminated.

Yours sincerely

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

National Day of Prayer

I understand that Barak Obama has declined to attend the National Day of Prayer breakfast that his predecessor used to attend and was permitted to speak at. The Catholic Bishop who co-ordinates the event was not going to permit Obama to speak because the president opposes Catholic dogma on abortion, stem cells, etc. George Bush, the torturer who set up secret prisons around the world, kidnapped people, held them without charges and had them tortured was allowed to speak last year about his administration's anti-choice agenda. I can see where Bush's views might appear to be more closely aligned with christian doctrine and historical practice.

Congratulations to President Obama for taking the political risk of refusing to pray with these hypocrites.