first political consulting firm in 1933 and its role in health care

September 18, 2012

Published in The New Yorker (24 Sept. 2012), Jill Lepore’s The Lie Factory: How Politics Became a Business is the kind of article we need more of. Lepore details the first political consulting firm, Campaigns, Inc., founded in 1933, and offers a chronology of battles including the defeat of two health care insurance programs: Earl Warren’s (governor of CA — his program was defeated in 1945) and Harry Truman’s (the President’s program was defeated in 1952). For some historical perspective, here’s Lepore on the defeat of Truman’s plan:

Whitaker and Baxter’s campaign against Harry Truman’s national-health-insurance proposal cost the A.M.A. nearly five million dollars, and it took more than three years. But they turned the President’s sensible, popular, and urgently needed legislative reform into a bogeyman so scary that, even today, millions of Americans are still scared.

Lepore’s piece offers excellent research and much-needed historical background to our current landscape of super pacs and health care rhetoric.


Leroy Sievers’ cancer blog

June 8, 2007

I’ve written before about Leroy Sievers’ cancer blog at NPR, but I visited it today after hearing about a teacher’s recent death from lung cancer. Once again I’m struck with the immensely deep community that has sprung up through Leroy Sievers’ honesty and writing. I’m grateful to NPR for supporting such a caring and helpful resource.


if you want to learn how to live…

May 4, 2007

listen to those who speak with death every day. I’m reading Leroy Sievers’ My Cancer blog, which is hosted on the NPR website. Sievers was interviewed on Morning Edition this morning (“Leroy Sievers’ Cancer Conversations“) and he’ll be the subject of a documentary with Ted Koppel airing Sunday on the Discovery channel (“Living with Cancer“). The documentary was supposed to air after Sievers died, but he’s still here — after a 4-5-year remission from colorectal cancer, and after having his brain tumors blasted away with radiation this past January.

On Morning Edition, people who have posted to Sievers’ blog read some of their entries. One ballet teacher/dancer talked about looking in the mirror on Valentine’s Day and seeing an alien: no hair on her head, no eyelashes or eyebrows, no breasts, lots of scars. She then talked about getting into bed that night and her husband telling her how beautiful she was.

Sievers’ blog post today talks about “What if?” What if he didn’t have the cancer? Several people with cancer who commented on today’s post say they don’t ask “What if?” but they do ask “What now?” Living in the moment, learning how to inhabit that now with love and compassion.

I’m going back to reading the blog and the comments.


richard horton’s “Palestinians: The Medical Crisis”

March 3, 2007

In a survey completed by the Gaza Community Mental Health Program, over 90 percent of children below the age of eleven experience severe anxiety, nightmares, and physical expressions of stress, such as bed-wetting. Half fear that their parents will not be able to provide essential family necessities, such as food and a home. Forty percent have relatives who died during the second intifada, which began in 2000.

Access to health care is perhaps one of the most egregious casualties of apartheid and Richard Horton demonstrates this by detailing conditions at Beit Hanoun Hospital in Gaza. After speaking with the president of the Israeli Medical Association, Horton writes this:

I came away from my meeting with IMA officials in Tel Aviv convinced that they believed in the sincerity of their opinions and actions. But I am equally convinced that a few days spent traveling in the West Bank and Gaza, talking to Palestinian doctors and health workers, and listening to the experiences of Palestinian citizens would show them that their public statements, official assurances, and strongly promulgated arguments sadly count for very little alongside the horrific realities of daily life for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

After referring to health care problems resulting from the occupation (“Studies of perinatal and infant mortality show that checkpoints and military barriers frequently obstruct women seeking care during critical periods of labor and delivery”), Horton goes on to discuss Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I), a group of about 1,500 Israeli physicians who view sending a mobile clinic into occupied territory as a protest against Israeli policies.


sweet deception, rumsfeld and nutrasweet

December 29, 2006

I’m reading Sweet Deception: Why Splenda, NutraSweet, and the FDA May Be Hazardous to Your Health by Drs. Joseph Mercola and Kendra Degan Pearsall. Anyone who consumes artificial sweeteners, anyone interested in the politics and economics of food, and anyone interested in health at all should read this book. I love that Mercola documents how artificial sweeteners tend to get discovered by accident by scientists in labs developing things like insecticides. Ugh. Feb. 1879, Dr. Ira Remsen (chemist) and research fellow Constantine Fahlberg work in a Johns Hopkins University lab researching toluene derivatives (used to make paint thinners, fingernail polish, rubber — toluene is classified hazardous and toxic) and a spill of chemicals leads to the discovery of saccharin.

1977 and aspartame or NutraSweet is having a hard time getting FDA approval (pesky things like neurotoxicity keep getting in the way) and G. D. Searle hires Donald Rumsfeld as the new CEO. Rumsfeld says his political connections with President Reagan ensure aspartame’s FDA approval within a year.

Not such a sweet story, eh?