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WASHINGTON— President Obama took his health care overhaul proposal to one of its more skeptical audiences, telling doctors at the American Medical Association conference in Chicago that the United States is “not a nation that accepts nearly 46 million uninsured men, women and children.” Mr. Obama’s much-anticipated address appeared carefully calibrated to woo doctors to support— or at least, to not actively oppose— his sweeping health proposals. He also sought to reassure doctors who are skittish about his proposal for a government-run insurance plan as one option from which consumers could choose. –“Obama Tries to Woo Doctors on Health Care,” Helene Cooper, The New York Times
From “Letter to a Family Doctor” in the January 1951 Harper’s. Bernard De Voto wrote Easy Chair for Harper’s Magazine from 1935 until his death in 1955.
You had better stop acting like a sap. Our constitutionally elected
government, which has to do something about an increasingly alarming
social situation that the AMA refuses to deal with at all except on
its own long-obsolete terms– do you really think it is what
Dr. Henderson says it is? You had better think again, fast and
hard. And this pamphlet called “Old Doc Truman’s Pink Pills.” Have you
read it, Doctor? Take the passage that begins on page 27. It equates
the Democrats, the party which a majority of our citizens have
maintained in power, with Communists, and in doing so it makes some of
the most scabrous and feculent statements I have ever seen in
print. Its distributors have learned a little caution, but not much,
from the public outrage that followed the notorious “Dear Christian
Colleague” letter which one of your propaganda organizations sent
out. As it describes the plot of various committees and learned
foundations to deliver medicine and the United States over to Stalin,
it insistently repeats Jewish names. It never quite says right out
that the Democrat-Communist plot is a Jewish plot but it is so written
as to make many a reader believe that it is. Thus it arrives at a
standard technique of totalitarianism: anti-Semitism. Do you accept
responsibility for this? You will be held responsible. I got the
pamphlet from the office of your State medical society and the girl
there said that it was for distribution to patients. You paid the $25
assessment. The noble old family friend has corrupted the relationship
of trust with anti-Semitism. I know that you, personally, do not
approve of this, but there it is. Thousands of your colleagues do not,
either, and still there it is. Take a tumble to yourself.
And take a tumble to your leaders. Dr. Henderson says that in three
more years ninety million people will be enrolled in voluntary
health-insurance plans and that “when that number has been reached,
the problem will be largely resolved.” Even if his wild guess should
prove accurate, and even if all those voluntary plans should prove
adequate, will the problem be “largely resolved”? Dr. Henderson will
be satisfied if the remaining 40 per cent of the population are
without insurance–will you be satisfied? And are you sure that the
AMA will support the voluntary plans which it is now praising? For
years it opposed voluntary health insurance as violently as it now
opposes payroll deductions. Twenty-six state medical societies, I make
it, have sponsored legislation which limits such plans to those that
are controlled wholly by physicians. That is, plans in which neither
the public nor the subscriber has effective power. Many medical
societies have threatened disciplinary action– up to measures which
would make practice impossible– against any of their members who
participate in any other kind of plan. Some have been convicted of
conspiracy in restraint of trade– which is a crime, Doctor– and others
are under indictment for such interference with voluntary prepayment
plans. The AMA has fought hard against comprehensive prepayment
plans. It has tried to kill those that have succeeded. On the showing
so far, is it honest about voluntary insurance or is it throwing dust
in my eyes and yours?
President Obama mentions Harper’s 1960 issue on health care, neglects to mention earlier coverage from Bernard De Voto (above), recent coverage from Luke Mitchell
About twenty years ago I bumped into Alan Hollinghurst at a party at the Poetry Society. He greeted me with the words, ‘Hello. I’m going to tremendous, Basil Fawltyish lengths to avoid being introduced to Sir Stephen Spender,’ whose collected poems he had just given an unglowing review. ‘Tremendous, Basil Fawltyish lengths’: that phrase stuck with me. It comes to mind when I look at Anglo-Saxon attempts to address the crises in their respective financial sectors. The UK and US plans are different, as I’ve said, but at their heart they both show the governments going to tremendous, Basil Fawltyish lengths in order to avoid taking the troubled banks into public ownership. Our governments are prepared to pay for them, but not to take them over.There are four reasons for the reluctance to take over the banks, of which the first isn’t a real reason but a piece of political bullshit. –“It’s Finished,” John Lanchester, The London Review of Books
Within the Bush administration, Rothfield suggests, it was far from clear that, had the US Central Command drawn up clear plans to do so, the museum would have been protected. Following the looting, ORHA officials were told that the list of Baghdad institutions sent to Coalition commanders in late March “had not even been read”. And it was not until April 16, nearly a week after the galleries and storerooms were breached and following days of punishing international press coverage, that US troops got around to securing the museum compound. Worst of all, weeks and months later, looters continued to ransack sites all over southern Iraq, largely without any interference from American and British forces; the US itself set up a major military base at Babylon, causing wholly avoidable damage to Iraq’s most famous historic site. Confronted with such details, one is tempted to regard the Iraq Museum disaster as but another example of the abysmal mismanagement of the whole Iraq conflict (although the book unfortunately leaves unexplored the thinking of senior US officials like the repeatedly-warned Crocker). But in showing how even prominent cultural actors were consigned to irrelevance, Rothfield suggests a more specific problem at work. In earlier epochs, expertise in art and archaeology, whether in British Mandate Iraq or among US forces fighting in Europe in the Second World War, was considered a vital dimension of both military strategy and postwar governance. Even today, countries like Italy and Iran have special paramilitary forces trained in heritage protection. (The Italian Carabinieri played a courageous and largely unheralded part in arresting looters during their deployment in Iraq’s Dhi Qar province.) In contrast, in the US and Britain, archaeologists, scholars and museum officials have long been divorced from the foreign policy and military arms of government. As a result they not only lacked real influence in Iraq; they were largely ill-equipped to deal with armed conflict in any case. –“Were there that many vases?” by Hugh Eakin, The National
Some might argue that the professed support for Ahmadinejad we found simply reflected fearful respondents’ reluctance to provide honest answers to pollsters. Yet the integrity of our results is confirmed by the politically risky responses Iranians were willing to give to a host of questions. For instance, nearly four in five Iranians – including most Ahmadinejad supporters – said they wanted to change the political system to give them the right to elect Iran’s supreme leader, who is not currently subject to popular vote. Similarly, Iranians chose free elections and a free press as their most important priorities for their government, virtually tied with improving the national economy. These were hardly “politically correct” responses to voice publicly in a largely authoritarian society. Indeed, and consistently among all three of our surveys over the past two years, more than 70% of Iranians also expressed support for providing full access to weapons inspectors and a guarantee that Iran will not develop or possess nuclear weapons, in return for outside aid and investment. And 77% of Iranians favoured normal relations and trade with the United States, another result consistent with our previous findings. –“The Iranian People Speak,” Ken Ballen and Patrick Doherty, The Washington Post
Juan Cole: “There is very little variation in Ahmadinejad’s numbers across provinces, except in two cases. In past elections the numbers have been all over the place.”; Nate Silver: “The statistical evidence is intriguing but, ultimately, inconclusive”; New America Foundation: “Ahmadinejad Won. Get Over It”
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”