GOP’s fear of doctors: Why it’s hell bent on defaming — and censoring — them
From imagining death panels to restricting their speech about guns, here's how the right sees medical professionals
The right is upset (as usual) over the fact that on Monday,the Supreme Court declined to hear a case that would have potentially dismantled Obamacare’s “death panel.” There is no such thing as a “death panel” but that hasn’t stopped numerous pro-life groups and conservative grifter organizations from insisting that the Independent Payment Advisory Board is designed to force the elderly on to the ice floe in order to save money. (Why they should care about this when they seem to be determined to force the elderly into private health care that would certainly shove the sickest and oldest over a cliff at the earliest opportunity, remains a mystery) In any case, they were thwarted in this particular case but it’s likely only the first of many attempts. This is one of the fundamental fears of Obamacare: government price controls leading inevitably to euthanasia.
The euthanasia bit came from that avatar of the right-wing id, Sarah Palin who claimed that what was merely encouraging doctors to discuss end-of-life planning with their patients was actually a slippery slope to soylent green. They not only wanted doctors to be denied payment for having this discussion (the issue at hand) they believe doctors should not discuss these issues with their patients at all lest the patients be talked into writing living wills or making it known that they do not want their lives to be extended if they are permanently incapacitated.
Almost exactly 10 years ago today, Terry Schiavo became a household name when the entire right wing of the Republican Party decided to virtually elbow their way into her hospital room and demand that her advance directive, as relayed by her husband, to not use extraordinary measures to keep her alive was inoperative and irrelevant. God might perform a miracle, after all, so it’s nobody’s place to interfere, not even the individual herself. Ultimately, Schiavo’s rights were upheld but the nation got a good hard look at the right wing stepping into the personal relationship between doctor, patient and family when the entire congress was called back to Washington to vote on this one issue and the president, on one of his lengthy Crawford vacations, made the unprecedented decision to fly back to the capitol in the middle of the night to sign it. The sight of these powerful people dictating the details of the doctor-patient relationship from a distance was off-putting to many Americans. These were, after all, the very politicians who made a fetish out of “keeping the government out of our lives.”
This was no revelation to people who work in the area of reproductive rights, of course. The whole issue of abortion is about the state interfering in the most personal, intimate interaction between doctor and patient and family. But, there was no sex involved in the Schiavo incident, no “irresponsibility”, no smiling babies or patriarchal assumptions to distract from the reality of this ugly scene as there always in when it comes to abortion rights. Both men and women could put themselves into this situation equally, they could see themselves having to deal with aging parents and their own kids having to deal with them. It hit home.
But it quickly retreated from sight and the right continued on with its crusade to micro-manage the relationship between doctor and patient in keeping with their particular religious values. All over the country, Republican legislatures are putting laws into place to force doctors to read a set script to patients seeking abortions and require them to perform unnecessary ultrasound tests to try and make women feel guilty for their decision.
Just this week, the state of Arizona passed a new law requiring doctor’s to not only lie to their patients but potentially put them in medical danger:
Late Monday, it became the first state to pass a law requiring doctors who perform drug-induced abortions to tell women that the procedure may be reversible, an assertion that most doctors say is wrong.
The provision is part of a broader law signed by Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, meant to prevent plans offered in Arizona through the federal health care exchange from providing coverage for most abortions.
This new law is based upon the word of a doctor doctor who runs a clinic called the Culture of Life Family Services in San Diego who says that he can “reverse” abortions by prescribing a different drug than the one recommended as the second dose in early-stage pill induced abortions. This has not been adequately tested. There is no research. It is based upon one paper written by one doctor who is obviously a fanatic. Needless to say the medical professionals in Arizona are appalled. Ill-informed politicians are reaching once again into their offices and examining rooms and requiring them to pass on dangerous and erroneous information to their patients.
And at the same time the right is telling doctors what they are required to tell their patients about abortion, they are passing laws requiring them not to talk about other things. Think Progress had this from Texas last month:
Under a proposed bill currently being considered in Texas, doctors wouldn’t be allowed to ask their patients whether there are any firearms in their homes — and could be subject to punishment from the Texas Medical Board if they do initiate any conversations about gun safety in the office.
The lawmaker who’s sponsoring the measure, Rep. Stuart Spitzer (R), is backed by the National Rifle Association and the Texas State Rifle Association. He believes that the federal government is inappropriately reaching into doctors’ offices to figure out who owns gun
That’s correct. They are proposing to censor doctors from speaking to their patients about gun violence. And their ostensible reason for doing this is because the federal government in reaching into doctors’ offices. It’s hard to believe their brains didn’t explode from the dissonance.
“Pediatricians are asking children away from their parents, ‘Do you have guns in your house?’ and then reporting this on the electronic health records, and then the federal government, frankly, has access to who has guns and who doesn’t.”
Clearly, the federal government’s real agenda is to engage in a clandestine sweep of pediatricians’ young patients’ electronic medical records to determine whose parents have guns. And then obviously they are planning to send in the jack-booted thugs to confiscate them. So in order to stop such a terrible overreach of state power, the “let’s get government out of our lives” people are no longer just interfering with doctors who treat the elderly and women but now they must interfere with how they treat children as well. Evidently, their vaunted fealty toward individual rights does not extend to the examining table.(And if there’s one place I think most Americans would really like to have some individual rights and privacy it’s there…)
The reason the American Medical Association recommends that doctors talk to their patients about gun safety is because NRA, which used to consider that its primary goal, is so devoted to collecting money from its members, lobbying on behalf of gun manufacturers and flooding the streets of America with as many deadly weapons as possible it no longer wants to do this job. This isn’t a back-door attempt to make firearms illegal. That would quixotic in the extreme. It’s an attempt to cut back on the huge numbers of tragic gun accidents in this country — something which nobody is out there defending, not even the NRA. (If someone’s saying that we all have a constitutional right to accidentally shoot people, I haven’t heard it.)
Researchers are trying to gather statistics on gun violence and that is seen as an assault on gun rights, something which has long been blocked by the NRA and their minions in the congress. Only a very insecure movement would be afraid of such data. It carries no meaning in itself, it’s just numbers and observation. After centuries of debate the Supreme Court finally declared the 2nd Amendment to mean that an individual has a right to bear arms and that is highly unlikely to be reversed. They can relax about that. Information won’t kill them. A gun accident might, however, and it’s downright nihilistic to believe that trying to prevent them through education and research must be stopped, especially by preventing doctors from discussing it with their patients.
Liberals are often accused by the freedom-loving right of having a Stalinist worldview in which they seek to impose their view on others by force. But if that’s true, the right has now become what they most despise. These days they are using government to intrude on the most personal and private of medical matters, dictating not only what what medical professionals are allowed to do but what they are allowed to say to their patients. Reconciling this with their alleged blind fealty to the Constitution is quite a stretch. But then they have always had a rather selective view of the Bill of Rights. The first Amendment protects their freedom of religion and their freedom of speech. Others not so much. The Fourth Amendment only applies to citizens who’ve earned it. Indeed, only the Second is sacrosanct. In fact, they’ve taken to making it into a sort of “Super-Amendment” with their fatuous slogan “The Second Amendment is what guarantees the First.”
And it’s true. For the gun owner. An armed person is definitely more free to speak in America than one who isn’t. Sure the right exists in the abstract for all of us. But in a country where people gun down drivers for honking their horn or parking in the wrong spot, let’s just say that in practice it’s becoming risky to say or do anything that might set someone off. It’s not a more polite society, it’s a more paranoid one. And in order to protect that Super-Amendment for gun owners, they are now enlisting government to infringe the rights of doctors and their patients and people who disagree with them. Who could have ever guessed it would go that way?
Blue state Republicans can't even take credit for their states' low murder rates now
I don't know why I'm even bothering talking about anything he says, but he's still a Governor and he seems to be creeping up in the polls a bit in New Hampshire so you never know. I've always wondered if he wasn't the natural heir to the Trump constituency --- loudmouthed, jerks sitting at the end of the bar with a knee-jerk opinion about everything and an insult for everyone.
But anyway, here's the latest. He can't even take credit for being Governor of a state with a relatively low crime rate because it has some tough gun regulations which are apparently just this side of Satan worship to today's GOP. From TBOGG at Raw Story:
Attempting to keep his 2016 presidential hopes alive, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) refused to wade into the problem of easy access to guns, saying tough gun laws in his state haven’t had a major impact on its low murder rate.
Asked by This Week host George Stephanopolous to talk about the gun debate in the wake of the Oregon shooting that claimed nine lives, Christie instead wanted to talk about mental health issues.
“You just heard Donald Trump say, you know, sometimes people fall through the cracks. And he also questioned whether tough gun laws make a difference,” Stephanopolous said. “But look at your state. It has some of the toughest gun laws and one of the lowest murder rates. Isn’t there a correlation?”
Christie immediately dodged the question, saying mental health issues are a greater concern.
“I don’t — George, I don’t think there is. But I’ll tell you this, I’m very concerned about the mental health side of this and I put forward a proposal to the legislature last year and then again just about seven or eight weeks ago in response to a bill they sent saying, let’s do some tough things on mental health,” Christie replied. “Let’s make involuntary commitment of people who speak violently easier for doctors.”
Christie continued on, dismissing tough gun laws by invoking the murder rates in Chicago which also has restrictive gun laws.
How embarrassing. As Tbogg points out, all those guns in Chicago are coming from outside the city, many of them from one particular gun shop in the Chicago suburbs.
In places where there are much stricter gun laws nationally you see a different picture:
If what all these Republicans are saying is true, that the problem isn't guns it's mental illness, perhaps we need to start asking ourselves why we have such a humongous mental illness problem in this country.
Or maybe these fools could just sober up and admit that it's the guns. There are people with mental and emotional problems everywhere. And lord knows we could do a better job of getting those people the medical care they need. But these other countries have not cured mental illness. There are plenty of people with those problems who are untreated. They just regulate the guns. It's really that simple.
I take a backseat to no one when it comes to my loathing of Jeb Bush. He is the human manifestation of aristocratic rot as far as I'm concerned. But I have to admit that I think he got a bum rap on the "stuff happens" thing. Not that I don't believe he wants to just throw up his hands and say "whatever" to the problem of gun violence. That's the official Republican position. But his actual statement the other day was a little bit more complex than that. Here 's what he said:
"We're in a difficult time in our country and I don't think more government is necessarily the answer to this. I think we need to reconnect ourselves with everybody else. It's very sad to see. But I resist the notion, and I had this challenge as governor—look, stuff happens. There's always a crisis. The impulse is always to do something and it's not necessarily the right thing to do."
He sounds like Poppy, the guy who told the press that his campaign strategy was "message: I care." In other words kind of a dope when it comes to retail politics. And I certainly disagree that when it comes to gun violence there is any hysterical rush to "do something." The opposite is true. Over and over again we do absolutely nothing. But what he said so clumsily is something I've said myself when it comes to passing terrorism laws --- the impulse in the aftermath of a crisis is to immediately "do something" and it's not necessarily the right thing to do. Like pulling the Patriot Act off the shelf and passing it without giving any thought to what it really meant. That's what he was saying, not that mass shootings are no biggie. And again, he's completely wrong that anyone's rushing to "do something" about gun violence in the wake of our weekly mass shooting. It's ridiculous. But he wasn't just shrugging his shoulders and saying "shit happens" when asked about the Oregon bloodbath.
Ugh, I hate defending the likes of Bush but honestly it's a very bad idea to encourage the press to engage in pile-ons that are based on erroneous assumptions about what someone said. Let's just say it tends to blow back on liberals more than anyone.
Meanwhile, here's Trump being a lot more, shall we say, open about what wingnuts really think.
“I have to say, no matter what you do, you’re gonna have problems.
“Because you have sick people. They happen to be intelligent. And, you know, they can be sick as hell and they’re geniuses in a certain way. They are going to be able to break the system.”
The New York real-estate billionaire, who boasts of possessing a concealed carry permit, said he did not see the need for increased firearms regulations after the mass shooting in Oregon.
He amplified the argument in an interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week, saying: “The gun laws have nothing to do with this. This is mental illness.”
At a rally in suburban Nashville on Saturday, Trump mentioned his New York state handgun carry permit and added that anyone who attacked him would be “shocked”, because he would emulate Charles Bronson in the vigilante film Death Wish.
“I’m a very, very big second amendment person,” Trump said in Tennessee. “This is about self-defense, plain and simple.”
Trump reminisced about the Bronson-starring 1974 film and got people in the crowd to shout out the title in unison. In the movie, an affluent, liberal architect embarks on a vigilante mission after his wife is killed and his daughter raped.
“Today you can’t make that movie because it’s not politically correct,” Trump said.
Speaking to NBC, Trump said those US jurisdictions with “the strongest, the most stringent laws [on gun control] are in almost every case the worst places. It doesn’t seem to work.”
Instead, at both rally and in the interview, as on the day of the shooting, the Republican frontrunner blamed mental illness for such shootings as that at Umpqua Community College.
That's the kind of thing Republicans believe about guns --- that they will be Charles Bronson if someone threatens them with a gun. Or Wyatt Earp -- who, by the way, confiscated guns in Dodge City. It's just braindead nonsense.
Discontent is simmering out there. Donald Trump is one proof. Bernie Sanders is another. The New York Times' Patrick Healy looks at how discontent manifests itself among liberal-leaning voters:
Interviews with three dozen Democrats in key early states — a mix of undecided voters and Sanders and Clinton supporters — laid bare a sense of hopelessness that their leaders had answers to problems like income inequality and gun violence. It is frustration that Mr. Sanders, a senator from Vermont, and other progressive candidates are channeling and that Mrs. Clinton has addressed with increasing passion, as when she responded to Thursday’s massacre at an Oregon college by saying she was “just sick of this.”
Healy reports that similar insurgencies against party-blessed candidates have also popped up in Florida, Illinois and Pennsylvania. Why? Because gun violence is not the only thing Democratic voters are sick of.
The disaffection among Democrats flows mainly from three sources, according to interviews with voters and strategists. Disappointment lingers with President Obama over the failure to break up big banks after the Great Recession and fight for single-payer health insurance, among other liberal causes. Fatigue with Mrs. Clinton’s controversies endures, as does distaste with her connections to the rich. And anger abounds at party leaders for not pursuing an ideologically pure, economically populist agenda.
Karen Bryant from New Boston, N.H. gets down to the kitchen-table aspect of the problem: “There’s just so much hopelessness about people having any real opportunity to just make a living, take care of their families, support themselves.”
David Atkins looks at the issue from a different angle for Political Animal. Voters once called "Middle American Radicals" are sick of the middle class "being disadvantaged by a focus on both the rich and the poor." Atkins writes:
I particularly remember a series of focus groups I conducted among undecided, infrequent minority voters who were almost universally angry with food stamp and welfare programs because they worked full-time jobs and made just a little too much to qualify for them. They were angry that friends and neighbors of theirs were able to get assistance from the government, and they themselves were being “punished” for working. These were still liberal-leaning voters who were not going to vote for Republicans anytime soon because of their racism and because they wanted those welfare programs to continue to exist in case they themselves lost their job—but it didn’t change their angry perception that American government, in their eyes, seemed to advantage both the rich and the poor at the expense of the middle class.
And, predictably, the effect tends to be even greater among more comfortable white voters, who often have an unrealistically romantic idea of what being unemployed and on welfare is really like.
If white voters need any primer on that, Rolling Stone provided an invaluable look at that in 2012. But they also have an unrealistically romantic idea of how politics works.
It’s an artifact of America’s peculiar winner-take-all political system that we only have two functional parties. Economically, this means that the conservative party works to align the middle class with the wealthy against the poor, while the liberal party works to align the poor and the middle class against the rich. But the middle class ideally wants to promote its own interests above all, and all too often it seems to them like no one is doing that.
Dissatisfaction with the political parties and the economic system form common ground. Sanders' disaffected masses and Trump's share many of the same complaints, just different subsets of scapegoats. The problem is, both groups of voters are still shopping for a new boss that won't be the same as the old boss. Obama was supposed to fill that role for Democrats when he took office in 2009. But when Obama effectively told supporters, "I got this," they let him. They left the political battlefield and went back to trying to get by. The lesson still hasn't sunk in. Unless it does, they'll do the same again with whomever the Democrats elect.
Sanders says we need a political revolution. He's right. It's not just an electoral revolution. It has to be a revolution in thinking about politics.
Sultans of shock, moguls of schlock, & masters of rock: A trio of docs
By Dennis Hartley
Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon ***
Not that anyone asked (or gives a rat’s ass), but if pressed to name the Holy Trinity of influences on my work over the years as a radio personality, stand-up comic and writer, I would cite The Firesign Theatre, Monty Python and The National Lampoon (gee…can you tell that my formative years were the late 60s thru the mid-70s?). If there is one thing the Trinity has in common, it’s a strict adherence to the #1 rule of comedy: Nothing is Sacred. It’s no coincidence that the aforementioned flourished concurrently, in the early to mid-70s; if they were coming on the scene only now with original comic sensibilities intact, the P.C. police would have them all sitting on Death Row within a matter of hours.
Long before YouTube, we pawed through things called “humor magazines” for a laugh fix. They were made from trees, printed with ink, and purchased from comically tiny brick and mortar stores called “newsstands”. If I saw something really funny in the magazine that I had to share with my friends, I would have to literally share the magazine with my friends. Which is why I wasn’t surprised to learn that the publishers of The National Lampoon developed the following formula to determine readership: the number of subscribers, x 12 (the number of people an average subscriber shared their copy with).
This is one of the fun facts in Douglas Tirola’s breezy documentary, Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon. After a perfunctory preface about roots in the venerable Harvard Lampoon, Tirola devotes most of his film profiling the magazine’s original gang of editors and writers, which included Doug Kenney, Henry Beard, P.J. O’Rourke, Michael O’Donoghue, Chris Miller, Tony Hendra, and (future screenwriter/film director) John Hughes. He does a nice job of tracing how the magazine’s subversive mashup of highbrow Ivy League irony and lowbrow frat boy vulgarity begat Saturday Night Live (many of that show’s first batch of writers and performers were recruited from Lampoon’s magazine, LPs and stage productions), which in turn begat Animal House; precipitating a paradigm shift in a generation’s comic id that resonates to this day. Whether that’s for better or worse depends on your sense of humor.
(Currently in limited release and available on VOD).
Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films **1/2
In dissecting the “art” of cinema, one can very easily bang on all day about narrative construct, auteur theory, lighting, camera angles, tracking shots, meow meow, woof woof…but you know what “they” say: all that artifice and a dime will buy you a cup of coffee. Let’s get real for a moment. At the end of the day, it’s still show business. And business is all about making money…amirite, boychick? And movies are basically about make-believe, right? So bottom line, what we really need here is ideas, bubbeleh, ideas! Ideas that sell tickets, and put asses in seats! With that in mind, here’s a crystalline distillation of all film theory, from one of the interviewees in Mark Hartley’s uneven but generally engaging Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films: “[Producer Menahem Golan] would make shit up…and then we’d film it.” See? Simple!
Mr. Golan and his cousin, Yoram Globus were two movie nuts who grew up in their native Israel dreaming about one day moving to America and becoming Hollywood moguls (which they in fact ended up doing…sort of). Golan directed several films in the late 70s, including one genuine cult item that (depending on who you ask) occasionally threatens to unseat Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space as “Worst Movie of All Time”…the 1979 sci-fi disco musical, The Apple (oy!). Hartley’s film primarily focuses on Golan and Globus’ joint tenure as the honchos of Cannon Films from 1979 until 1989.
During that period, the pair gained a rep for crankin’ ‘em out fast and cheap; as someone in the film observes, “[the money] was all up there on the screen.” That doesn’t necessarily guarantee that what ended up on that screen was eminently watchable, but it was product. And apparently somebody was buying tickets, because they had a “golden period” once they perfected their formula (mostly involving profitable overseas sales).
One thing I had forgotten is that Cannon accidentally made some good films during that period: Love Streams, The Company of Wolves, Runaway Train, Otello, 52 Pick-Up, Street Smart, Tough Guys Don’t Dance, Barfly, Powaqqatsi, and A Cry in the Dark. But again, that’s a relative handful among hundreds like The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood, Hospital Massacre, Revenge of the Ninja, Bolero, Hercules, Sahara, Death Wish 3 and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. Not to mention Cannon’s culpability in jumpstarting the careers of Chuck Norris, Dolph Lundgren, and Jean-Claude Van Damme (j’accuse!).
While Cannon’s Golan-Globus era indeed makes for quite a “wild story”, it unfortunately morphs from “untold” into “retold one too many times” early on. About halfway through I began to tire of yet one more anecdote from a former associate that illustrates how flinty and eccentric the cousins were (we get it, already!). On the plus side, you can always elect to turn off your brain and revel in the guilty pleasure of all those campy film clips.
When former British PM Margaret Thatcher died in 2013, Digby did a great post about how the populist backlash against Thatcherism provided fertile ground for the Agit Punk movement in the UK (I wrote a companion piece on Thatcherism’s likewise effect on film makers). One of the best bands of that era was The Jam. Formed in 1976, the three lads from Woking (guitarist/lead vocalist Paul Weller, bassist/vocalist Bruce Foxton, and drummer Rick Buckler) exploded onto the scene with their seminal album, In the City. The eponymous single became their signature tune and remains a punk pop anthem. While initially lumped in with contemporaries like The Sex Pistols and The Clash, the band was operating in a different sphere; specifically regarding their musical influences.
What set Weller and his bandmates apart was their open adulation of The Beatles, The Who, The Kinks, The Small Faces and the Motown sound. At the time, this was heresy; as astutely pointed out in The Jam: About the Young Idea (a rockumentary that premiered on Showtime this week), you had to dismiss any music released prior to 1976, if you wished to retain your punk cred. In the film, Weller recalls having a conversation with Joe Strummer of The Clash, who told him (in effect) that all of Chuck Berry’s music was crap. “Oh Joe…you don’t really mean that,” Weller replies rhetorically into the camera.
Also on hand are Foxton and Buckler, who still register palpable sadness while recalling their reaction to Weller’s unexpected announcement to them in 1982 (at the height of their greatest chart success) that he was quitting the band to pursue new musical avenues. Weller is philosophical; he argues it’s always best to go out on top (as Neil Young said, it’s better to burn out than fade away). Director Bob Smeaton (The Beatles Anthology) does a marvelous job telling the band’s story, sustaining a positive energy throughout by mixing in a generous helping of vintage performance clips. This is a must-see for fans.
(Playing this month on Showtime; check your local listings)
A friendly reminder as we talk about the Republican lying phenomenon:
The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." ... "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.
It helps to remember that as we try to sort things out in the post-modern conservative world.