Category Archives: Health

Industrial Farming: Expensive, Inefficient and Dangerous

But let’s do it anyway, shall we? Let’s eliminate family farms despite the fact that on only 25% of the planet’s arable land, family farms provide about 70% of the world’s food while the industrial farms of Big Agro own 75% of the land and produce only 30% of the food supply.

Yessir, that’s the right system for us.

The world is increasingly hungry because small farmers are losing access to farmland. Small farmers produce most of the world’s food but are now squeezed onto less than 25 percent of the world’s farmland, a new report reveals. Corporate and commercial farms, big biofuel operations and land speculators are pushing millions off their land.

“Small farmers are losing land at a tremendous rate. It’s a land reform movement in reverse,” said Henk Hobbelink, coordinator of GRAIN, an international non-profit organisation that works to support small farmers, which released the report Thursday.

Nothing about this way of handling a basic human need makes sense. The rationale for allowing industrial farming has always been its supposed efficiency and ability to increase the food supply. Yet a new study by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization shows quite clearly that industrial agriculture is inefficient, wasteful, dangerous, and a breeding ground for speculators. So why are we doing it? All over the world?

If all farms in Central America matched the output of small farms the region would produce three times as much food, the report said.

“Every day we are exposed to the systematic expulsion from our land,” said Marina Dos Santos of the National Coordination of the Brazilian Landless Movement.

We’re doing it because we’ve given up fighting the money. They own the world’s governments, they make the rules, they do whatever makes the most profit the quickest, and we get out of their way and let them do it even though it means destroying more than building and we get starved in the process.

Might be we ought to reconsider that strategy before we’re all living on cat food.

 

Chickenshit Democrats Attack Food Supply…Again. Literally. (Updated)

This is almost unbelievable.

Chicken contaminated with chicken manure is one likely result to come from the ag department’s dangerous and ridiculous determination to privatize poultry inspection in some 200 processing plants across the country. Currently, government inspectors – who’re professionally-trained in food safety – are stationed along the processing lines in the factory operations of such giants as Tyson Foods. They examine the birds for diseases and visible defects, including – yes – contamination by feces.

But the Obamacans have a “modernization” plan to remove these skilled, independent inspectors and let corporations police their own lines with untrained company hirelings. In addition, the privatization scheme would allow the poultry plants to speed up their lines to an absurd 175-birds-per-minute!

I said almost unbelievable. If I hadn’t, years ago, given up on Obama proving to be something other than a tame corporate shill, this would feel like a betrayal. As it is, I just sighed, “Of course.”

More of the Myth and one of the reasons corporate-owned Pubs spent so much spreading it around. “Govt is bad, corporations can do a better job policing themselves if we just leave them alone” is the kind of thinking that certainly makes it easier for corporations to dump govt inspections (after having paid the appropriate bribes to the appropriate officials and pols, of course), which means, of course, there will be no inspections at all, thus no possibility that profits will be lost due to nasty govt refusing to let them sell – at full price, mind you – spoiled food or food full of, you know, poisons and nuclear waste and shit and what not. Of course.

Apparently it isn’t enough for the Democrats to let agrocorps make our food unsafe, now they have to let them make it lethal. I hope the Dems are getting a good price for poisoning us. Because that’s what’s important here.


Update:

Obviously this is less important than it might at first appear.

Among the ostensibly “non-essential” services on hold during the government shutdown is the Food and Drug Administration’s food inspection program. Within the country, as the Huffington Post points out, that means as many as 80 food production facilities each day may be going uninspected (although an FDA spokesman clarified that an unclear portion of those will be carried out by state agriculture and public health departments).

Yes. Well.

 

Chickens, Roost – You Know the Drill

Apparently it’s finally dawning on Republicans that redistricting to win seats has its limitations. There comes a point when even your supporters have had enough destruction and death.

Their problems are threefold and intertwined. First, the GOP has become effectively agenda-less, advocating policies that lack popular support, and that they quite possibly couldn’t execute even if they controlled the government entirely.

Second, as Politico honchos Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen explain, “The party is hurting itself even more with the very voters they need to start winning back: Hispanics, blacks, gays, women and swing voters of all stripes.” That’s partially a consequence of theiragenda-less-ness, and partially a consequence of its members’ propensity to say things and advocate ideas that further alienate women and minorities.

Third, a combination of chance and poor decisions will turn the coming midterm into a referendum on issues custom tailored to energize Democratic demographics that tend to sit out midterms.

Actually there are four problems, not three. Number 4 is that it isn’t just that their policies “lack popular support”. It’s that their policies are batshit crazy and as destructive as a plague. Continue reading

A Life of Sacrifice

All the great philosophers and theologians since the time of the [early] Greeks have lauded the sacrifice of one’s self and one’s possessions for the sake of the greater good of others as the most honorable action a man can take. Therefore, the great thinkers of the modern rich right wing have implemented a society which makes it not only a privilege for you to sacrifice for the greater oligarchic good but a necessity, thus insuring your entrance into, if not saintliness then at least acceptability within the servant class.

The recent Supreme Court decision allowing the Constitutionality of Obama’s health care bill can be seen as a case in point. With no effort on your part and despite whatever qualms you may have about the way the bill tends to subvert, deny or delay actual treatment, you will be required to pay health insurance corpo’s a sizable chunk of your income for advising you that your illness isn’t covered. (That’s apparently in the Constitution somewhere.)

In this way you will be allowed to sacrifice not just your income but your health for the good of insurance corpo’s whose profits are not yet obscene enough to cause riots. Which seems to be their goal.

Don’t let yourselves be taken in by the appearance of unrestricted greed. Remember, they’re doing it for you, not to you.

If Democrat Healthcare “Reform” Was Applied to Other Kinds of Insurance

Life Insurance

1) “I’m sorry but your husband died of cancer and that’s not on our Approved Causes List.”

“Approved Causes List? What causes of death do you approve?”

“Strangulation by an enraged artichoke.”

Pause.

“Um, is that all?”

“Yes. We consider everything else to be uncovered.”

Consumer flips frantically through several hundred pages of Coverage Information. “It doesn’t say anything about artichokes in here.”

“No. You should have asked.”

“About artichokes?”

“It was your responsibility. Don’t look at me. The Congress says so.”

***

Continue reading

Dump the Dems 11: Sibelius Says Obama’s Going to Fix It So There Can NEVER Be National Health

I’m getting a bit confused. On hand #1 Obama says he thinks we need a “public health option” if for no other reason than to take care of the people the insurance companies don’t want. On hand #2, his HHS Sec, Kathleen Sibelius, told NPR yesterday that all public health options are “off the table”, that they ought to be because single payer is “a bad direction to go” and, furthermore (just in case the insurance companies Rahm wants donating to the Democrats next year had any doubts or fears) that the president – the president elected by the people who are the 60+% percent who want single payer – has no plans at all to create one. None. (Via DCblogger at corrente)

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says that a single-payer option is not on the table.

“This is not a trick. This is not single-payer,” Sebelius told Steve Inskeep. She added: “That’s not what anyone is talking about — mostly because the president feels strongly, as I do, that dismantling private health coverage for the 180 million Americans that have it, discouraging more employers from coming into the marketplace, is really the bad, you know, is a bad direction to go.”

***

Asked if the administration’s program will be drafted specifically to prevent it from evolving into a single-payer plan, Sebelius says: “I think that’s very much the case, and again, if you want anybody to convince people of that, talk to the single-payer proponents who are furious that the single-payer idea is not part of the discussion.”

(emphasis added)

The single payer option exists primarily as a threat (which is what we said it was), a stalking horse to scare the health insurance companies into line, Sibelius confirmed, even though she admitted that Medicare shows a real public option is demonstrably cheaper. Continue reading

The Mind of a Biologist: Big Meanings in Tiny Animals

It’s hard to know where to begin with a book like Lewis Thomas’ The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher. As slim as a mystery novella (the chapters are very short, the longest a bare 9 pgs), Lives of a Cell is packed with low-key language that disguises world-changing ideas. It took me a week to read a book that would ordinarily have taken a day simply because each short chapter generated so much I needed to think about that I couldn’t digest more than one at a time. It was like eating a meal so brilliantly prepared, balanced, and spiced that even though there wasn’t much bulk to each course one didn’t want to disturb the pleasure of the last by moving onto the next until one’s mouth and taste buds had been thoroughly cleansed and were ready for the richness to follow.

For instance, the two macro-notions that more or less underpin the book each could – and most likely have – engendered many deep philosophical works that discussed the ins and outs, pros and cons from the many different directions each of them suggests. I can’t possibly do justice to them here. I barely have the space to explain them let alone the many and various lines of thought they open up.

For example, one of the book’s two major themes is the idea that it is possible that mankind is a sort of superorganism, that, like certain kinds of social insects, when organized into a social marcrocosm we become, like ants and termites, capable of far more than we could ever hope to accomplish on our own – when we are operating on what he calls “our conjoined intelligence”. In the chapter titled “On Societies as Organisms” he writes:

Ants are so much like human beings as to be an embarrassment. They farm fungi, raise aphids as livestock, launch armies into wars, use chemical sprays to alarm and confuse enemies, capture slaves. The familes of weaver ants engage in child labor, holding their larvae like shuttles to spin out the thread that sews the leaves together for their fungus garden. They exchange information ceaselessly. They do everything but watch television.

***

A solitary ant, afield, cannot be considered to have much of anything on his mind; indeed, with only a few neurons strung together by fibers, he can’t be imagined to have a mind at all, much less a thought. He is more like a ganglion on legs. Four ants together, or ten, encircling a dead moth on a path, begin to look more like an idea. They fumble and shove, gradually moving the food toward the Hill, but as though by blind chance. It is only when you watch the dense mass of thousands of ants, crowded together around the Hill, blackening the ground, that you begin to see the whole beast, and now you observe it thinking, planning, calculating. It is an intelligence, a kind of live computer, with crawling bits for its wits.

The concept of mankind as a single organism unaccountably split into its component parts with each individual retaining its species cohesion while at the same time celebrating itself as the owner of a unique piece of the puzzle is not new. The entomologist William Morton Wheeler coined the term “superorganism” in 1911 to explain the phenomenon of insect intelligence when grouped together and science fiction writers have been playing with the idea ever since. The most recent well-known example is probably the Borg. But for a biologist to be toying with such an unorthodox interpretation of scientific data is unusual in 2008 and was near unheard of in the 70’s when this book was written.

Nor is that the only heretical idea Mr Thomas had up his sleeve. Continue reading

White House Proves Alzheimer’s a Virus

There has been no scientific evidence of it up to now but recent developments in the Congress have, I believe, proved fairly conclusively that Alzheimer’s is viral in nature and suggests that the carrier of this dread disease is none other than Alberto Gonzales.

Consider: ever since Gonzo’s first appearance before the House Judiciary Committee when he uttered the phrases “I don’t remember” or “I can’t recall” some 55 times in the course of the first 2 hours, a rash of Administration witnesses have appeared who were unable to remember key sections of their lives.  Monica Goodling, GSA Administrator Lurita Doan, Kyle Sampson, and what seems like dozens of others appear to have lost access to their memory centers, saying they “can’t recall” who they are, what they’re doing in the White House, or what exactly the “Constitution” might be. 

Mr Gonzales’ case seems from his latest testimony to have advanced to the stage where he can barely remember his own name. He can’t describe his position, his duties, or his role in the government, answering as if he thinks he works for Karl Rove in the political office. He became confused whenever anyone referred to him as the “Attorney General”, insisting that he worked for the president directly in much the same capacity as Bebe Rebozo used to work directly for Nixon – getting him coffee, fluffing his pillows, and answering “Yes sir” to anything Bush says.

Continue reading

Cardinal Demands Catholics Stop Supporting Amnesty International

The National Catholic Register reports that the president of the apparently ironically named Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal Renato Martino, is telling Catholics they should withdraw all support from Amnesty International. Three guesses why and you won’t need the last two.

Abortion has driven a wedge between the Catholic Church and an organization that began as an ally.

Amnesty International (AI) was founded in 1961 by Peter Benenson, a British convert to Catholicism. But today, as a result of Amnesty International’s recent decision to promote abortion rights, Church leaders say that Catholics should withdraw all financial support from the London-based human-rights organization.

“I believe that, if in fact Amnesty International persists in this course of action, individuals and Catholic organizations must withdraw their support, because, in deciding to promote abortion rights, AI has betrayed its mission,” Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said in an e-mail interview.

(emphasis added)

Sadly, a man I used to greatly respect for his dedication to justice for all has caved in to his church’s primeval stance.

The abortion policy has already cost Amnesty International the support of one long-time Catholic backer: Jesuit Father Daniel Berrigan.

Said Father Berrigan, “One cannot support an organization financially or even individually that is contravening something very serious in our ethic.”

This was a man who fought for the right of Catholic Americans to divorce, who supported Bill Baird when he was illegally passing out condoms in public, and who supported Roe v Wade because he had seen the results of too many back-alley abortions. After being beaten about the head and shoulders with the blunt instrument of ultra-conservative Catholicism for 40 years, he has apparently had enough. Perhaps Benedict threatened to ex-communicate him if he didn’t publicly renounce AI, I don’t know.

Continue reading

Leavitt Asks to Meet with Dead Senator

From the WaPo:

Maybe Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt and his staff are just in denial. Or maybe they don’t read the papers, thus missing the sad news that Sen. Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.) died Monday, seven months after he was diagnosed with leukemia.

Whatever the case, Leavitt’s office called Thomas’s office late Thursday afternoon to request a meeting with the late senator.

Needless to say, grief-stricken Thomas staffers were stunned. One aide to Thomas sent the following e-mail to a friend (both names have been redacted):

From: (Thomas staffer) <@thomas.senate.gov>
To: (Staffer’s friend)
Sent: Thu Jun 07 16:49:36 2007
Subject: RE:

Oh yeah, note to Secretary Levitt’s [sic] office: Senator Thomas passed on Monday, 4 June. You may want to pass that along to his staff especially after they called today to get a meeting with the late Senator.

Call me if you’d like, really unbelievable!

These guys are so deep in the bubble, so insensitive to anything going on outside it, that they didn’t even know Thomas – a Republican, one of their own – was sick, let alone that he had died. An HHS flack tried to put the best spin possible on it, of course.

HHS spokeswoman Christina Pearson says she does not know who from the agency called Thomas’s office to set up a meeting but she acknowledged “obviously it’s a mistake.” She added, “Senator Thomas is held in the highest regard by the secteray [sic] and this office.”

Such high regard that they couldn’t be bothered to find out that he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer 7 months ago, let alone that he had died. Somebody was ordered to arrange a meeting because they needed him for something. Until the moment they wanted use him, they couldn’t care less.

Continue reading

Liz’s Cancer and the Edwards Campaign (Updated)

Twenty-three years ago this week, my mother died of a liver cancer that had been eating away at her for more than a decade. She was diagnosed relatively early but treatment modalities were primitive and not terribly effective in cases like hers. Liver cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and bone cancer were, in those days, little less than death sentences.

At the time there were new, experimental treatments cancer specialists were trying to work the kinks out of. When she realized that she was considered terminal, my mother insisted on volunteering for them. My father went along with her, and signed her into the Deaconess Hospital in Boston, which was associated with Sloan-Kettering and the best hospital in New England for cancer research and treatment.

For the next 10 years, she was in and out of the Deaconess undergoing a series of treatments, primarily chemo and radiation therapy. The cancer would go into remission, come back, go away again. She would have a few healthy months, and then it would reappear, sapping her strength. Once it went into remission for almost three years. That was a good time. The doctors said if it stayed away for 5 years, there was a good chance my mom had beaten it for good. We thought – we hoped – she had.

But she hadn’t, of course. A year after that long remission ended, she was dead.

A little over four years ago, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. It was an early catch but I didn’t know what that meant. I thought I was walking around dead.

I went into the hospital at noon and was in the “recovery room” – a glorified corridor lined with gurneys – by 2pm. I wanted to leave but the nurses wouldn’t let me. They insisted I rest for at least 2 hrs, and as I was still woozy, I let them have their way. By 4.30pm I was out of the hospital and on my way home. The cancer was gone and it hasn’t returned.

I told you all that so I could tell you this:

The surprise – and occasional expression of disgust – engendered by John Edwards’ announcement that his wife, Liz, has bone cancer but that he is not going to abandon his campaign on that account, is rooted, I think, in the old perception that cancer is an automatic death sentence.

It isn’t any more. Even granting that her condition is incurable, it is, by the Edwards’ own statement, “treatable”.

Continue reading

Injured Soldiers Denied Disability Pay

Capitol Hill Blue is reporting that nearly a third of the National Guard soldiers and Army reservists injured in Iraq are being denied disability, and at least one soldier says Army physicians falsified his medical records to do it.

Jesus Oliveras, a chief warrant officer in an Augusta, Ga., reserve unit, was among those ordered back to duty without compensation.Oliveras said doctors wrote on his records that he had a hearing loss. He contends they gave little recognition to his real problems: debilitating back and shoulder injuries. Despite those injuries, the maintenance technician volunteered for service in Iraq.

“At times I felt lousy, as a second-class citizen, especially coming from a war zone,” Oliveras said. “They sent us to fight an enemy and when we returned, we had to fight another enemy – us.”

Less than 10% of the injured reservists who apply for disability get it, a lower ratio by far than any of the other ‘regular’ military services.

Lavoda Anderson of Ninety-Six, S.C., said she suffered a life-altering injury to her back while under fire in Iraq last year. In constant pain, she was jolted anew when the Army calculated her compensation for medical retirement at $13,400.”I feel I was treated very unfairly,” said Anderson, who did not return to her prewar job as a dialysis technician and is raising her 4-year-old daughter. “I didn’t get adequate care. I feel like I’m useless most of the time.”

Brower, the lawyer for the Army disability agency, said, “You can’t give higher disability ratings to soldiers who you feel emotionally deserve it. It would be nice to give every soldier 100 percent (disability), but as a taxpayer, you might not like that.”

As a taxpayer, we’re going to end up paying $$$500Bil$$$ for this war, but we wouldn’t support using some of that to support shanghaied soldiers injured in our behalf as opposed to, say, Halliburton’s outrageous overcharging for its minimal and shoddy work in Iraq? Bullshit.

Spc. John Ramsey, a deputy sheriff in Orange County, Fla., had medical bills in the thousands of dollars and was dogged by creditors. Meanwhile, the state and federal governments fought over responsibility for his shoulder injuries suffered in Iraq.”My wife and I and two kids were put through hell because of this,” Ramsey said.

Sgt. John Beard of Jacksonville, Fla., who returned from Iraq with shrapnel wounds in his back, legs and face, said he painfully waited in long lines for processing. On one occasion, confronting an irritable soldier handling pay records, Beard said, “I snatched my orders out of his hands and left.”

Staff Sgt. Dwayne Fitzpatrick of Orlando, Fla., won his appeal of an initial offer of a one-time, $23,000 severance payment. He qualified instead for a disability payment of $1,300 a month.

“They dangle some money in your face, so many soldiers will take it and run,” he said. “They low-ball everybody. I’m looking at the long term.”

We’re ‘low-balling’ troops injured in our war and high-balling war profiteers? What’s wrong with this picture?

Bush’s FDA Attacks Consumers in Court

The Bush Admin’s FDA is arguing in court to unilaterally reverse laws passed by Congress. Their aim is to protect pharmaceutical companies–B/C’s second biggest campaign contributors after the energy industry–from lawsuits arising from design flaws or shoddy workmanship in their medical devices. FDA lawyers are claiming that laws which establish ‘minimum Federal standards’ actually establish maximums, which is bad enough, but they then go on to insist that if a manufacturer meets those standards, it is therefore immune to prosecution even if the device is faulty, even if it kills people.

WASHINGTON, July 24 — The Bush administration has been going to court to block lawsuits by consumers who say they have been injured by prescription drugs and medical devices.The administration contends that consumers cannot recover damages for such injuries if the products have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. In court papers, the Justice Department acknowledges that this position reflects a “change in governmental policy,” and it has persuaded some judges to accept its arguments, most recently scoring a victory in the federal appeals court in Philadelphia.

Allowing consumers to sue manufacturers would “undermine public health” and interfere with federal regulation of drugs and devices, by encouraging “lay judges and juries to second-guess” experts at the F.D.A., the government said in siding with the maker of a heart pump sued by the widow of a Pennsylvania man. Moreover, it said, if such lawsuits succeed, some good products may be removed from the market, depriving patients of beneficial treatments.


Jay P. Lefkowitz, former director of Mr. Bush’s Domestic Policy Council, said the F.D.A.’s litigation strategy embodied “good health policy and good tort reform.”But Representative Maurice D. Hinchey, Democrat of New York, said the administration had “taken the F.D.A. in a radical new direction, seeking to protect drug companies instead of the public.” Mr. Hinchey recently persuaded the House to cut $500,000 from the budget of the agency’s chief counsel as a penalty for its aggressive opposition to consumer lawsuits.

In the Pennsylvania ruling, issued Tuesday, the appeals court threw out a lawsuit filed by Barbara E. Horn, who said her husband had died because of defects in the design and manufacture of his heart pump. The Bush administration argued that federal law barred such claims because the device had been produced according to federal specifications. In its briefs, the administration conceded that “the views stated here differ from the views that the government advanced in 1997,” in the United States Supreme Court.

At that time, the government said that F.D.A. approval of a medical device set the minimum standard, and that states could provide “additional protection to consumers.” Now the Bush administration argues that the agency’s approval of a device “sets a ceiling as well as a floor.”

The administration said its position, holding that individual consumers have no right to sue, actually benefited consumers.

Don’t you love it? Day is actually night, up is really down, black is basically white if you look at it from the right angle, and truth has no meaning except as an obstacle to be overcome by pretending it doesn’t exist. So an attack on consumer rights is suddenly beneficial for consumers. Right.

The horror of this is that some courts are buying this shit.

In the Pennsylvania case, the federal appeals court quoted extensively from the administration’s brief and said the views of the F.D.A. were entitled to great deference because the agency was “uniquely qualified” to determine when federal law should take precedence over state law.Bush administration officials said their goal was not to shield drug companies, but to vindicate the federal government’s authority to regulate drug products.

Patients and their families said they felt betrayed.

I bet. And don’t you think they weren’t. Betraying consumers is one of the things the BA does best. And most consistently.

Children With Mental Disabilities Jailed

The consequences of the radcons ‘starve the beast’ strategy can be ugly. In a recent speech, Bill Moyers said:

These deficits have been part of their strategy. Some of you will remember that Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan tried to warn us 20 years ago, when he predicted that President Ronald Reagan’s real strategy was to force the government to cut domestic social programs by fostering federal deficits of historic dimensions. Reagan’s own budget director, David Stockman, admitted as much. Now the leading rightwing political strategist, Grover Norquist, says the goal is to “starve the beast” — with trillions of dollars in deficits resulting from trillions of dollars in tax cuts, until the United States Government is so anemic and anorexic it can be drowned in the bathtub.There’s no question about it….

No, there isn’t, and in the real world, not the FantasyLand of Publican ‘optimism’, this is what it means:

WASHINGTON, July 7 – Congressional investigators said Wednesday that 15,000 children with psychiatric disorders were improperly incarcerated last year because no mental health services were available.The figures were compiled by the Democratic staff of the House Committee on Government Reform in the first such nationwide survey of juvenile detention centers.

“The use of juvenile detention facilities to warehouse children with mental disorders is a serious national problem,” said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, who sought the survey with Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California.

The study, presented at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, found that children as young as 7 were incarcerated because of a lack of access to mental health care. More than 340 detention centers, two-thirds of those that responded to the survey, said youths with mental disorders were being locked up because there was no place else for them to go while awaiting treatment. Seventy-one centers in 33 states said they were holding mentally ill youngsters with no charges. (emphasis added)

Social Darwinism in action is not a pretty sight. It isn’t forgivable, either.

Conservative Christians Pull Bush Strings

Two years ago, ultra-conservative Christian fanatics forced Junior–not that he wouldn’t have done it anyway–to cut off the US share of financing intended to support the UN’s family planning/population control efforts. Charging that providing birth control information was virtually the same as advocating abortion (a standard anti-abortion tactic), they intimidated the Admin into withholding $34Mil in funds for the UN agency responsible for those efforts. Now, under intense election-year pressure from the same radical conservative Christian groups, the BA is threatening every govt or agency that works with them.

Pressed by opponents of abortion, the administration withdrew its support from a major international conference on health issues this month and has privately warned other groups, like Unicef, that address health issues that their financing could be jeopardized if they insist on working with the agency, the United Nations Population Fund.The administration also has indicated that it hopes to persuade the United Nations’ Latin American caucus to back away from a common position on population and development that was adopted in Santiago, Chile, in March on the grounds that the document’s discussion of reproductive rights could be interpreted as promoting abortion.

The actions are part of an administration effort to ensure that international agencies and private groups do not promote abortions overseas. In its first days in office, the Bush administration reintroduced the Reagan-era that critics call the “global gag rule,” which denies money to groups that even discuss abortion as an option, except in cases that threaten life or involve rape or incest.


The administration’s position has frustrated some United Nations officials and family planning advocates, who have complained that advances in education and awareness on reproductive issues are being undermined by the United States, where abortion is legal. Those critics, most of whom spoke anonymously because the United States government is the leading contributor to their agencies, charged that the administration was pandering to conservative supporters, and said that doing so placed the United States in alliance with tradition-bound Islamic countries and the Holy See.

Radical conservative religious groups are, in effect, holding US participation in efforts to slow global population growth hostage to their private beliefs, beliefs not shared by a good deal of the world’s population. Not that that bothers them any. But for once the Democrats aren’t standing mute on the sidelines waiting for the whole thing to blow over.

In a letter to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell on Friday, four Democratic members of Congress demanded a legal explanation for withholding money from the fund and for the “threatened defunding of the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund.”Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, a New York Democrat at the fore of efforts to restore support to the fund, said the administration was jeopardizing programs in women’s and family health that should not be considered contentious.

“When will the president’s right wing be satisfied – when they close down the U.N.?” she asked, adding that the tough White House stance contrasts with its appeals to the United Nations for help in the Iraq war

Not to put too fine a point on it, Carolyn: Yes, that’s exactly what they want, and No, they still won’t be satisfied. These groups are almost all closet theocrats and the truth is they won’t be satisfied until the US is a theocracy run by fundamentalist ministers instead of secular politicians. While their feral opposition to abortion is genuine, it’s also a stalking-horse, a way in through the backdoor for religious control of politics first, and later of the govt itself, openly and literally turning the US into a ‘Christian nation’.

Whether Junior wins or loses, keeping them at bay will be our next great challenge.