Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Heck of a job, Al

It is reassuring to know that Bush has even more confidence that Alberto Gonzales is doing his job, after seeing Gonzales' testimony in front of the senate last week.

Leaving aside the fact that Bush's press secretary admitted, right after saying Bush was satisfied Gonzales' testimony, that Bush had not actually seen Al's testimony. That was last week, maybe Bush has watched the hearing since that press conference.

The real question I have is just what job did Bush hire Al to do. Maybe he was hired to lie to the American people and Congress and generally shed no light on anything the Justice Department has been involved in since he was named Attorney General. If that is his job description, I can see why Bush is so pleased with Al's performance.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

health care for the poor

Below is a statement which I lifted from Pathologies of Power by Paul Farmer. It is a public statement by a group of poor rural Haitians published in 2001. I think that it raises many good points which we should all ponder. Most poignantly, it asks "is every human being not a person?", and states "The right to health is a right to life. Everyone has a right to live."

Something is very wrong with our public health systems. Miracles for those with limitless resources. Very little, or nothing, for the poor. This statement makes the case that public health and access to medical care our human rights. Perhaps if we could view access to health care as inalienable as freedom of speech we might structure our national health care system in a more equatable manner, and also work to make the global health care system more equatable.

It is we who are sick; it is therefore we who take responsibility to declare our suffering, our misery, and our pain as well as our hope. We hear many poignant statements about our circumstances, but feel compelled to say something clearer and more resounding than what we have heard from others.

[We] are fortunate to have access to medications and health care even though we do not have money to buy them. Many of our health problems have been resolved with [antiretroviral] medications. Given how dire our situation was prior to treatment, we have benefited greatly. But while we feel fortunate to have access to these services, we feel great sadness for others who don't receive the same treatment as we do.

And in addition to our health problems, we have other tribulations. Although less preoccupied with our illnesses, we still have problems paying for housing. We have trouble finding employment. We remain concerned about sending our children to school. Each day we face the distressing reality that we cannot find the means to support them. Not being able to feed our children is the greatest challenge faced by mothers and fathers across the country of Haiti. We have learned that such calamities occur also in other countries. As we reflect on all these tragedies we must ask: is every human being not a person?

Yes, all human beings are people. It is we, the afflicted, who speak now. We have come together... to discuss the great difficulties facing the sick. We've also brought some ideas of our own in our knapsacks; we would like them with you, the authorities, in the hope that you might do something to help resolve the health problems of the poor.

When we the sick, living with AIDS, speak to the subject of "health and human rights," we are aware of two rights that ought to be indivisible and inalienable. Those who are sick should have the right to health care. We who are already infected believe in prevention too. But prevention will not save those who are already ill. All people need treatment when we are sick, but for the poor there are no clinics, no doctors, no nurses, no health care.

Furthermore, the medications now available are too expensive. For HIV treatment, for example, we read in the newspapers that treatment cost less than $600 per year [in developing countries]. Although that is what is quoted in press releases, here in a poor, small country like Haiti, it costs more than twice that much.

The right to health is the right to life. Everyone has a right to live. If we were not living in misery, but rather in decent poverty, many of us would not be in this predicament today....

We have a message for the people who are here and for all those able to hear our plea. We are asking for your solidarity. The battle we're fighting - to find adequate care for those with AIDS, tuberculosis, and other illnesses - is the same as the combat that's long been waged by other oppressed people so that everyone can live as human beings.