By Michael Gerson
The Washingon Post
Wednesday, March 19, 2008; Page A15
Barack Obama has run a campaign based on a simple premise: that words of unity and hope matter to America. Now he has been forced by his charismatic, angry pastor to argue that words of hatred and division don’t really matter as much as we thought.
Obama’s speech in Philadelphia yesterday made this argument as well as it could be made. He condemned the Rev. Jeremiah Wright‘s views in strong language — and embraced Wright as a wayward member of the family. He made Wright and his congregation a symbol of both the nobility and “shocking ignorance” of the African American experience — and presented himself as a leader who transcends that conflicted legacy. The speech recognized the historical reasons for black anger — and argued that the best response to those grievances is the adoption of Obama’s own social and economic agenda.
It was one of the finest political performances under pressure since John F. Kennedy at the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in 1960. It also fell short in significant ways.
The problem with Obama’s argument is that Wright is not a symbol of the strengths and weaknesses of African Americans. He is a political extremist, holding views that are shocking to many Americans who wonder how any presidential candidate could be so closely associated with an adviser who refers to the “U.S. of KKK-A” and urges God to “damn” our country. .
Obama’s excellent and important speech on race in America did little to address his strange tolerance for the anti-Americanism of his spiritual mentor.
Take an issue that Obama did not specifically confront yesterday. In a 2003 sermon, Wright claimed, “The government lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color.”
This accusation does not make Wright, as Obama would have it, an “occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy.” It makes Wright a dangerous man. He has casually accused America of one of the most monstrous crimes in history, perpetrated by a conspiracy of medical Mengeles. .
If Wright believes what he said, he should urge the overthrow of the U.S. government, which he views as guilty of unspeakable evil.
If I believed Wright were correct, I would join him in that cause.
But Wright’s accusation is batty, reflecting a sputtering, incoherent hatred for America. And his pastoral teaching may put lives at risk because the virus that causes AIDS spreads more readily in an atmosphere of denial, quack science and conspiracy theories.
Obama’s speech implied that these toxic views are somehow parallel to the stereotyping of black men by Obama’s grandmother, which Obama said made him “cringe” — both are the foibles of family. But while Grandma may have had some issues to work through, Wright is accusing the American government of trying to kill every member of a race. There is a difference.
Yet didn’t George Bush and other Republican politicians accept the support of Jerry Falwell, who spouted hate of his own? Yes, but they didn’t financially support his ministry and sit directly under his teaching for decades.
The better analogy is this: What if a Republican presidential candidate spent years in the pew of a theonomist church — a fanatical fragment of Protestantism that teaches the modern political validity of ancient Hebrew law? What if the church’s pastor attacked the U.S. government as illegitimate and accepted the stoning of homosexuals and recalcitrant children as appropriate legal penalties (which some theonomists see as biblical requirements)? Surely we would conclude, at the very least, that the candidate attending this church lacked judgment and that his donations were subsidizing hatred. And we would be right.
In Philadelphia, Obama attempted to explain Wright’s anger as typical of the civil rights generation, with its “memories of humiliation and doubt and fear.” But Wright has the opposite problem: He ignored the message of Martin Luther King Jr. and introduced a new generation to the politics of hatred.
King drew a different lesson from the oppression he experienced: “I’ve seen too much hate to want to hate myself; hate is too great a burden to bear. I’ve seen it on the faces of too many sheriffs of the South. . . . Hate distorts the personality. . . . The man who hates can’t think straight; the man who hates can’t reason right; the man who hates can’t see right; the man who hates can’t walk right.”
Barack Obama is not a man who hates — but he chose to walk with a man who does.
Archive for the ‘commentary’ Category
By Michael Gerson
“Never have so many owed so much to so few.”
By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
Friday, February 22, 2008
Wednesday, USS Lake Erie’s sailors launched an SM-3 Missile that streaked into space to hit an errant U.S. spy satellite exactly as planned: right amidships of the 1,000 pound toxic hydrazine fuel tank.
The satellite was at about 133 miles in altitude and traveling at 17,000 miles per hour or 24 times the speed of sound.
In the twinkling of an eye, America demonstrated new, or at least unknown and unproven, technology and capability. The United States, for the first time, exploded a satellite in shallow space or just before reentry using tactical systems: ships and missiles and men trained to fight “in the air” were reaching into space: for the first time ever.
My Vietnam-born bride said, “Only in America.” Then she said, “The sailors did it.”
As she so often does, my wife Lien was making a huge statement with the fewest of words. She, in one breath, extolled the wonders of American technology as well as the devotion, care and brilliance of our American people: especially our often maligned American youth.
The next day, Serbian youths ransacked the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade and several other Embassies that violated their ideas about what was right and wrong about Kosovo.
I don’t recall America’s youth rioting to this extent for a while.
Sailors love, cherish, care for and maintain their ships and often high-tech and high-cost equipment with the greatest precision and detail. They are devoted, driven and professional. They are both hard working and delightful.
If you have troubled kids or a dim view of American youth: visit a U.S. Navy ship.
I’ll extend this line of thinking to U.S. Army soldiers, U.S. Marines and U.S. Air Force airmen. I’m no Ollie North but I’ve been around the U.S. military and around the globe.
I have one unshakable conclusion: our young Americans are serving superbly.
We are a nation at war.
The war is a war of ideas. We oppose no nation, no people and no religion. Yet the people with other ideas are armed and dangerous: they use improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and women and children and the mentally infirm with bombs wrapped around them.
We are using about one percent of our population to fight, with arms, the war against terror.
“Never have so many owed so much to so few.”
That one percent is sacrificing life and limbs, and I mean arms and legs are lost every day, for You.
I am reminded every day of Sir Winston Churchill: “Never have so many owed so much to so few.”
I am moved by the wonders of the U.S. Navy reaching into space and the dichotomies of this nation.
Some geniuses at the Pentagon, as they prepared to blast a satellite to smithereens and then watch the chucks or, as military analyst John Pikes calls them, “gravel,” of the space debris reenter the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up; said: “We need a toxic debris clean up team!”
But of course.
America needs a “Toxic Space Debris Clean Up Team.”
Never mind that junk in the form of meteors have been hitting the Earth for centuries and that satellites and their parts have been crashing to Earth since the 1950s without incident.
America needs a “Toxic Space Debris Clean Up Team.”
Funny, I don’t recall China’s “Toxic Space Debris Clean Up Team” when they blew up a satellite last year. Do you?
They have 1.3 Billion people. We Americans have a 0.3 Billion. That is about 300 Million.
We stand, in terms of history and population, in China’s margin.
My wife submitted this commentary. “Only in America.”
So, with haz-mat suits at the ready, a quick response team stood on alert Thursday, the day after the satellite was destroyed, to head anyplace on Earth that the pieces of a lame satellite shot down by the U.S. Navy might fall.
And for the ultimate dichotomy: inside the “Toxic Space-Only Rocket Fuel Mop Up Kit” do you know what you’ll find?
Only in America.
Next time you have a cat stuck in a tree or sewer or a hunk of burning space debris smoldering on your lawn, dial 911.
Only in America.
American has ambulances almost everywhere. In India, they pack you into the back seat of a taxi and hope for the best.
My friends in the world community will forgive me for this. Others will castigate me. But I believe in the wonder and wonders of America.
I live in a land of Boundless Technology and Brilliant Youth.
It might not always be so.
But for now, as my wife says, “Only in America.”
By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
January 30, 2008
President Bush yesterday said for the first time that he was actually addicted to alcohol. This may be a cause for celebration for care givers and addicted people who usually need great resources of hope to conquer addictions.
We are facing a crisis of drug and alcohol addiction in America. Most experts agree that about ten percent of our population of 300 million people are addicted or routine users. Many more family members, friends, co-workers and employers suffer harmful consequences – and our medical establishment is strained by people suffering from addictions.
On January 1, 2008, in almost every hospital emergency room across America, at least one or two individuals could be found suffering from Delirium Tremens (DTs), milder tremors, seizures and other alcohol and drug-related overdose symptoms.
My friend, physician and recovering alcoholic Len, took me for a post-party tour of a big city hospital emergency room on January 1.
“Look at the carnage following the biggest annual drinking binge Americans wink at every year. It will look like this the Monday after the Super Bowl, too,” Len told me.
In fact, experts say “Super Bowl Sunday” is the biggest day for drinking in America because it is an all day party. Most police agencies issue more tickets for impaired driving on “Super Sunday” than on any other day. And the Center for Science in the Public Interest claims that beer and alcohol advertizing for the Super Bowl targets underage drinkers.
Len invited me into his work environment after reading a Washington Times commentary I wrote for the December 27, 2007 editions. That article discussed the time of year when many recovering alcoholics and drug abusers relapse and end up in the hospital: the “holiday” season between Thanksgiving and January 1.
“For all sorts of reasons, many of the addicted who are in recovery and making progress crash and burn during the holidays. I think the pressure and chaos of buying too many presents and acting like a boy scout drives some in recovery back into really bad and sometimes fatal habits,” Len said.
Len is a recovering alcoholic who attends daily Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) meetings. Len is not his real name. We agreed to protect his anonymity in keeping with A.A. traditions and guarantees.
As an emergency room physician, Len has gained invaluable insight into the disease of the mind called addiction. He is also an expert in how many of his colleagues treat alcoholics and the drug addicted.
“Most physicians I know are first rate. They care deeply for their patients, spend the time necessary to provide excellent care, and operate fair and honest practices,” Len told me.
But once Len finished with what sounded like an American Medical Association (AMA) commercial, I told him I had personally seen some sloppy, even potentially criminally negligent “care” of the addicted doled out by his MD colleagues.
Two patients seeking emergency care for bouts with alcohol were not admitted to emergency rooms while I researched this topic. They were told to make an appointment for ten days to two weeks into the future. For some: this poses a life-threatening dilemma.
We also experienced physicians mis-prescribing and over prescribing drugs and medications to patients they knew to be addicted.
One doctor had his sleepless patient on Ambien for two years. The maximum recommended duration of Ambien therapy is one week. Ambien is addictive. Withdrawal symptoms include behavior changes, stomach pain, muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting, sweating, anxiety, panic, tremors, and seizure (convulsions).
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns doctors and pharmacists not to prescribe Ambien to alcoholics or other addicts.
We also saw doctors giving Xanax to drinking alcoholics to relieve anxiety.
Xanax relieves anxiety in people who do not drink: but it is never recommended for heavy drinkers. This medication may cause dependence. Addicts frequently react violently to the drug and vomit sometimes for hours after taking it and experience other distressing and even life-threatening side effects.
We also met a man who went to his doctor two years ago with severe anxiety symptoms. Today he rarely ventures out from his one-bedroom apartment. There are three deadbolts on the door. He has five physician prescribed drugs delivered to his apartment when he needs refills. He is no longer able to work. He is lost as a productive member of his family and our American society.
Bill Alexander, who manages a private drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility, recently told us, “There are doctors in America who are killing alcoholics and drug abusers because they haven’t properly availed themselves to the literature and education needed for treating the addicted and they pay too little attention to the warnings associated with all medications.”
We also observed a clear disregard for many addicted patients: an attitude and actions akin to racial prejudice.
Alcoholics and others are frequently looked down upon and can be viewed as “winos” or other disreputable types not worthy of full and complete diagnosis and care.
If the addicted man or woman seeking treatment causes the doctor to become unsettled, the doctor might quickly end the evaluation phase of treatment and hastily write prescriptions for pain killers, sleep aids and other drugs.
“Some doctors, but clearly not all, cut corners. They reach for the prescription pad too readily. They under evaluate and over-prescribe. They are in too much of a hurry. Even when the vast majority of care givers to the addicted advise doctors to first consider a cold-turkey detoxification – without the benefit of additional medications,” said Dr. Len.
“We doctors write prescriptions sometimes even when they are not mandated. Insurance companies pay most of the cost and the doctor feels that he has taken action on behalf of his patient. Some have even told me, ‘I gave the patient exactly what he wanted.’”
The patients, because they are addicted, often act irrationally and not in their own best interests. They self medicate, over medicate, and “shop” for agreeable doctors willing and ready to help them get their “fix.”
Addicts are risk takers – and even knowing that buying drugs below cost and on the street probably means the drugs are impure, dangerous or otherwise filled with a foreign country’s idea of a money-making substitute – they often use and abuse until death.
Despite the herculean efforts of an army of diligent care-givers and treatment facilities nation-wide, many alcoholics or drug addicted people are misdiagnosed, living on the streets, ignored, abused or shunned. Treatment facilities and in-patient care is at maximum capacity with no room for new comers. And the care of medical professionals is stretched thin.
One doctor told us, only after asking for anonymity, “You’ll be lucky if this man can see a physician’s assistant or a nurse. There are no doctors available.”
And more doctors may not necessarily make things better.
“Calling for more doctors, like prescribing more drugs, for an already overmedicated patient, may only make things worse,” said Dr. David Goodman, a professor of pediatrics and family medicine at Dartmouth Medical School, which researches heath care quality and costs.
He says as the American population grows and the “baby boomers” enter their retirement years, more doctors writing more prescriptions and seeing more patients only escalates the costs of an already exorbitantly expensive medical system.
He favors more study and analysis before anyone jumps to conclusions on how to solve the multi-faceted dilemma of our medical system’s future.
Then there is the case of actor Heath Ledger, who died in January 2008 in New York.
Though Heath himself admitted to The New York Times in November that he has taken two Ambien in a row to battle insomnia, psychiatrist Dr. Keith Ablow says that the likelihood of an Ambien overdose is unlikely.
“By and large, Ambien is not something people overdose on,” he said. But Ambien is addictive and how it interacts in the human body with other prescription medications like those in Mr. Ledger’s SoHo living quarters is unclear.
Mr. Ledger had Xanax, Valium and other drugs in his apartment.
“It’s all Russian roulette once you start using these medicines in excess or start using these medicines with illegal drugs,” said Dr. Ablow, author of Living the Truth.
Of all of these prescription drugs, Xanax can be particularly harmful, especially considering that the Brokeback Mountain star reportedly had issues with substance abuse.
“If I could have taken one agent out of his possession prior to these events, and said, ‘This one is absolutely one you can’t have,’ it would’ve been a Xanax,” he says.
“I would never prescribe Xanax to someone with a potential substance abuse history — ever.”
The reason? Xanax is highly addictive because it takes effect quickly and is relatively short-acting (the pleasurable feeling you receive from it only lasts about four hours).
In contrast, Ambien can take longer to take effect and lasts eight hours, so a person can get a build-up of substances in their system without realizing it. Also, people who have a history of drug abuse are often unreliable in taking their medicines at the proper time or in the proper dose.
Often, drug abusers and addicts mix drugs recklessly.“I can think of few worse combinations than Xanax and cocaine because Xanax slows the heart and cocaine speeds the heart up, so you have two substances at odds with each other,” said Dr. Ablow. “So you can have a situation where someone is trying to dose themselves to an ideal mood state but their cardiac status is deteriorating and they can’t tell because Xanax suppresses the racing heartbeat.”
The bottom line is this: despite their best intentions, medical professions do not always have the time nor the knowledge to properly treat serious drug abusers and the addicted.
Secondly, too many times, doctors are in a rush and the addicted receive less than the full attention of medical staffs who determine that they have “higher priorities.”
Finally, the knowledge of how different drugs interact in the human body is far from complete. In fact, mixing drugs and doctor shopping are seriously dangerous and often times fatal.
John E. Carey is a frequent contributor to The Washington Times, a former senior U.S. military officer and president of International Defense Consultants, Inc.
Drug Abuse, Drug Overdose Killed Heath Ledger
(February 6, 2008)
We added this new information on Wednesday evening, 30 January:Heath Ledger’s abuse of heroin, cocaine and pills forced his ex-fiancee Michelle Williams to drive him to rehab in 2006, but he didn’t want to go, Us Weekly reports.For three years, Williams was a firsthand witness to the actor’s use of alcohol and drugs, including cocaine, heroin and “a variety of pills,” a Ledger confidant reportedly told the magazine.In March 2006 — when their daughter, Matilda, was only 5 months old — Williams drove Ledger to Promises Treatment Center in Malibu, Calif., the confidant reportedly told Us Weekly. Ledger refused to check in, instead swaying her with a pledge to clean up, the source said.
Both Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan were treated at Promises.
Even after the couple realized “they were in way over their heads,” according to a source, and split in September 2007, two sources told Us that Williams demanded Ledger be drug-tested before his visitations with Matilda.
When news of Ledger’s death broke last Tuesday, Williams was inconsolable, another source said.
“She cried and screamed as soon as she heard,” a source on the Swedish set of her latest film, “Mammoth,” told Us Weekly.
International Herald Tribune
January 7, 2008
President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan has bowed, somewhat, to domestic pressure and called in Scotland Yard to help figure out who killed Benazir Bhutto. A credible investigation is urgently needed and Musharraf – who has no credibility of his own – needs all the help he can get.
Unfortunately, the ex-general immediately raised doubts about how much freedom the British police will have to do their job. Even as he insisted that he wants to know how his political rival really died, he insisted that no government officials were involved and warned against investigators going on a “wild goose chase.” That doesn’t sound as if he’s ready to encourage full cooperation.
The government says the assassin was a Qaeda operative, while Bhutto’s followers charge that it was the work of people with either past or present ties to Musharraf. Until there is a credible explanation, there is no hope of calming the country’s turmoil. And more turmoil is the last thing that Pakistan, with its nuclear weapons and its cozy ties to Al Qaeda and the Taliban, needs.
Investigators are already facing serious obstacles. The crime scene was hosed down by government workers, washing away potential evidence. And there was no autopsy done on Bhutto’s body – both because her husband didn’t want it and because Pakistani officials failed to order it. An autopsy may be the only way to determine if she was shot, as her supporters believe but the government initially denied, and who aimed the weapon.
Even if he permits a serious investigation, Musharraf will need to do a lot more to calm furies in Pakistan. He delayed this week’s planned parliamentary elections until Feb. 18. For the vote to have any hope of legitimacy, Musharraf must release jailed democratic activists and lawyers, lift press restrictions, allow international monitors to observe the polling, and permit Nawaz Sharif, now the country’s most prominent opposition leader, to stand for election. The United States must insist that Musharraf do all of this and make clear that ballot-rigging will be exposed and condemned.
The weaknesses of Pakistan’s democracy go beyond Musharraf. That Bhutto’s political party quickly chose her husband – long tainted by charges of corruption – and her college-student son as its leaders underscores the system’s feudal nature. Real democracy will take a long time to build in Pakistan, but it’s the only path to stability. And it needs to start now.
By Gordon G. Chang
The Wall Street Journal
January 2, 2008
The U.S. Navy said it was “befuddled” by Beijing’s last-minute November denial of a long-arranged port call for the Kitty Hawk carrier group in Hong Kong. This turndown was on top of China’s refusal to provide shelter for two U.S. minesweepers seeking refuge from a storm, and its rejection of a routine visit for a frigate, the Reuben James. The Air Force also received a “no” for a regular C-17 flight to resupply the American consulate in Hong Kong.
The immediate causes of these rebuffs may be American arms sales to Taiwan, which China regards as sovereign territory, and the ….
Go to The Wall Street Journal: