Thursday, October 29, 2009

Health Care info that Doesn't Suck

This American Life does the work for you. Just click here to listen!

Episode 391: More Is Less

An hour explaining the American health care system, specifically, why it is that costs keep rising. One story looks at the doctors, one at the patients and one at the insurance industry.


Former Bush Administration official David Frum explains a very surprising fact about Bush's economic failure, as it relates to health care. Frum is a regular contributor to the radio show Marketplace. (5 minutes)

Act One. Dartmouth Atlas Shrugged.

Are doctors to blame for the rising costs? NPR Science Correspondent Alix Spiegel reports on the shocking results of studies about varied health care spending. Hear more health care stories this week from Alix at (18 minutes)

Act Two. Every CAT Scan has Nine Lives.

Or is the problem the patients? Producer Lisa Pollak reports. (12 1/2 minutes)

Act Three. Who Would Win in a Fight Between a Polar Bear and an Insurance Company?

Or maybe the insurance companies are to blame? Producer Sarah Koenig reports. (12 1/2 minutes )

Act Four. Now What?

Host Ira Glass talks with Susan Dentzer, editor of the journal Health Affairs, about what current health reform proposals do to fix the rising costs of healthcare...And points at a surprising, kind of heartening phenomenon happening within the current debate. (6 minutes)

Song: "Doctor My Eyes," The Jackson Five

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


As today marks the midpoint of Gandhi's salt march (March 12th to April 6th) in 1930, it behooves us to take a moment and reflect on his life, his methods, and his message. Martin Luther King Jr. learned of Gandhi, learned of his ways, and adapted his teachings and practices to the struggle for freedom here in the U.S.A. For this we are forever indebted to both great men. May we have the courage to continue their great works.

"Generations to come, it may be, will scarce believe that such one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth." (Albert Einstein on Gandhi)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Why is Israel bombing Gaza?

Don't Panic!... Your war questions answered


Israel says it's attacking Gaza to stop cross-border rocket attacks into southern Israel by Hamas militants. Because launching rockets at populated areas is an act of war, Israel says its bombings are justified.

Hamas is attacking Israel with rockets because Israel has enforced a devastating economic blockade against Gaza for the past year and a half. Additionally, Israel's military has controlled Gaza's borders, airspace and sea access for 41 years. Because economic blockades are an act of war, Hamas says its rocket strikes are justified.

In other words, Israel is attacking Gaza because Gaza was attacking Israel because Israel was attacking Gaza. Ctrl-A. Ctrl-C. Ctrl-V. Repeat.

Instead of talking about which side is at fault, let's focus for a minute on all the innocent people who are suffering.

The Gaza Strip is a tiny and crowded Arab enclave on the Mediterranean – as small as Little Rock, Ark., but with 1.5 million people jammed in. It's as densely populated as Bangkok.

On Dec. 27 and 28, Israel dropped more than 100 tons of bombs and missiles on the place. Israel insists its weapons are aimed at Hamas combatants, not civilians.

Sadly, many innocent Gazan civilians have thus far failed to make the distinction between bombs intended for militants and bombs intended for them. It seems that when bombs land on the heads of Gazan civilians, they die regardless.

As of New Year's Eve, the United Nations says 320 of Gaza's 1.5 million residents have been killed by Israeli airstrikes. An additional 1,400 have been injured.

The U.N. claims that 62 of those killed are civilians. The U.N. also says its civilian death count includes only women and children. Either there's no such thing as a civilian man in Gaza, or the U.N. is vastly undercounting the number of civilian dead.

What's more, the wounded survivors of Israeli air-raids are being treated in hospitals that are desperately short of supplies.

Israel's economic blockade of Gaza, imposed when Hamas took over Gaza in 2007, has caused severe shortages of, well, nearly everything. In November, the BBC reported that Gaza's hospitals had run out of 85 types of medicine, as well as items like cotton swabs and spare parts for X-ray machines.

Overall, the blockade has stopped 75 percent of the goods that used to flow into Gaza. Just to be clear, when we're talking about imports, we're not talking flat-screen TVs and J. Crew sweaters. Gaza was disgustingly poor before the blockade. We're talking about food, fuel, cement, paper for schoolchildren, and shoes – things people need to live.

Israel's offensive hasn't stopped the Hamas rocket attacks, either. That means Israelis are suffering, too.

According to the Jerusalem Post, three people were killed and 21 injured when approximately 70 rockets hit several cities and settlements in southern Israel on Dec. 29.

Hamas rockets are small. If they hit you, you'll die, but they can't knock down buildings. The rockets aren't especially deadly, but they're terrifying.

Depending on whose estimate you believe, 300,000 to 500,000 Israelis are within range of Hamas rockets. Southern Israel's economy is hurting as consumers hunker down. A widely reprinted Associated Press story illustrates the psychological impact of the attacks by noting an increase in bed-wetting among Israeli kids.

I wouldn't have bothered bringing up the bed-wetting if not for the fact I've come across several stories about it in recent months – including one last week on the BBC. Clearly, a lot of people in Israel think mass bed-wetting is a big deal. It's a good illustration of the relative impact of the fighting on both sides. Palestinian kids in Gaza are being killed and maimed by one of the world's largest air forces. Israeli kids are scared and pissing themselves.

I don't envy either party, but there's no question which side is suffering most.