Howard Dean Gaining Momentum for HHS

After Tom Daschle’s nomination to head HHS was withdrawn, Howard Dean’s name was raised frequently in the blogosphere. The conventional wisdom seemed to be that Dean had little chance due to being seen as too partisan and, probably more importantly, because of not being on good terms with Rahm Emanuel. Marc Ambinder writes that Dean is picking up some momentum. Senator Tom Harkin and Congressman Raul Grijalva have both endorsed Dean.

This hardly means that Dean is likely to get the position, with many other names still being considered, but it no longer looks as far fetched as it did a couple days ago.

Stop These Cases Of Government Take Over Of Health Care

Every time a Democrat tries to propose a plan to help those who cannot afford health care coverage the Republicans respond by claiming that the plan would amount to a government take over of health care. I agree that the government should be kept out of decisions made between a patient and their doctor but it seems to me that it is the Republicans who have been the ones behind getting the government where it doesn’t belong. The most highly publicized example of this was with the government meddling in end of life decisions in the Terri Schiavo case, but this is hardly the only case.

I previously noted that just after Obama took office, hold-overs from the Bush administration at the DEA continued raids on medicinal marijuana in states where it is legal, despite Obama’s promise to end this practice. The Washington Times reports that the raids are continuing.

“The president believes that federal resources should not be used to circumvent state laws, and as he continues to appoint senior leadership to fill out the ranks of the federal government, he expects them to review their policies with that in mind,” White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said.

Medical use of marijuana is legal under the law in California and a dozen other states, but the federal government under President Bush, bolstered by a 2005 Supreme Court ruling, argued that federal interests trumped state law.

Dogged by marijuana advocates throughout the campaign, Mr. Obama repeatedly said he was opposed to using the federal government to raid medical marijuana shops, particularly because it was an infringement on states’ decisions.

“I’m not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue,” Mr. Obama told the Mail Tribune newspaper in Oregon in March, during the Democratic primary campaign.

He told the newspaper the “basic concept of using medical marijuana for the same purposes and with the same controls as other drugs prescribed by doctors, I think that’s entirely appropriate.”

Mr. Obama is still filling key law enforcement posts. For now, DEA is run by acting Administrator Michele Leonhart, a Bush appointee.

Even if the raids are being ordered by a Bush appointee, couldn’t Obama give an order to cease them while we wait for him to have his people in place at the Justice Department?

Diana Hsieh reports on another example of government trying to take over health care decisions as reported in the Kansas Lawrence Journal.  (Regular readers will recall that I am well qualified to write about matters in Kansas, just as Sarah Palin is qualified to speak about national security, because when traveling last year I was able to see Kansas from my window).

The House Judiciary Committee’s chairman has opened the Legislature’s annual debate on abortion with what he calls a “woman’s right to know and see” bill. Rep. Lance Kinzer, an Olathe Republican, introduced legislation Monday requiring that 30 minutes before performing an abortion, the doctor give the woman a chance to see a sonogram and get a copy of the image. If fetal heart monitoring is done, the woman would have a right to listen.

“There is no better way to know the physiological development than to see,” Kinzer said. “This bill is a sincere attempt by those of us on the pro-life side to find an area where we can have some consensus.” Peter Brownlie, president of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, said the bill “is basically trying to use ultrasound as a political tool rather than a medical procedure.”

The bill also requires that 24 hours before an abortion, the woman must be provided a list of free sonogram locations. She also must receive information about counseling and other assistance for medically challenging pregnancies, and contacts for free perinatal hospice services.

Brownlie said Planned Parenthood already provides that information to women. Kinzer’s proposal also requires that abortion clinics post “anti-coercion” signs so that women will know their legal rights. “Every woman submitting to an abortion should only do so after giving her voluntary and well-informed consent,” Kinzer said.

Brownlie called the signage “unnecessary and intrusive.” “It is based on a made-up theory that lots of women are coerced into having abortions,” he said.

Many of Kinzer’s proposals were included in a wide-ranging abortion bill vetoed last year by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who supports abortion rights. Kinzer said none of the provisions in this year’s bill were singled out by the governor in her veto message.

The fundamental problem with such anti-abortion rights legislation is that it denies the fundamental right of every human to control their own body. This argument will not convince the authoritarian right. They are both so ignorant of basic biology that they think it makes sense to equate abortion with “baby killing”  and they fail to comprehend how morally repugnant it is to use the power of the state to interfere with these personal decisions.

While the authoritarian right does not recognize the basic right to control one’s body, the right wing does often come out against government taking over health care. In that case they should oppose the federal government’s actions which interfere with decisions made between a doctor and their patient. In both of these examples it is the right wing which supports intervening in matters which should be left to the patient and their doctor. In the case of medicinal marijuana, the conservatives are also contradicting their usual support for states’ rights.

Protecting the Children From Dangerous Ideas

A teacher in Texas has lost his job after being accused of being too liberal and an athiest. After reading his story I imagine things could have been worse. As P.Z. Myers points out, they might have done far worse to him if someone had accused him of witchraft.

Ruth Ginsberg Hospitalized for Pancreatic Cancer

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg has been hospitalized and underwent surgery for pancreatic cancer.

While this was reportedly found at an early stage, the prognosis is generally very poor with pancreatic cancer.

What Joe Said (Re Dick Cheney)

There’s really nothing here beyond what I’ve already said about Bush and Cheney in response to their incompetence on handling terrorism while in office, but it is worth repeating now that Cheney has opened his mouth again on a topic he is both ignorant about. Once again Cheney shows he is far more concerned with playing politics than doing what is in the national interest.  Joe Klein wrote:

Let’s leave aside the fact that if Dick Cheney and his alleged boss had been more vigilant–if they had listened to the Clinton appointees like Sandy Berger who warned about Al Qaeda, if they had paid attention to their own intelligence reports (notably the one on August 6, 2001)–the September 11 attacks might never have happened. Actually, I can’t leave that aside…but in any case, it is sleazy in the extreme for Cheney to predict another terrorist attack. For several reasons:

1. Some sort of terrorist attack is likely, eventually, no matter who is President.

2. Cheney has done here what the Bush Administration did throughout: he has politicized terror. If another attack happens, it’s Obama’s fault. Disgraceful… and ungrateful, since it’s only Obama’s mercy that stands between Cheney and a really serious war crimes investigation. Which leads to…

3. The means that Cheney has supported to combat terror in the past, especially “enhanced” interogation techniques, are quite probably illegal. He is criticizing the Obama administration for not being willing to defy international law.

4. Cheney’s track record of mismanagement in Iraq and Afghanistan–his sponsorship of Donald Rumsfeld, the worst Secretary of Defense in US history– disqualifies him from having any credible say on the security policies of his successor.

This is a man who should either be (a) scorned or (b) ignored.

Klein’s choices of (a) and (b) are our best realistic hope, but ideally the choice would be (c) tried for war crimes.

Nat Hentoff Joins Cato Institute

Nat Hentoff, who was recently laid off from The Village Voice after working there as a columnist for fifty years, has been made a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. From their announcement:

I spoke with him on the phone a few days ago and said I was looking forward to working with him — to which he replied “we’ve already been working together for years on civil liberties issues.”  True that.  He said Cato was a natural fit for him because we both take principled positions in defense of the Constitution and liberty.

Nat Hentoff has authored many books and hundreds of articles, but here’s a quick sampling of his writings:  Criticizing President Bush’s attack on habeas corpus; defending Bush’s judicial nominee, Janice Rogers Brown; defending free speech on campus; criticizing the Clinton administration’s handling of the Elian Gonzales matter.