HealthCommentary

Exploring Human Potential

American Science’s “Odd Couple” – Dr.’s Koop and Fauci.

Posted on | June 8, 2021 | No Comments

The following 5-part series is excerpted from an as yet unpublished history of 20th Century medicine in the United States by Mike Magee MD.

PART I: The Conversion of C. Everett Koop

On the day after Ronald Reagan’s election, Christian conservative Jerry Falwell was euphoric. As he said, “I knew that we would have some impact on the national elections, but I had no idea that it would be this great.”(1)

One other big personality who saw, in Reagan’s win, a win of his own was C. Everett Koop. Carl Anderson, a Catholic aide to North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms, had informally approached him that fall to explore in earnest his willingness to accept the nomination as Surgeon General of the United States.

For Chick, the timing was perfect. At 64 1/2, he saw his days in the operating theatre at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia as numbered. He was filled with a sense of mission that energized him, and his wife, Betty, was encouraging him to pursue the new role. In his customary fashion, Chick did his homework, gauging his supporters and his opponents. (2) Among the former, in addition to Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond, there was the conservative Catholic Henry Hyde of Illinois. Regrettably on the negative side of the ledger sat the American Medical Association, which saw him as unpredictable and were already on record as supporting University of Texas vice chancellor of Health Affairs, Edward Brandt Jr.

The opposition of the AMA should have been an early warning signal. But Chick, hard-nosed, direct, and science driven, was also something of a dreamer, a Don Quixote optimist, prone to a romantic vision of the world and his role in it. His governor in Pennsylvania, Richard Schweiker, the lead candidate to head up Reagan’s Department of Health and Human Services, split the difference. Edward Brandt would be made the Assistant Secretary of the department, and Koop would be nominated for Surgeon General.(3)

If Chick thought that this compromise had resolved the issue, he was soon surprised as an avalanche of opposition to his nomination rapidly congealed.(4) Anticipating speedy approval, he had taken leave of his position in Philadelphia, resigned from the Boards of several Christian Conservative organizations, and taken up residency in Washington. He knew that the AMA had approached the White House through the back door and was encouraging them to drop him, but he felt that issue had already been decided. He knew as well that his past publications and activism as writing and traveling tour partner to uber conservative minister Francis Schaefer ensured the opposition of Planned Parenthood, the National Organization of Women, and the National Gay Alliance. But when the American Public Health Association (APHA) came out in full-throated opposition – that was a surprise. In the past 100 years, they had never before formally opposed a nominee for this post.(2)

For the dignified surgeon and conservative Presbyterian, who was used to professional adulation, and believed that he had led a conscience driven, moral and upstanding life, in the service of his fellow Americans, the APHA move was a slap in the face. But that was nothing compared to what he read on the editorial page of the New York Times when he opened his paper on April 9, 1981. There, in black and white, was the lead editorial with a blaring title – “Dr. Unqualified”.(5) In the editorial, they acknowledged in the first line that he had a “fine reputation as a pediatric surgeon” but found him “not deserving” of the role of Surgeon General. The charge that he had no “significant experience in the field of public health” wasn’t a big surprise, especially since the APHA had torched him. But the attack that followed, cued up by the supposition that his “attractiveness to the Administration must lie elsewhere” had to bring a grimace to his stately face.

Answering their own query, the editors said, “That ‘elsewhere’ may be his anti-abortion crusade. Two years earlier, he and Francis Schaefer had toured 20 cities with a film whose message was that abortion led inexorably to euthanasia for the elderly. And he has described amniocentesis, a procedure used to detect congenital disorders like Down’s syndrome and Tay-Sachs disease in fetuses, as ‘a search-and destroy mission.’”

Pending approval, Schweiker put Koop on the payroll as his assistant. The months dragged on, and Koop, encouraged to stay under the radar screen, focused on establishing as many relationships as possible. The people he met were surprised, as they had always been throughout his life. The severe physical package did not reflect the accessible and generous individual within. Chick would later reflect, “Out of those tough months, I made a number of very important friends in HHS who believed in me, believed I was being given a raw deal, who did think I was credible, who did think I had an idea and the ability to do something with it.”(6)

In October, 1981, while testifying before Congress, he surprised his audience when he stated clearly, “It is not my intent to use any government post as a pulpit for theology”.(6) Apparently, his Christian conservative backers thought this was simply a matter of political slight of hand. But for the Democratic leaders, like Henry Waxman and Ted Kennedy, this was a turning point. In November, the Senate confirmed him with a vote of 68 to 24, and on January 21, 1982, more than a year after the battle had engaged, C. Everett Koop was sworn in as the 13th Surgeon General of the United States.(7)

Next: PART II – A Communications Genius Rides Tobacco To Success.

References: On request.

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The U.S. Medical Industrial Complex Had a Role In The Wuhan Covid Catastrophe.

Posted on | June 3, 2021 | 2 Comments

Mike Magee

The truth hurts.

Eighteen months into a disaster that has claimed 3.5 million lives around the globe, the truth is seeping out. Human error likely caused the Covid pandemic, and America’s Medical-Industrial Complex was right in the middle of it.

Signs of a “great awakening” have emerged from various corners in the month of May.

On May 14, UNC’s top virologist, Ralph Baric, who worked closely with Wuhan chief virologist and batwoman extraordinare, Shi Zhengli, signed on with 17 other scientists to a Science editorial that demanded a reexamination of Covid’s causality writing “theories of accidental release from a lab and zoonotic spillover both remain viable.”

On May 26, Francis Collins, head of the NIH, which funded in part Zhengli’s risky bat virus research (more on that in a moment), admitted to Congressional investigators that “we cannot exclude the possibility of some kind of a lab accident.”

And on June 3rd, on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, the ever-present Tony Fauci advised all who would listen “to keep an open mind.” What he would like us to open our minds to is not a Chinese run weaponized microbe conspiracy, but simply scientific recklessness and human error.

It’s now well established that three Wuhan virology scientists were hospitalized in the Fall of 2019 with Covid. But the initial report from the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission, China, of this cluster of cases of pneumonia was only released on the last day of 2019.

It took only 50 more days for the tight knit group of global research virologists to get their act together and pen a Lancet editorial in which they stated “We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin,” and that they  “overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife.”

Their coordinator-in-chief was one Peter Daszak, chartered power broker within the U.S. Medical Industrial Complex and president of New York based EcoHealth Alliance which was a major funder of Shi Zhengli’s work in Wuhan.

Daszak is known for adopting militarized terms in the battle against global infectious diseases. In 2020 he wrote in the New York Times, “Pandemics are like terrorist attacks: We know roughly where they originate and what’s responsible for them, but we don’t know exactly when the next one will happen. They need to be handled the same way — by identifying all possible sources and dismantling those before the next pandemic strikes.”

Daszak’s argument that risks involved in Shi Zhengli’s Wuhan bat virus research were justified as defensive and preventive was convincing enough to the NIH and the Department of Defense that his EcoHealth Alliance was funded from 2013 to 2020 (contracts, grants, subgrants) to the tune of well over $100 million – $39 million from Pentagon /DOD funds, $65 million from USAID/State Dept., and  $20 million from HHS/NIH/CDC.

As veteran Science reporter Nicholas Wade deciphered in a classic article in Science – The Wire, “For 20 years, mostly beneath the public’s attention, they had been playing a dangerous game. In their laboratories they routinely created viruses more dangerous than those that exist in nature. They argued they could do so safely, and that by getting ahead of nature they could predict and prevent natural ‘spillovers,’ the cross-over of viruses from an animal host to people. If SARS2 had indeed escaped from such a laboratory experiment, a savage blowback could be expected, and the storm of public indignation would affect virologists everywhere, not just in China.”

The EcoHealth Alliance’s connection to Wuhan, and Daszak’s connection to Shi Zhengli was somewhat insulated by a UNC virologist named Ralph Baric. Zhengli and Baric had teamed up in November, 2015 to manipulated the crucial spike protein of the SARS1 virus creating “chimera” – possessing genetic material from two different viral strains. At the time, other scientists were sounding alarms including Pasteur Institute’s Simon Wain-Hobson who wrote “If the virus escaped, nobody could predict the trajectory.”

The risky experiments, termed “gain-of-function” studies, were justified as super-secure, safe, predictive, and preventive. Shi returned to her labs in 2018 and 2019 with grant funding from Fauci’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease.

Nicholas Wade read the grant proposal and somewhat alarmingly concluded that Shi was creating chimeric viruses with a range of human infectivity as measured in genetically altered “humanized” mice. In essence, she was assisting the virus in discovering “the best combination of coronavirus backbone and spike protein for infecting human cells.”

When you see pictures of scientists in space suits clumsily attempting to complete experiments, that is maximum safety – BSL4. As it turns out, Shi’s experiments on “gain-of-function” were conducted in part two rungs down the safety ladder at BSL2– , the safety level equivalent to a dentist’s office.

On January 15th of this year, the State Department fessed up releasing this statement, “The U.S. government has reason to believe that several researchers inside the WIV became sick in autumn 2019, before the first identified case of the outbreak, with symptoms consistent with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illnesses.”

It is not as if the Medical Industrial Complex was not warned. Seven years earlier, a group of concerned scientists called the Cambridge Working Group issued this statement: “Accident risks with newly created ‘potential pandemic pathogens’ raise grave new concerns. Laboratory creation of highly transmissible, novel strains of dangerous viruses, especially but not limited to influenza, poses substantially increased risks. An accidental infection in such a setting could trigger outbreaks that would be difficult or impossible to control.”

As Nicholas Wade’s investigation lays out in detail, while absolute proof remains to be uncovered, the overwhelming and rising mountain of evidence points to human error supported on a national scale. As Wade sees it, “The US government shares a strange common interest with the Chinese authorities: neither is keen on drawing attention to the fact that Dr. Shi’s coronavirus work was funded by the US National Institutes of Health.”

As Fauci stated this week, “We need to keep an open mind.” This apparently extends in both directions. His National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, as recently as August, 2020, awarded $82 million to establish the Centers for Research in Emerging Infectious Diseases to ten principal investigators. Peter Daszak is #3 on the list.

Is Paranoia in American Politics Diagnosable?

Posted on | May 26, 2021 | No Comments

Mike Magee

“The Presidency should not be used as a platform for proving one’s manhood ..”

“Inwardly he is a frightened person who sees himself as weak and threatened by strong virile power around him . . .”

 “Since his nomination I find myself increasingly thinking of the early 1930s…”

 “Unconsciously he seems to want to destroy himself.  He has a good start, for he has already destroyed the Republican party . . .”

At first glance, the remarks above appear to have been made about Donald Trump. In fact, they are part of written survey responses to a September, 1964, Fact Magazine survey sent to 12,300 psychiatrists asking, “Do you believe that Barry Goldwater is psychologically fit to serve as President of the United States?” Of the 2400 responses, half replied “No.”

That was a bridge too far for the American Psychiatric Association, which in 1973 adopted Section 7.3 in their Ethics Rules which states, “[I]t is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement”

That rule held until Donald Trump descended his Trump Tower spiral staircase in 2016. As he approached a possible second term, the nation’s mental health professionals were in full revolt. For example, the June, 2018 article appearing in The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law was titled “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President.”

In the age of Marjorie Greene, mass paranoia and open insurrection, we Americans may be excused if it appears that our national experiment in self-governance is coming apart at the seams. It is also natural to give way to the notion that what we are experiencing is uniquely different, and therefore poses a greater risk than we’ve encountered in the past.

Under such moments of self-inflicted crises of conscience, history often comes to the rescue. Let me introduce you to a young boy, born in Chowan County, North Carolina, in 1899. Raised by devout Baptists, and homeschooled by his mother until age 10, when he entered high school.

He was self-described in later years as “a gifted child”, a rabid and early anti-communist, and an “insufferable” advocate of Christian conversion. He was also a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and Harvard Law School.

You may not have ever heard of him, but certainly know him by his products if you were a child of the ‘50’s or 60’s. He created Sugar Daddies, Sugar Babies, Junior Mints and Pom Poms. He also created the John Birch Society.

When he took early retirement at the age of 50, Robert W. Welch, Jr. was already a wealthy man. He could well afford to focus on rescuing the souls of Americans for whom he apparently held deep contempt, describing them as ignorant and ill-informed, and therefore in danger of being converted by communists who he found hidden in every crack and around every corner.

His earliest foray into electoral politics, a run for Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts in 1950, ended poorly. But it did allow him to get close to the 1952 Republican candidate for President, Robert A. Taft, the champion of “Fortress America” and smearer of internationalism in the form of NATO and the United Nations.

Taft of course lost. But in the wings, Welch embraced another like-minded cold warrior, Senator Joe McCarthy, who was running for re-election in Wisconsin, who happily agreed to accept donations from the retired candy striper. McCarthy of course went down in ashes.

But Welch more than picked up the mantle when McCarthy succumbed to alcohol and opioid addiction on May 2, 1957. One year later, he convened a group of like-minded conspiracists for a two-day session in Indianapolis, Indiana. On the agenda was a discussion of the life of one relatively unknown World War II soldier who had been the subject of Welch’s first book in 1954, a biography of the “first casualty of World War III.” The book’s title was The Life of John Birch.

Welch shared a common passage with Birch. Beyond their military experience, both grew up in the deep “Jim Crow” south (Welch in North Carolina, Birch in Georgia), both intellectually gifted, both products of missionary oriented Baptist parents, and early radicalized with equal measures of paranoia and hyperbole. A classmate at Mercer University, an affiliate of Georgia Baptist, later recalled that “He was always an angry young man, always a zealot, felt he was called to defend the faith, and he alone knew what it was.”

What made Birch Welch’s hero however was that he died at the hands of Chinese Communists in Xuzhou, Jiangsu, China, as a member of the Army’s fledgling intelligence service on August 25, 1945, seven days before Japan officially surrendered. Jimmy Doolittle, US ARMY WWII pilot extraordinaire, said of this man others made a hero posthumously, “I feel sure he would not have approved.” While Birch may have preferred to remain anonymous, Welch chose to elevate him. By 1960, Birch was the face of a hard-right, anti-communist organization with a staff of 28, and approaching 100,000 members.

Members kept busy writing letters of protest. For example, when supporters of the U.N. created a four part documentary television series celebrating the United Nations, Xerox, their primary sponsor, received 51,279 letters of protest from John Birch Society members. The Society’s president at the time said “We hate to see a corporation of this country promote the U.N. when we know that it is an instrument of the Soviet Communist conspiracy.” They also actively opposed the civil rights movement, and lined up to help secure the candidacy of Barry Goldwater for President in 1964.

Columbia University’s Pulitzer Prize Winning Professor of History,Richard Hofstadter, labeled the unique political approach of Welch, and Goldwater, and all the rest leading up to Trump as “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.” As he wrote in 1964, “I call it the paranoid style simply because no other word adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind.”

In fleshing out his theory, Hofstadter recounts a 1951 speech by McCarthy in which he states, “This must be the product of a great conspiracy on a scale so immense as to dwarf any previous such venture in the history of man. A conspiracy of infamy so black that, which it is finally exposed, its principals shall be forever deserving of the maledictions of all honest men.”

Later in the article, Hofstadler comes eerily close to defining our current predicament with this: “Perhaps the central situation conducive to the diffusion of the paranoid tendency is a confrontation of opposed interests which are (or are felt to be) totally irreconcilable, and thus by nature not susceptible to the normal political processes of bargain and compromise. The situation becomes worse when the representatives of a particular social interest—perhaps because of the very unrealistic and unrealizable nature of its demands—are shut out of the political process. Having no access to political bargaining or the making of decisions, they find their original conception that the world of power is sinister and malicious fully confirmed.”

Finally, there are these words, which certainly must resonate with the many psychiatrists who felt compelled to break their own “Goldwater Rule” as a patriotic gesture in defense of their nation against Trump and his enablers. Hofstadler writes, “We are all sufferers from history, but the paranoid is a double sufferer, since he is afflicted not only by the real world, with the rest of us, but by his fantasies as well.”

Is Universal Health Care An Economic Tool Whose Time Has Come?

Posted on | May 19, 2021 | 6 Comments

Mike Magee

John Maynard Keynes, the famous British economist, was born and raised in Cambridge, England, and taught at King’s College. He died in 1946. He is widely recognized today as the father of Keynesian economics that promoted a predominantly private sector driven, market economy, with an activist government sector hanging in the wings ready to assume center stage during emergencies.

Declines in demand pointed to recession. Irrationally exuberant spending signaled inflationary increases in pricing, eroding the value of your money. Under these conditions, Keynes encouraged the government and central bank to adjust fiscal and monetary policy to dampen the highs and lows of the business cycles.

Keynesian economics were popularized in America in the 1930’s by a University of Minnesota economist who would go on to become Chairman of Economics at Harvard. For this, he is often referred to as “The American Keynes”, and was highlighted this week in the New York Times by Nobel economist, Paul Krugman, for his association with another tagline, “Secular Stagnation.”

When that economist, Alvin Hansen, first described the condition, he was working on FDR’s Social Security Plan. He defined it as “persistent spending weakness even in the face of very low inflation.” Krugman’s modern-day description? “What we’re looking at here is a world awash in savings with nowhere to go.”

Krugman is not the only economist sounding the alarm. Larry Summers, Harvard economist and Treasury Secretary under Bill Clinton, recently wrote, “The relevance of economic theories depends on context.” On the top of his list of current environmental concerns restricting investment and growth is the strong belief that the number of available workers is in steep decline.

Just days ago the CDC added fuel to the fire when they reported a 2020 birth rate in the U.S. of 55.8 births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44. That was 4% lower than in 2019, and the lowest recorded rate since we started collecting these numbers in 1909. Our lower birthrate is further aggravated by declines in numbers of immigrants and a flattening of the movement of women into the workforce. Add to this the general aging of our population. To put it in perspective, Americans over 80 now outnumber Americans 2 and under.

But Summers’ concerns extend well beyond worker and product line shortages. More significant in his view are two other factors. The first is low demand fueled by population stasis. As he states, “These demographic developments eliminate the demand for new capital goods to equip and house a growing workforce.” Or stated in a different way, growing families buy things – lots of things. Shrinking families do not.

The second trend that concerns him is information technology enabled efficiencies that further dampen demand. Why? Because products today work much better and for much longer. Just one example – today’s $500 iPhone has the power of a Cray supercomputer from a generation ago. And, with no end in sight, Summers says consumers will likely continue to withhold spending in anticipation of lower prices in the future.

To make matters worse, IT connectivity has also increased renting and sharing opportunities. You don’t need to own everything (or anything) yourself. There appear to be few limits on what you can share.

What Krugman and Summers agree on is that there is plenty of money in the system, and more to come, through government infusions. But growth requires participation, not sitting on the sideline. Hansen’s “secular stagnation” suggests a reluctance to invest in the immediate future. If unchecked, it can lead to a prolonged, Japan-like, period of deflation and hardship.

Krugman’s prescription is to spend, and spend big, in government-sponsored projects that draw out citizen participation, and encourage mobility, productivity, and confidence in the future. He says we need to ignore “deficit hawks”, noting that the current deficit (twice as large as in 1990) is carrying an interest payment burden only half as large as three decades ago because of persistent low interest rates.

Krugmen believes “cheap money” should be advantaged, but in a purposeful and targeted manner. What are his two top priorities?

1)   Infrastructure projects – to create immediate jobs in and for the communities they serve.

2)  Universal Health Care – to promote mobility, productivity and confidence in our combined and interdependent futures.

Alvin Hansen died at the age of 87 in 1975. Hansen’s first book, Full Recovery or Stagnation, published in 1938, was prescient in suggesting that, if employment and growth are stagnant, in an economic cycle, government intervention may be required to stimulate demand.

A few years before his death, Paul McCracken, chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers under LBJ, said of Hansen: “It is certainly a statement of fact that you have influenced the nation’s thinking about economic policy more profoundly than any other economist in this century.”

Now, a half-century later, it appears that Full Recovery or Stagnation deserves a careful reread.

The Night Biden and Bernie Channeled FDR and MLK.

Posted on | May 10, 2021 | No Comments

Mike Magee

In my research up to last week’s speech on “The Right to Health Care and the U.S. Constitution” (transcript here), I came across this Emily Dickinson poem that could easily have been a forward looking tribute to two American Presidents – one from the 20th, the other the 21st century.

Dickinson’s poem “A WORD is dead” is hardly longer than its title.

“A WORD is dead

When it is said,

Some say.

I say it just

Begins to live

That day.”

She certainly was on the mark when it came to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s signature legislation. FDR’s New Deal, extending from 1933 to 1939, ultimately came down to just three words – the 3R’s – Relief , Recovery, and Reform.

He promised “Action, and action now!”  This included a series of programs, infrastructure projects, financial reforms, a national health care program and industry regulations, protecting those he saw as particularly vulnerable including farmers, unemployed, children and the elderly.  And he wasn’t afraid to make enemies. Of Big Business, he said in a 1936 speech in Madison Square Garden, “They are unanimous in their hate for me – and I welcome their hatred.”

But he was also a political realist. And by his second term of office Justice Hughes and his Conservative dominated Supreme Court had begun to undermine his legislative successes and were threatening his signature bill- the Social Security Act. So FDR compromised, and in the face of withering criticism from the AMA, postponed his plans for national health care.

By June 11, 1944, a supremely popular 4th term President had found his voice again, and knew the words to use as he promised a “Second Bill of Rights” stating that the original was now “inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.”

Turning a phrase that is as lasting as it is powerful, he said, “Necessitous men are not free men.” And in his list of economic rights that he pledged to pursue, these two appeared:

•     The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

•     The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

Now, three quarters of a century later, a new President, pragmatic and opportunistic, is signaling once again that the time is right for change.

Following his recent address to Congress on April 29, 2021, President Joe Biden spent a good deal of time on the aisle in private conversation with Sen. Bernie Sanders. They’ve been talking a lot lately. In his speech he waded into health care with both feet, and found a way to link the ACA and Medicare.

President Biden said, “The Affordable Care Act has been a lifeline for millions of Americans …And the money we save, which is billions of dollars, can go to strengthening the Affordable Care Act and expand Medicare benefits without costing taxpayers an additional penny. It is within our power to do it. Let’s do it now…We’ve talked about it long enough, Democrats and Republicans. Let’s get it done this year. This is all about a simple premise: Health care should be a right, not a privilege in America.”

Those last words, as Emily Dickinson would remind, “began to live” in 2009, when first delivered by the man on the aisle, Bernie Sanders.

Earlier in his speech, Biden reflects on an image he recently observed in Florida. “One of the defining images, at least from my perspective, in this crisis has been cars lined up, cars lined up for miles (in food lines)…I don’t know about you, but I didn’t ever think I would see that in America. And all of this is through no fault of their own. No fault of their own, these people are in this position. That’s why the rescue plan is delivering food and nutrition assistance to millions of Americans facing hunger.”

Those words also  “began to live” many years earlier. On June 11, 1944, FDR said, “We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. ‘Necessitous men are not free men.’ People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.”

Roughly two decades later in 1966, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. mirrored the same words and linked poverty and health care, at the Poor People’s Campaign when he said, “of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”

Those words continued to live a half century later, appearing in a 2017 New Yorker piece penned by celebrity physician author, Atul Gawande. The words were uttered by two former neighbors of his still living in Athens, Ohio, the hardscrabble town where he grew up in the Appalachian foothills.

The first said, “basic rights include physical security, water, shelter, and health care. Meeting these basics is, he maintained, among government’s highest purposes and priorities.”

A second voice added, “I think the goal should be security – knowing that, no matter how bad things get, health shouldn’t be what you worry about.”

Wednesday at 1:30 PM EST – Join Me For the Most Important Health Debate of the Year.

Posted on | May 2, 2021 | 2 Comments

 

Mike Magee

This Wednesday afternoon, May 5th, from  1:30 to 3:00 has been 3 months in the making. Last week, President Biden said, “We’ve talked about it long enough, Democrats and Republicans. Let’s get it done this year. This is all about a simple premise: Health care should be a right, not a privilege in America.”

Is he right? What are the legal, political and cultural dimensions of this debate?

To find out,  I hope you’ll reserve May 5, 2021, from 1:30 to 3:00 PM, for a fascinating online lecture: “The Constitution and Your ‘Right’ to Health Care.” Best of all, the $20 fee helps support the lifelong learning programs at the University of Hartford. These virtual programs are open to all comers and are an invaluable resource to help combat the isolation, fear and worry that has affected all of our citizens over the past year.

This 90-minute slide lecture explores the recent political history and legal controversy surrounding attempts to establish universal health coverage in America. “Is health care a right?” viewed within the context of the Bill of Rights and especially the 9th and 10th Amendments? What are the legal arguments advanced over the past decade to challenge the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)? And does the Covid-19 pandemic make it more or less likely that “Medicare for All” will pass legal muster in the future?

Join me for this stimulating interactive session, including time for audience participation, and contribute $20 to a great cause. You can register online HERE.

Confused How to Register? Here are the steps:
Registration and Payment Steps:
1. Go to site: https://www.hartford.edu/academics/library/presidents-college/presidents-college-calendar.aspx?trumbaEmbed=view%3Devent%26eventid%3D483398641
2. Click on “Program Registration” to the left.
3. Click on “Listings for Spring 2021 Presidents’ College Courses” to the right.
4. Select “The Constitution and Your ‘Right to Health Care’ in America” (2nd on list)
5. Select the offering
6. Select “checkout.”
7. Enter Registration information and proceed with payment.

Historic Cultural Clashes and Access to Health Care: Griswold v. Connecticut.

Posted on | April 29, 2021 | No Comments

Mike Magee

On Wednesday, May 5, 2021, I hope you’ll join me from 1:30 – 3:00 PM for a virtual lecture that President Biden highlighted in his speech to Congress this week – “Health Care ‘Right’ and the U.S. Constitution”. Register HERE. (Here is a small segment.)

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It began on March 7, 1844, with the birth of one man, Anthony Comstock, in New Canaan, Connecticut. Raised in a strict Christian home, his religiosity intensified during a two-year stint in the Union Army during the Civil War.

A member of the 17th Connecticut Infantry, he took great offense to the profanity and debauchery he witnessed in and among his fellow soldiers. With the strong support of church-based groups of the day, and as the self-proclaimed “weeder in God’s garden”, he sought out a purpose and found a political vehicle in New York City’s Young Men’s Christian Association, which he parlayed into a post as the United States Postal Inspector.

His overarching goal was to advance Victorian morality by stamping out smut. The New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, was chartered at his insistence by the New York state legislature in 1873, and included the twin mottos of “Morals, not Art and Literature” and “Books are feeders for brothels.”

Using local postal agents, his searches and seizures, whose subsequent sales were shared 50/50 with his own organization, bankrolled the lobbying of Congress necessary to pass the “Suppression of Trade in, and Circulation of, Obscene Literature and Articles of Immoral Use”, otherwise known as the Comstock Laws.

Pornography, contraceptive equipment, reproductive health literature, and books deemed risque’ or suggestive all fell into his cross-hairs. By his own account, prior to his untimely death on September 21, 1915, he had prosecuted 3600 defendants, seized 160 tons of obscene literature, enjoyed the active support of industry, the AMA, and the Catholic Church among others, and sparked equally restrictive and intrusive legislation in 24 states – one of those being Connecticut.

Along the way, he made powerful enemies. For example, in 1905 George Bernard Shaw, on hearing in London that his new play, “Man and Superman” had been removed from the New York Public Library, had this to say in a public letter published in the New York Times: “Dear Sir – Nobody outside of America is likely to be in the least surprised. Comstockery is the world’s standing joke at the expense of the United States. Europe likes to hear of such things. It confirms the deep-seated conviction of the Old World that America is a provincial place, a second-rate country-town civilization after all.”

A decade later, arch-enemy Margaret Sanger, laid him bare with these words, “We know the capitalist class must have a slave class, bred in poverty and reared in ignorance. That is why it is quite consistent with their laws that there should be a heavy penalty of five years’ imprisonment for imparting information as to the means of preventing conception. Industry…(must) under sell its rival competitors. They have only one way to do this, and that is to get labor cheap. The cheapest labor is that of women and children; the larger the number of children in a family, the earlier they enter the factory.”

Two decades later, with World War II looming FDR and Justice Hughes weighed priorities and decided indecency was less of a threat to the country than venereal disease among the troops. The AMA lent its support as well.

But the final nail in the Comstock coffin was fittingly delivered nearly 50 years after his death in the crusader’s home state where Comstock Laws were still on the books. The protagonist was Estelle Griswold, Executive Director of the Planned Parenthood League. In 1961, Griswold was arrested and fined $100 for providing contraceptives and birth control advice in their New Haven office. That arrest led to a landmark suit (Griswold v. Connecticut) in the Supreme Court with effects far beyond Comstock.

On June 7, 1965, in a 7 to 2 decision, Justice William O. Douglas wrote: “Would we allow the police to search the sacred precincts of marital bedrooms for telltale signs of the use of contraceptives? The very idea is repulsive to the notions of privacy surrounding the marriage relationship. We deal with a right of privacy older than the Bill of Rights — older than our political parties, older than our school system.”

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